I stepped onto the path and felt nervous. It is amazing how quickly you can loose your confidence. This time last year I stood in the same spot, eager and entirely unfazed, heading up the track to the top of Ben Lomond, a peak behind Queenstown. Now, my mind keep telling me that I couldn’t do it, that it was too high, too far, and too hard.
On Saturday, I decided to walk to the top of Ben Lomond just like last year, in preparation for my climbing trip later in the month. I started out at 10:30am and the day was perfect for it, despite being overcast. Normally, I am excited starting out on a trip like this, eager to get to the top and to enjoy the view, which is why I was surprised to find myself anxious. Without doubt, I am still recovering from my post-Nepal/post-book crash — my energy is a bit low and I am rebuilding stamina and fitness. While I was prepared to take a slower pace with longer breaks, I was not expecting the shift in my mindset.
In my defence, Ben Lomond (1748m) is slightly intimidating: the track starts at 300m and ascends a significant 1400m to the summit. Although there is a nicely formed path all the way up, it is still a long way to climb. As I started walking, my mind was filled with the fear of overexertion, suggesting that I shouldn’t attempt such an ascent.
I had not had these kinds of thoughts in a couple of years and they shocked me. Countering them, I kept telling myself that I had done it before and could do it again. Coming out of India and Nepal, I realise the importance of a can-do mentality and did not want to go back to the days when the fear of MS clouded my climbing and tramping endeavours. Armed with the knowledge that I had climbed the peak in the past, I pressed on, determined to make it as far as I could, enjoying the trip as much as I could, rather than focusing solely on the destination.
It was hard not to enjoy the trip. The mountains around Lake Wakatipu are awesomely stunning. I enjoyed pausing to listen to the birds, watch the wild goats, and trace the gullies marked with snow that lead to the peaks around. I met some cool people too — Dave, for example, a local who was going up to the Ben Lomond Saddle for exercise. We chatted with for a while and slogged up the hill together.
As I progressed, I felt increasingly tired and my legs began to protest my assent. I reached the Ben Lomond Saddle (1316m) and 1pm, marking 1000m of ascent. I was also a bit hungry, so I decided to take a break and sat down with my cooker, made some soup, and enjoyed the view.
It is an amazing vista from the saddle, granting you a view of both lake Wakatipu and the Richardson Range, leading all the way to Mt Aspiring. It was a bit cold up there on the saddle and the hot cup of soup, warming my hands and my insides, was very satisfying. It was a great place to reflect and rest.
After 3o minutes or so, I was still not feeling terribly energetic and decided not to go complete the last 400m to the summit of Ben Lomond. I was due to speak at the NZ Mountain Film Festival the next day and wanted to ensure that I had enough energy to do that well. I headed down to the car and drove to Wanaka for the night.
Sunday morning, I was incredibly fortunately to hang out with a really awesome bunch of people. I had met Ben Logan, an elite athlete and health strategist, and his partner at the Macpac Pecha Kucha evening in Queenstown. He invited me to breakfast with a few others, including Meghan Walker, the editor of the Wilderness Magazine. It was a really great time talking with an amazing bunch of likeminded people. Afterwards, Ben and I tramped up to the top of Mt Iron, a large hill behind Wanaka. It was a lovely walk and I enjoyed talking through different ideas and approaches to health and nutrition. Ben has some really great insights that will be helpful.
I gave my presentation at the NZ Mountain Film Festival on Sunday evening. It was a good time and I think it went well.
However, public speaking often leaves me pretty tired. Today (Monday), has been a slow day with two highlights. The first highlight was a one hour massage. Driving down here from Palmerston North and the pressure of the last month has left my muscles pretty tight. Sometimes, when my muscles get tight, I find it a bit difficult to stretch effectively and need a massage to loosen me up and get me to a point where I can stretch again properly. Walking out of the massage, I feel a lot more limber and relaxed, which is great!
The next highlight came when I bumped into Brando Yelavich, the first person to walk the coastline on NZ, and Kyle Mulinder, the awesome Bare Kiwi blogger — great times talking to these two and lots of laughs.
Tomorrow, I am hoping to make my way over to the West Coast and climb up to Brewster Hut for a few days of chilling and maybe a climb up Mt Armstrong. I love getting into a hut for a few days when I am tired: they present a great opportunity to rest and get lots of sleep. The aim is to come out again on Friday, giving me a bit to time before I need to be in Queenstown, to speak at the NZ Mountain Book Festival. Should be good!
Mastering Mountains Charitable Trust exists to enrich the lives of people affected by Multiple Sclerosis by helping them get outdoors. Please consider supporting the cause by donating through our Give-a-Little page. I am grateful for the continued support of Macpac and MitoQ.