Freesteel Blog » New Zealand – Mount Despising


New Zealand – March end 2001

In exchange for dragging Becka on so many diving trips, she was free to sign us up on a big walk without argument. I heard a lot of bullshitting about these walks, but not having yet been on a walk with one of these people, I had no idea about the bullshit factor. This is the ratio between their reported effort and your perceived effort on the same journey. Normally you hear about how hard a walk is, then you do it yourself and estimate the factor. When you hear about another walk from the same sort of person, you can guess what it is going to be like for you. This trick worked for car journeys very well: they always took exactly twice as long as other people said they would.


View over an area of prime real-estate around Wanaka. All this land will be houses soon because the people allowed their town council to fall into the hands of developers.

One day Becka signed us up for a three day walking trip in Mount Aspiring National Park which was going to be up a slope, along a ridge and down a pathless spine. It was about 15 kms long, but to be safe we’d have to carry full camping gear with us to be able to stop if we didn’t make it all the way in one day. It occurred to me that if the terrain was that arduous, maybe it would be difficult to find a place to pitch a tent when we needed to. Also, all that gear on your back slows you down considerably and makes a walk less enjoyable, particularly if it is rough ground. It didn’t sound like a good plan, but maybe I was just being ignorant. The trip organizer said we would also need to take ice axes and crampons because there were patches of snow drawn on his old map of the area. As I didn’t have any heavy enough boots to take crampons I’d have to hire some. Fortunately the organizer worked in the forementioned outdoor shop and fixed me up with a pair.


The material of these mountains was formed over many millions of years as the weight of the earth bore down on layers of sand and mud until it became Schist. You can reverse the formation process of this so-called rock in a matter of seconds by crumbling it between your fingers.

Meanwhile, Becka’s foot infection was giving her gyp. I knew it was bad because she was doubtful of completing this walk which she was desperate to go on. She dropped in at the Urgent Doctor’s Clinic. They gave her a lot of attention, charged her twelve pounds and sent her to the Pharmacie with an antibiotic prescription that cost less than the UK prescription charge. They also took swabs for analysis in case the problem was fungal which would have been bad news.

We checked with the organizer the day before we were meant to be leaving and he was having second thoughts about our fitness to come on the trip. I had thought we were committed because we were providing part of the transport, but he didn’t even want me to come on it even if Becka stayed in the valley. He refunded our boot hire and sent us away, saying he’d find another car to take him and his lot of competant trampers.

Even though this was a good outcome — getting me out of a stupidly hard “grunt” of a walk — it hurt my feelings. Almost out of spite we drove to Wanaka that night. In the morning we drove down the dirt track into the Aspiring National Park. The organizer had bullshitted about how many cars this track had destroyed, making out that it was a big obstacle to even my driving capabilities. In fact, the only problem with the track is it’s long and flat and fools you into driving at full speed into a number of unmarked ditches near the end.


View of the Rob Roy glacier out the front of our tent an easy two hour walk from the car. The mountains, rocks and ice are all falling apart.

We took our camping gear for a short sensible walk up the Rob Roy track into a bowl bordered by waterfalls and perched glaciers. We stayed there alone for the night in the heavy rain, our sleep interrupted by the sound of falling ice from the cliffs. The world outside the door it was darker than a black hole until the morning.

The sun came out briefly. We made tea, packed the tent and walked back down to the car past the corner of the hill the others had been intending to climb. It was completely shrouded in cloud. Jolly good. We drove back to town and headed south towards Queenstown.


Our closest approach to Queenstown, situated on the near corner of that lake.

Fortunately there’s a junction before you reach Queenstown so you don’t have to go too near it. We were avoiding the place as a fashion statement. There’s that whole industry of Extreme Sport, Adrenaline Adventures that are marketed as big business. It goes on and on with the Awesome Foursome of a bungy jump, tandem parachute, helecopter ride and Shotover Jet boat thing. You’ve read the articles about “pumping adrenaline”. You’ve seen the videos of this NZ adventure where it is vitally important to wear a red hankie on your head. It’s all money money money money. It’s important that none of these adventures requires more skill than a sack of potatoes.

The Shotover Jet was in the business section of the newspapers at the time because it had been sold to the stock market. A lot of small “investors” bought shares in this “leading brand”. As usual, they had been duped. They thought they were investing in a valuable company so it would have money to expand (how?) when in fact what they were really investing in was the top managers’ pay packets. These are worth less than nothing to the company since it means they can take the money and run. Yes.

On the road out of Queenstown was the bungie jump bridge. Becka let out a yelp when she saw someone jump as we were passing by. Then she said she wouldn’t do one because it looked too boring. At least I’m honest. I’m too scared. I’d like to try it sometime, but I’d have to work up to it. It’s been two years since I last hang-glided, and I gave that up because I was too scared too.

Julian Todd 4/4/2001.