Mt Cook base camp was established 23.7km away from our desitination. We rested up for the night, under a clear sky. Well, it would have been if we hadn't slept in the camper van. The sound of silence could be heard in the distance. 03.30 am and a siren began to ring out shrilly in to the pitch blackness. No time to lose. Was this our Destiny calling? Or was it my phone alarm? Come to think of it, I don't know anybody called Destiny. Must have been the phone!
Like many before us, Sir Edmond Hilary, Christopher Columbus and a man from Invercargill called Dave, we reached the car park at the start of the Hooker Valley trail. We were a team of 4 mountaineering experts that had trained for this expedition for seconds. We all had specialties that would ensure we achieved our target. The team consisted of Vic - mountaineering paramedic and Yoga Yoda . Mark - A lot like Bear Grylls but Ginger, Scout leader with all the gear. Paul - photographer and expedition leader, having flown over so many mountains around the world, in airplanes. Me - Wayne, wanna be mountaineer, carrier of far to much equipment and very unfit.
We looked at our maps and decided that with the night sky, they were not needed. Instead we followed the sign posts that had been left from previous expeditions before us. Quite handy, and they saved us a lot of time on navigating. Off we walked into the mouth of darkness like the dwarfs from Snow White, but definitely not singing as some people are Dopey, Grumpy and Sleepy, first thing in a morning. See what I did there.
We walked for hours and the cold was beginning to take its toll, Vic kept checking on our conditions and with words of encouragement from the team, we navigated by the stars and the sign posts (as that was far easier). Onward we went thinking about the men and woman before us and couldn't believe how they had managed to conquer such an arduous task. But we were not going to be defeated by the hellishly long track of 4.5km regardless of a bit of snow and ice.
We finally made it. Completely exhausted, we stood at the rendezvous point. We knew that we had arrived, as there was a picnic table and a sign to say "post a selfie with Mt cook in the background." They think of everything, our heroes of earlier times. The truth of how difficult the climb actually was suddenly became very real; as there, lying on the ground, was a frozen pullover from a previous expedition that obviously hadn't made it. We paid our respects and left it lying there as a constant reminder to others that if you are warm take off your pullover.
We came, we saw and we conquered, and then on the way back to base camp we fell, we slipped and we swore.... a lot.