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Whanganui Bay Expedition

posted 6 Oct 2010, 14:03 by Miles Mason
On 01/10/10, 9 intrepid AURACians attempted to leave Auckland for a weekend of climbing. This is their story.

Text by Lucas Hogan. Photos by Addis Lee, Ann-Kathrin Schlesselman and Miles Mason.

I had a tough decision to make. How was I going to spend my weekend? There were two options on the table, both equally enticing. There was a standing invitation to a house party at my neighbour’s, the theme...Oktoberfest. On the other hand our own Miles Mason had organized a trip to Whanganui Bay. The weather and the crag both promised to be phenomenal, however, I was torn between a fantastic few days getting back to nature and my love of
lederhosen and beer.

In the end, I chose nature.

I was desperate to get out of Auckland and recharge the batteries. Arriving at Auckland Uni Friday afternoon I met the group who I would spend the next two days with. Some familiar faces, some new, but all kind and eager to get on the road. Using packing skills honed from years of playing Tetris, we packed into two cars and headed out. Classic small talk of music tastes and climbing accompany us out of the city until we crest a hill and meet a line of tail lights in front of us. Braking hard, Miles brings the car to a stop. I see him breath out a sigh and a look of relief passes over his face. In the next instant his eyes go wide and he jerks his head around to get a better view of what he just witnessed in the mirror. I follow suit and see Jörg’s SUV slightly cocked and beside a canary yellow sedan whose front end was about 30 cm shorter.

Accidents have a funny way of changing plans. We had planned to sleep like hobos on the side of the road eating muesli bars and wishing we had a fire. Instead I woke up in a bed in Hamilton and had scrambled eggs for breakfast. The car crash had caused no one any serious harm, however we did take a jaunt to the hospital for Lucy to get X-rayed. A quick note for those of you who like me have spent pleasantly little time in hospitals. When looking for your
friend who was just in a car crash remember that adults don’t tend to be examined in section labelled “Rainbow Corridor” no matter how sunny a disposition they have. Leaving the hospital, Jörg’s vehicle drove back to Auckland for the night and ours to Hamilton where Jan hosted us. Rendezvousing in the morning, we found that we had only lost two of the group due to stiffness from the accident.

Two hours later I’m bouncing down a dirt road. To my left a gushing waterfall, straight ahead the village of Whanganui Bay nestled on the shores of Lake Taupo. The water was as smooth as a mirror and there was a crisp breeze in the air. Dumping my gear I take a longing look at the lake. The inviting shores make it difficult to muster the energy to do more than lift a beer and stare blankly out onto the lake.

The first climb offers an even better view. Dangling from a length of nylon I stare for a good five minutes before I realize others want to witness this same vista. Coming down I dodge gorse and descend into the shade of the woods below. The whole atmosphere is relaxed. Jörg slumbers peacefully on the trail. Jan lounges against a tree while belaying. My only motivation to climb is to get another view of lake. I give in and walk back down to the shore letting the
evening sun warm my back and colour sky. The others return. Emma has joined the group. Dinner, fire, and music. Classic camping times. I haven’t felt so relaxed in months.

It’s Sunday morning and I find myself wedged between two pieces of rock. My harness is pulling down with the weight of a cooker, two water bottles and rope. “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” keeps playing in my head as I squirm and shuffle my way up past wedged rocks and onto a small ledge where Emma and Jan greet me. Jan disappears up the next pitch. I move past Emma and up a small slab where Miles waves from his position belaying
me. I sit on a cold rock and stare up at the third pitch we have to climb. Ben emerges next to Miles, then Ann, Addis and Jörg appear on the ledge followed by Emma. The eight of us sit shivering slightly wishing the sun would shine on the ledge. Emma begins to lead the last pitch placing gear in the crack. Things like “Oh damn.” and “Tough as nails...” bounce around our new home on the ledge. Then comes a voice from above, “Damn it, what an inopportune time to have to tie a shoe.” I look up and see Emma with half her body jammed in a crack tying her shoe with one hand a good four metres above her last gear placement. More “Oh damns.” Emma disappears over the edge. One by one the group ascends the crack. Hauling myself up, my harness clanks like an old prospector. My hand reaches the ledge and I ungracefully haul myself up. Sweat stinging my eyes and leg bleeding I look out to the lake.

I unhook the cooker and start the tea boiling. I think how I would describe this to my family and friends. Words make poor descriptions of such beauty so I won’t try. Photos do a slightly better job, however they can’t capture the feeling of being there. The view from atop Tibia was spectacular for more than the clear day and the beautiful lake below. There was the effort to get up there. There were the hours spent with friends squeezing between rocks and shivering in the cold. There was the good natured teasing and helpful coaching. And finally, there was a cup of tea waiting for you 50m above the ground. There are eight people who know what the top of Tibia looked like that day, and it would be a shame if I ruined that perception with a bumbling portrayal so I’ll leave it at that.

50 m down a rope and I’m back on the forest floor. I trounce back through the woods, climbing over rocks and scrambling up and down banks. The smell of soil fills my nostrils as I walk out to the sunshine and the lake shore. Snapping the final pictures to remember the weekend, we strike camp and pack back into cars, our headlights bouncing on the dirt road. As we pull out onto the asphalt I reflect upon the last two days. I realize that I haven’t had so much fun while being so relaxed in ages. There was climbing, adventures, camping, and best of all great people.

At the beginning of this report I mentioned that I needed to get out of Auckland for a few days recharge the batteries. Whanganui Bay was the perfect place to do this. See for yourself when the next trip goes down this coming Labour Weekend.