Over the last month I have joined forces with the wonderful team at Red Hot Mirchi (a mirchi is a chilli! - so clearly, it is hot!). We will be working together in India and Asia running workshops and speaking about "Overcoming Fear". Keep track of us on my new Sarah Wilson Adventurer Facebook page.
We did an event in Mumbai / Bombay in India where I spoke about Overcoming Fear, and then I helped some young women climb a mobile climbing wall! Now that was really putting their fear of climbing into practise.
I worked alongside Mark Inglis (double amputee and mountain climber as well as fellow kiwi) and Abilash Tommy (who has just sailed around the world single-handed, non-stop!).
It was a fantastic event and we launched a whole new Social Enterprise in India that will benefit women and children in particular. click here to check out the CNBC news footage of the event and me in action.
The final stage of the Cook to Cook was to paddle across the Cook Strait in a double sea kayak. Sarah and Luke Wilson (Aunty and nephew – hereafter “we”) took a long hard look at the weather and decided that the best option was Monday 21 January – also Wellington Anniversary Day. Luke is a sea kayak guide in the Abel Tasman and was a strong pair of arms and a wise head for the challenge of Cook Strait.
On the “rest day” on Saturday Sarah was meant to be taking things easy prior to the next challenge. She managed to fit in lunch with her niece from Canada – Grace Wilson and other family – and then the final work needed to be done on the kayak. Richard Milsom led the tricky task of fitting the sail (which we did not end up using!). It involved squeezing head first into the front section of the kayak to tighten bolts. Sarah went into the void and within seconds had a panic attack not unlike being trapped by an avalanche. So Richard manned up and squeezed into the gap. It was very tight!
On Sunday 20th January Luke arrived on his motorbike from Motueka and after a flurry of jamming gear into the kayak we set off to paddle through the Queen Charlotte Sound. We were farewelled at Waikawa marina from the Ward family (Graeme and Carol Ward – Bron’s mum and dad – who looked after us with incredible patience and generosity) along with Richard, Bron and Peter Yarrell (from the Tour of New Zealand).
Power arms Luke
We had thought that this day would be a pleasant amble through the calm waters of the Sounds… however, the northerly wind had other plans. We ploughed through a head wind for 6 hours. At one point we stopped and boiled the billy for a cup of tea and a ginger nut and the wind did drop… briefly and then the last 4 km were a tough slog into a wild northerly. Luke commented “I nearly went negative on that last bit”. It was a huge relief to see our support boat moored in a sheltered part of Arapawa Island and to join Mike Jacobson and Roger Bagshaw our awesome support crew.
That night we debated what to do. The forecast was for rising southerlies gusting up to 35 knots from midday in Cook Strait. This was not good news. Our safety zone was a maximum of 20-25 knots (around 50 kph) and boarding the yacht if we did need to bail would be extremely challenging and potentially dangerous under those conditions. Added to the mix was the fact that the tricky rips and tides are in the first kilometers near the Brother’s Islands. We really needed to kayak these dangerous waters at slack tide. But that was either at 4am or 10am. Doing it in the dark was not a good idea, and going later would mean we would be out in Cook Strait in the full blast of a rising southerly. The forecast for the days ahead was worse.
Tricky decisions are the true test of adventurers. Good team decision-making and clear communication has been a firm foundation for the whole trip, and now it was critical. For us it was clear. Safety HAD to come first. There was no point risking our lives. So we came up with a compromise. We would cover the initial treacherous rip section at dawn aboard the yacht and then we would get into the kayak after the Brothers Islands and paddle across the Strait. We would have to paddle fast to avoid the southerly. We would still paddle Cook Strait but not the first section.
Luke and Mike as dawn arrives
The alarm went off at 4.33am and we forced down breakfast. We went about our preparations silently. We were focused and acutely aware of the respect that this wild Strait commands. We would cross her waters on her terms.
As dawn arrived we were heading out across the rip towards the Brothers. It is deceptive and looks “easy” until you take a look at the GPS and work out that we are going sideways at a rate that would be challenging to paddle against. The waves began to kick up and we both began to find it hard to keep breakfast down. Luke threw up (it seems to be a theme of this trip!) and felt better while Sarah only just managed to hold it down. Sea sickness can be debilitating and all you long for is to be on land.
As soon as we were clear of the Brothers we got into the double sea kayak as it got tossed about by the increasing wind and waves. We headed out into the big ocean with excitement; dread and the lurking urge to be sick. Amazingly it felt good to be lower in the water and we both started to feel better being in the kayak. We dug in the paddles and noticed that the confused swell was actually working for us. Our first hour we averaged 7kph which was very encouraging.
In Cook Strait
The next hours we focused hard on paddling with a few short breaks to drink and nibble on snacks. At times the wind and waves would rise and it was a case of staying with each paddle stroke rather than being overwhelmed by breaking waves or the wind at the top of the wave. Our wonderful double kayak – a Trinidad “Dagger” – felt incredibly stable and sturdy (again, many thanks to Liana Stupples and her family for the generous loan of the kayak). She definitely had “the moves like Dagger…”
kayaking towards Mana Island
The square outline of Mana Island gradually got larger as the wind increased. We had planned to land on the island but the strong winds meant it was safer to get closer to the mainland first and then run with the wind behind us for the last few kilometers. Luke did an expert job of steering the kayak and avoiding big waves that could flip us.
One metre to go
After 4 full hours of paddling we saw tiny figures waving from high on the cliffs south of Titahi Bay. It was our brother Mark Wilson flying his model plane equipped with a GoPro Camera which zoomed overhead as we whooped with excitement – the end was nearly in sight. Fellow paddler Jo Poole who had come out to greet us in her single kayak also joined us. But it is never over until it is over. The wind decided to gust in an even more ferocious manner as we came into Titahi Bay. The hardy group of supporters and media were whistling and shouting as we powered our way through the final metres to the shore.
We had done it! The Cook to Cook was complete. As we stumbled out of the kayak and hugged Bridget Janse (who had done the climb and cycle sections) it was a huge mix of joy, relief, amazement, gratitude and extreme tiredness.
We did it!
What a journey. What an incredible team of participants, supporters and those at home anxiously watching the SPOT tracker. These are the pinnacle moments of adventure and in fact life itself – where we get to experience our fragility, our strength and our love for each other.
What followed was a bit of a media scrum. You can catch highlights of coverage on TV One news and Radio NZ (click on each clip to view or listen). We also made front page of Wellington's Dominion Post!
The team are now resting, recovering and also beginning to plot the next adventure! So watch this space.
The page for donations to the Melanoma Foundation will be open for the next week only – so please dig deep and give anything you can to this incredible organization that is saving lives. click on the right here.
Many many thanks for all your support and encouragement. And thanks also to the team at Sport NZ. We are very proud to be selected as a Hillary Expedition and trust that Sir Ed would have been proud of our efforts.
Sarah, Bridget, Bron, Luke, Elise and all the rest of the support team
Bridget Janse, Sarah Wilson, Bronwyn Ward, Elise Vine
Today was the final segment of the 770km of riding from Mount Cook to Picton. The last leg started at the Rainbow turnoff and ended 120km later at Waikawa Bay near Picton.
Our packing skills are now seriously honed so the team made an early start. We were on fire as we zoomed downhill from the Rainbow, averaging 38 kph all the way down to Wairau Valley where we arrived after an hour and a half. By this stage the tired bodies and ever aching under-carriage were beginning to tell. It is times like this that team-work really matters. We worked incredibly well as a team, keeping on communicating and being strong for each other. In particular, Bron and Bridget were an amazing source of support for Sarah who was feeling tired and also needing to keep something in the tank for the paddle ahead.
Bronwyn assisting Bridget with the puncture repair 20km out from Picton
With only 20km to go we had our first puncture of the entire bike-ride... Amazing that we have gone 750km with no bike woes. The puncture was quickly fixed and we surged onward to Picton. Over the last few kilometres we were joined by Peter Yarrell (from the Tour of New Zealand and who has been incredibly generous in providing our support vehicle) and Rose.
The final descent into Picton turned into a race and the girls battled it out to the finish. Then it was a case of high fives, hugs and big smiles. We had done it! We have completed the bike phase of the Cook to Cook. Even now it feels a bit unbelievable.
The team is now changing over. Elise (the most awesome support ever) and Bridget (the most incredible team-mate ever) are getting on the ferry and heading back home. Bron (the best cycling specialist we could have ever hoped for) is now going to kick back and have a break in her home town of Picton. Sarah is having a much needed rest day (she thinks she will actually sleep for the next 28 hours). Luke Wilson (paddling specialist and Sarah’s nephew) is due to arrive in Picton on Sunday morning and the final paddling phase will begin.
Sarah and Luke should paddle off from Waikawa on Sunday and paddle to the head of the Queen Charlotte Sound. They will camp in the outer Sounds and on Monday (weather permitting) and plan to head off early on Monday to paddle across the wild Cook Strait. All going well they should land at the northern end of Titahi Bay in the afternoon of Monday 21 January. They think it should take around 6-8 hours to do the 40km paddle. The best way to watch us will be via the SPOT tracker.
We have been told that 2 mayors will be there to meet us when we arrive – Celia Wade-Brown (Wellington Mayor) and Nick Leggett (Mayor of Porirua)! We also hope to have a camera mounted on a model airplane that will film us as we come in.
So – if you are going to be close by then come and watch us.
Our plan to ride mountain bikes through the Rainbow Road turned out to be great in terms of minimizing traffic, however it had other challenges.
It had rained so much that the rivers were all in flood. The Rainbow was actually closed to 4WD traffic and we were told we could “ride it at our own peril”. So we set off up the steep Jacks Pass road from Hanmer – 7km uphill was a rough start to tired bodies. We thought things might improve a little once it flattened off but a headwind and very rough corrugations in the road were extremely punishing on sore backsides.
We had decided to take a team approach, Bron drove the van and Bridget and Sarah cycled, support Elise stayed in Hanmer to work. It was definitely the hardest day so far (although funny how each day seems harder than the last). We battled through 40km of rough road and decided to call it a day. We were absolutely spent.
The van took us back to Hanmer where we packed up and drove the long way around to Lake Rotoiti. The most important stops along the way were the hot springs at Maruia where we had a quick soak, and Big Commerical Burgers in Murchison. It was a long day when we finally fell into bed at 10pm.
But we were not done with the Rainbow yet. We headed in the northern end of the road and drove to where we had left off the day before (OK, well if I am absolutely honest we had to skip a very small section due to safety reasons of the van having difficulty getting through and ensuring that the team were safe – the weather forecast was for snow lowering to that level).
So it was a team effort to get through this section. Sarah ran 3km (part of managing pain in the backside was to run rather than cycle). Bron and Bridget cycled through rushing fords and 4WD track and then the full 3 person team rode the last section together on the sealed road. Features included Bron dodging a bull by climbing over a gate and getting stuck, Bridget’s toe clips proving overly effective so that when she stopped she remained attached to the bike and ended up lying on the ground (with matching arm scars as Sarah’s). And we hit a hail-storm on the final kilometer which signaled the storm we had being trying to dodge all day.
So the Rainbow has lived up to it’s name – we’ve had rain, sun and hail along the way. It has not let us pass easily but we gritted our teeth and made it through as a team. As Bron says “living the dream”
Huge thanks to Peter Yarrell of ‘Tour of New Zealand’ for providing us the support van. We could not have done this journey without it. Those of you who are keen for an adventure that is a huge amount of fun take a look at doing this awesome 8 day event in April 2013. Thanks also to our amazing driver and support team superb – Elise Vine.
However, the toughest day on the Rainbow is still an easy day in comparison to living with the horror of Melanoma Cancer. Just today we were talking to the gate warden at Rainbow Station who told us of a friend who is a truck driver with a one year old child who has just been diagnosed with terminal Melanoma. So show your support people – give generously to the Melanoma Foundation so that we can beat this deadly disease.
We are now resting up at Lake Rotoiti and preparing for the final cycle leg tomorrow – 120 km down to Picton. We are all doing amazingly well although feeling very tired and eating more than we have ever eaten in our lives.
Looking ahead to the final Cook… at this stage things are looking positive for Luke and Sarah to paddle out from Picton to the head of Queen Charlotte Sound on Sunday 20th and paddle across Cook Strait on Monday 21 January… watch this space.
Rangiora Team, Tim Wilson Sarah Wilson, Bridget Janse, Bronwyn Ward, Naomi Wilson (5), Joel Wilson (8)
The journey from Rangiora to Hanmer Springs on Tuesday proved to be a real test of the teams strength, water-resistance and sense of humour.
The day started with a huge surprise – at least for Sarah, as the others had been secretly plotting behind the scenes – just as we were about to depart a car pulled up in the driveway and it was Tim Wilson and family all ready to ride! So we set off in the rain with Tim in the lead (he had already ridden with us from Fairlie to Methven) and also Naomi Wilson (aged 5 and very determined to be part of the action – she must take after her auntie, Sarah!) and Joel Wilson (aged 8 and similarly undeterred by the rain). They joined the core team of Bridget, Bron and Sarah. We had a wonderful few kilometers together and then Tim needed to go back to work (although Naomi and Joel were still keen to ride).
After team Wilson left it was time to put our heads down and ride through the increasingly heavy rain through the back-roads until we got to Amberley. After that we had a short section of 10 km on the dreaded State Highway One. Of all the dangers and fears we have had to face over the entire trip this was actually one of the worst. When you have 30cm of verge to ride on and huge truck and trailer units barrelling past with lashing spray and poor visibility it is truly frightening. We really have to encourage our road-makers to think more about cyclists – especially on the sections of road where there is no alternative route! Bridges were a whole different story – we decided to “take the bridge” and ride out in the middle of the road as it was far safer to slow down all the traffic.
We were grateful to turn off SH1 at Waipara, however our relief was short-lived. The rain and poor visibility as well as the busy truck and car traffic was still very challenging. We used Bridget as our human safety barrier! She stayed at the back of the group and would call out “truck back one minute” or something similar, and with her bright orange jacket she would wave her right arm so that the upcoming traffic could see us and hopefully slow down. It was a successful although tiring strategy.
By the time we got to Waikari the rain was torrential and it was time for coffee and pies. We stopped at a wonderful bakery and takeaway in Waikari and spent the next couple of hours refueling and drying out. Bridget managed to consume 2 pies, 2 doughnuts, a toasted sandwich and 2 coffees!!
The rain eased slightly so we got back on our bikes (ouch) and powered our way through to first Culverden and then the final soggy section to Hanmer Springs. All with much shouting and arm waving to avoid the nasty traffic. It was a huge relief to pile into Hanmer. We would have loved to have had a hot pool but we were actually too tired!
The next section involves us getting onto our mountain bikes and riding across the Rainbow road to Lake Rotoiti. The Rainbow Road has been closed due to wash-outs so we are anxiously awaiting an update to see if we can actually ride it. You can watch our progress on our SPOT device.
Monday 14 Jan - while you were back at work we were...
Riding may be painful, but not as much as returning to work! Today we were back to 3 core riders - Sarah, Bridget and Bron (who is today's guest blogger).
We had a cooler day today and the effect of several consecutive 100km days started to bite. The adrenaline rush from screaming down the to the Rakaia Gorge was quickly forgotten with a slog up the other side, following which we settled into a steady 25kph rhythm as far as Sheffield at the day’s halfway mark.
The famous Sheffield Pie Shop was on the day’s agenda: the pies were proclaimed exceptional but The Bron Law (shops that sell lamingtons can’t make decent coffee) was unfortunately borne out. The lamington wasn’t bad though.
pie's and laughs in Sheffield
A further 20km to Oxford and we all started to hurt. Strangely this resulted in increased speed as the person on the front sought to minimize saddle time and pain! Due to lack of cutlery, refreshments were limited to the delicious gingernut and peanut butter combination, then it was on to the last leg of the day.
The Oxford-Rangiora leg had been described as a Wasteland of Featureless Drudgery, creating an expectation that could only be exceeded (but not by much). The last several hours of rest and inhalation of yet more food together with copious cups of tea has gone some way to restore the spirits ready for tomorrow.
You will be relieved to discover that Sarah managed to squeeze in a trip to "Hair Handlers" in Rangiora. Kim managed to tame the mop so that future photos are improved!
We are now about half way through our journey!!
Tomorrow we head north to Hanmer Springs and the possibility of hot springs! However the forecast is for rain so anything could happen. You can watch our progress on the SPOT tracker by clicking here
The last couple of days have been big days on the road bikes. On Friday 11th Bridget and I biked 60 km from Mount Cook Village down to the base of Lake Pukaki. We were met by our support van (the wonderful van from the “Tour of New Zealand”) and Bronwyn Ward – cycle specialist – and Elise Vine our support driver.
Saturday 12th saw the team of 3 riders battling nasty cross-winds from Lake Pukaki through to Lake Tekapo. Sarah wondered why she was struggling so much to keep up and after about 40km discovered that her back brake had been partially on!
After Lake Tekapo the road swung around so that we had an amazing tail-wind over and down Burkes Pass – we hit speeds of 75kph as we swooped down to Fairlie. Needless to say we arrived in Fairlie before our support team!
Breakfast in Fairlie
We stayed overnight in Fairlie with a couple of wonderful hosts – Yvonne and Ashley – who treated us to cold drinks, strawberries and freshly baked salmon.
On Sunday 13th we had another hot day of North Westerlies forecast, so we left early from Fairlie and used the early morning hours to pedal through to Geraldine. We were boosted by Tim Wilson (Sarah’s brother) who joined the cycle for the day.
We were doing really well riding through Geraldine and decided to tag onto a group of charity riders who were just leaving the town. Unfortunately due to a mis-communication about overtaking some riders Sarah caught Tim’s back wheel and she and her bike dived for the road. Bron was unable to avoid the carnage and crashed as well. Initially we thought things looked quite bad – bent bikes, very sore scraped body parts and the shock of hitting the tarseal. However, after Bridget got out her first aid kit and Tim got busy with bikes and tools it all started looking not too bad. Bron had sustained a nasty fall on her tail-bone and decided to take some time out. Sarah decided to keep on riding so that her scraped arm and shoulder did not seize up.
Tim in the lead
20kms down the road and with coffee consumed all was beginning to look better. That and a great second hand shop in Mayfield raised the spirits of the team and we trundled onward. The North Westerlies got cranking later in the afternoon and so we were relieved to arrive in Methven and have a break.
Tomorrow – Monday 14 Jan – we ride across the Canterbury Plains to Rangiora – we are back to our core team of 3 and we are hoping for some cooler weather as temperatures have been up around 30 degrees C most days so far.
Coming Down from the Mountain, & Why are we doing this?
After our climb of Cook we both needed a rest day – Sarah to recover and Bridget to recover as well as get over her food poisoning.
We rested on Sunday 6th Jan and talked to DoC over the mountain radio about the weather forecast for the next few days. It was looking like we had a short window to get out of the mountains before some truly awful weather hit.
On Monday morning at 4:30am Bridget and I were both awake. Outside the wind was coming in big gusts but the sky was clear and the snow was frozen. Time to get going! Bridget was managing to keep down toast with Vegemite on it so that was good enough. We headed out into the dawn knowing that the walk out is almost as hard as the climb of the mountain itself.
We had great conditions to move quickly on our crampons across the glacier to a small pass called “Cinerama Col” – probably named because you just want to get your camera out and film the incredible view of mountains in every direction.
It was then a steep descent around some crevasses and up again to another high pass. I had been dreading this section because of the really tough conditions that Cat and I had found there a year or so earlier – it had been such soft snow that it was almost impossible to walk across, it was more like swimming! But this time the snow remained hard and it was easy travel.
The next section tested our route finding skills as we descended a very tricky band of snow and loose rock down a huge and ugly scree fan to the Tasman Glacier. It was a relief to get the nasty rocky section out of the way and amble our way down the final track towards the Ball Shelter and then the road-end.
The Department of Conservation was incredibly good to us and gave us a lift down the last rocky part of the 4WD track in their truck. From there it was down to showers and comfortable beds at Unwin Lodge at Mount Cook Village. By now Bridget’s appetite was back to more normal levels and she was feeling much better.
On Tuesday 8th Jan we took mountain bikes back to the section that we had driven out and rode back to Unwin (we cant have any gaps between the Cooks after all!). It was a bumpy ride!
Then it was time for a couple of days rest before the bike section starts. The climb of Cook and the walk out are incredibly demanding and our bodies need some rest before heading into the next challenges.
Why are we doing all this?
One really important reason is to raise awareness of the risks of Melanoma Skin Cancer. New Zealand has a very high rate of death from Melanoma and us outdoors people are at high risk. Each of us on the team have been affected in some way by this shocking killer. Sarah had a melanoma removed from her leg in 1999, Bridget’s brother has had surgery in recent years and many of us can name friends or relatives that have had the shadow of Melanoma pass over their lives. All of us need to take care in the sun, get our moles checked and support those that are raising awareness and supporting those who are affected. In particular, we are suggesting you help us by donating to the Melanoma Foundation. They are a wonderful organization that is making a real difference in NZ. For example, they are launching a campaign early this year to raise awareness amongst teenagers of the risks. After all, every time a teenager gets sun-burnt it doubles their chances of getting Melanoma Cancer later in life.
At 1am on Saturday 5 January the Cook to Cook team of Sarah Wilson and Bridget Janse turned on their headlights, tied onto the rope and headed out into the night to climb Mount Cook.
The conditions were not ideal. Although many stars twinkled in the calm clear night sky, the night was warm, far too warm for the snow to freeze. So instead of nice crunchy snow to crampon on top of we plodded through soft snow.
We had looked long and hard at the mountain the afternoon beforehand to decide the route we would climb. There were 2 options – to climb up Zurbriggen’s ridge – a snow and rock route that appealed to both of us – OR to take the longer but less technically interesting route up the Linda Glacier. We decided that the conditions were really too soft for the Zurbriggens route. Little did we know what an important decision that was to turn out to be.
Another party of 2 Australians opted to climb the Zurbriggens ridge route and we saw their lights in the distance as we left. We wondered why they did not seem to be going upwards. Later we were to discover to our horror that they had been caught in an avalanche and had to be helicoptered out with head and chest injuries.
Avalanche had been the cause of my near death on the first attempt at the Cook to Cook, so we were very clear that it was not going to be a front page feature of the second attempt. This decision was to be further tested that day.
As we plodded up in the darkness, our torches lit up a small corridor of light as we threaded our way through crevasses and avoided ice cliffs on the Linda Glacier. Bridget appeared to be going far slower than her normal fit pace and I was beginning to wonder why. It was her first time on Mt Cook and my fourth. I wondered if it was just nerves. However, when she suddenly stopped and vomited into the snow I knew that something was not right. Despite feeling dreadful she continued on, counting 50 steps at a time and then doubling up over her ice-axe. She kept going where most would have turned back. Much later we realized it was probably a dodgy chicken pie she ate the day before that probably gave her the food poisoning.
As the golden dawn lit up the surrounding peaks we climbed the steep slopes to the Linda Shelf – the site where I had nearly lost my life in an avalanche on the previous attempt. It felt strange to stand near the same spot under such different circumstances and ponder the possibility that this could have been my last resting place. Although it was tough to stare into the face of those fears it was also good to be back. I looked it in the eyes and did not flinch. I breathed deeply and again was awash with gratitude at the gift of life.
The next part of the climb was more technically demanding. The Summit Rocks section involves ice and rock pitches, which we took turns climbing with the rope attached to secure belays. Bridget perked up at the idea of some rock climbing (her forte) and did a couple of strong leads up through the rocky jigsaw that makes up this section of the climb. But we were both slower than we would have liked. By the time we topped out of the Summit Rocks section it was 2pm and the soft snow was becoming dangerously loose.
From our lofty position we could see New Zealand’s highest mountains laid out before us. And agonizingly close to us, only 200m above, we could see the snowy top of Mount Cook. But the snow slopes between the top and us were already treacherously unstable in the late afternoon heat. So close… and yet so far. Bridget’s energy was giving out as well and despite the calm weather there were strong winds forecast. All the signs were pointing in the direction of downwards.
Moments like this define adventurers. Some chose to push on despite the odds – some pull it off and are hailed as heroes. Others push on and pay a high price – maybe even their lives. In that moment the question has to be “is it worth the risk?” I’ll be honest, it felt like agony to have climbed so high and to be so close to the top and yet know that the risk was not worth it. So, after a few pics with the flag, it was with heavy hearts and a clear conscience that we turned our attention downwards.
One of the guides in the hut who was nearby at the time, a kiwi who guides people on Everest, summed it up when he said “you climbed the mountain but you did not summit”.
We are very clear. We did not get to the top of Mount Cook on this occasion. However, we gave it everything we had, we made wise decisions and we are still here to continue the journey. Sometimes it seems that getting to the top is not everything. In fact, there is far more to be learned from turning back knowing you have done everything you could.
The journey down the mountain is far from mindless. The abseils down through the summit rocks demand precise attention, even though by that stage we had been on the go for 15 hours and our tired brains and bodies longed to stop. The roar of an enormous avalanche below us abruptly snapped us to attention – the debris nearly covering our tracks from the upward journey. We were all silently thankful that we were not nearby when that monster dropped in.
As the sky turned pink with sunset we were in the lower slopes of the glacier. Carefully weaving our way through the final gigantic crevasses as we tiptoed across delicate snow bridges softened by the heat of the day, trying not to look down into the aching blue depths below.
The final hour is a slow plod up the short slopes to the Plateau Hut. After 21 hours we were feeling spent. With only 50 meters to go to the hut Bridget was on her hands and knees on the snow vomiting up the muesli bar that I had insisted she eat a short time before. It was then that it really struck me just how weak she was and what an incredible effort she had put in that day. It was critical that we had turned around when we did. The wind had risen to strong gusts of incredible force and she was in a very depleted state. Had we chosen to push on we would now have been in a very desperate situation indeed. Again, I knew we were right to turn around. And of course I really wished we had got to the top!!!
Arriving at the hut we were met by friendly faces, congratulations and welcome cups of warm orange electrolyte drink – pure nectar to tired and thirsty climbers. We had a huge day out on New Zealand’s highest mountain.
Now it was time for rest and recovery before the next phase…
Thanks everyone for all your well wishes, we have packed them carefully. The Plan
This is a world first attempt. From New Zealand's highest mountain to its wildest Strait....
On 5 January 2013 we will start the epic journey... we will:
- climb NZ's highest mountain - Mount Cook (3770m), then - cycle from Mt Cook Village to Picton (700km), then - sea kayak across NZ's wild Cook Strait!
The expedition team is:
Sarah Wilson (climb, cycle and kayak) Bridget Janse (climb and cycle) Bronwyn Ward (cycle) Luke Wilson (kayak)
See the video below - we have been selected as one of the Hillary Expeditions for 2013 which is a huge honour - we trust that Sir Edmund Hillary would be proud of us.
Background - why are we doing it? The idea was conceived back in 2011 on one of those days when nothing seems to go right. I had planned to cross the Cook Strait with a friend, Maria, from Wales. The tides and conditions were against us and so as we sat on the back step drinking a coffee we started to scheme. What about not just paddling across the Cook Strait but also climbing Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain... Cook to Cook was born.
Like many ideas and expeditions it has gathered a life of its own. In fact just by naming it and then talking to others about it, it grew beyond an idea into something that to inspire. The next great idea is just waiting to be named and then fostered, and it will grow of its own accord (along with quite alot of planning, dreaming and scheming!).
And there is another reason for all this expedition madness! We are raising money for the Melanoma Foundation. Already we have raised more than $5000 and we hope to raise alot more to raise awareness and fight this dreadful killer. http://www.fundraiseonline.co.nz/CooktoCook/ - help us by donating, every dollar counts toward saving lives - I should know, I survived Melanoma back in 1999, but only just....
The first attempt In November 2011, Sarah and Cat Shand set out on the first attempt. We climbed Mount Cook via its challenging Hooker Face and then in the descent we were caught in a terrible storm. We were forced to try to shelter in the terrible storm and just as night fell we were caught in an avalanche.
In this TEDx talk I describe the terrible moments of the avalanche, being trapped and the miracle that followed:
And we will be regularly updating this blog so that you can follow our progress.
Here is a map of our journey and timetable:
View Cook to Cook expedition 7-23 January 2013 in a larger map We look forward to sharing this incredible journey with you . And maybe inspiring you to go for your dreams... to take on adventures that stretch you so that you discover life and your inspiration.
Wishing you a life of adventure and inspiration Sarah Wilson Adventure Coach
Some goals require a lot of planning, preparation and anticipation. They have a fixed schedule and you either succeed or fail...
Other "goals" arrive unexpectedly and you need to be able to react with lightening speed to GRAB them as the possibility rushes past!
"We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us" - Joseph Campbell
It started out as a pretty easy weekend day... nothing special... Got up, mucked around at home, cooked French toast and gazed out the window... hmmm, could be a good day for heading out in the Sea Kayak. Little did I know what was coming...
I did my usual things of checking the weather forecast - good - checking the tides - surprisingly good - checking what time the sun sets - early, as it is still pretty much winter down under - and packing my normal safety gear including GPS and SPOT tracker. I meandered out on the water in the mid afternoon... I was about to get the wake-up call...
It was only when I was out on the water that it struck me... the conditions are perfect to achieve a goal I have been trying to organize for a couple of years!
For about 2 years now I have been trying to circumnavigate Kapiti Island in my kayak. A friend and I have had a number of unsuccessful attempts. It is 31 Kilometers of paddling, and about 10 kilometers of that is particularly treacherous. It has swirling tidal currents and is exposed to the wild open ocean. Winds can abruptly change and swells are often too challenging to paddle - especially solo. More than once I have turned back half way.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere the opportunity was clear. BUT did I have enough time?
I decided to stage the journey and make informed decisions at key points. I knew I would be really pushing the limits in the daylight hours I had available but I thought maybe, just maybe it might be possible. So off I paddled - hard but at a sustainable pace - my GPS giving my great data on my speed and average pace. I knew I would need to average around 7kph over 4.5 hours if I was to do it safely.
My pulse rose and I could feel the excited anticipation... maybe THIS time! Wow, an adventure was waiting for me all along and I did not even see it coming. I could have missed the chance if I had not gone through my normal safety checks or not bought the appropriate gear. All the previous attempts had trained my eye to be able to spot the opportunity when it was actually there.
How many goals do you 'miss' because you thought it had to look a certain way? or be at a prescribed time? Adventure Goals just like life goals sometimes choose us rather than we choosing them.
My GPS at the end
The next few hours were filled with strenuous paddling and continuous assessment of conditions, risks, strategies... and as I rounded the southern part of the island and home was within sight. Maybe, just maybe I was going to do it... Awesome... just keep paddling...
And then things got tricky. It was getting dark. I was getting cold and tired after non-stop paddling at full stretch for 4 hours and it was going to be really hard to see where to land. Would there be surf on the beach? The one thing I had forgotten was a torch (note to self to put one in the kayak for next time).
Using my GPS I managed to navigate toward the part of the long featureless beach near where I had started. I could hear the sound of the surf but in the inky blackness I could see nothing. I braced in case a large wave should break on top of me. As I raced toward the shore my heart was racing, I was ready for anything. To my huge surprise the kayak grounded on the soft sand and I looked down to see the surf was all of about 2 cm - I started laughing! I had done it!!
As I stumbled around the sand-dunes finding my car I was utterly exhausted and utterly thrilled. I had done it solo, safely and in a pretty good time. I had grabbed the goal with both hands and had succeeded. YES! Sometimes success is walking right next to us, we just need to recognize it and seize the day.
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