Hiking Solo

Good afternoon beautiful people!

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon, and the weather outside is what my mum would call “gorgeously ugly weather”, perfect to stay in and get some writing done. Summer so far has been gorgeous, life is happening and feels like there is no time left in my days.

This weekend I took off for a hike to Lake Angelus, in the Nelson Lakes National Park. It’s the third time I get to stay there and every time is a different type of mission. A dear friend of mine is volunteering as the hut warden in the Lake hut, the initial idea was to join her for the weekend and do some hiking around the hut together (I am so boring, I know, I am all about the mountains).

She walked in on Thursday and that’s when she went off the grid. It felt like the medieval times. No comms, no way to make a plan together and discuss about the massive storm coming. Like when I was little and phone calls came through the landline and the landline had a wheel on it (yes I am that old!). Kind of cool.

I have been frantically checking the forecasts on two different websites each 5 hours for half of the week, so nobody can doubt how meticulous I am, right?! and finally made a decision Thursday. Opportunity too good to miss, when am I going to see the warden’s quarters anymore (and love them and dream about being a warden myself next year…)? Plus our busiest work period of the year is just a couple of weeks away, that means pretty much end of summer and end of fun long hikes.

I hiked in and out alone for the first time. Has been quite a different scene compared to my usual outings and required a very different mindset I can tell you. I had to deal with a worried Bear that was rightfully concerned at the thought of his fiancee alone in an alpine environment. I had to deal with my anxious self that never did anything like that.

The internal chatter in my head has been pretty loud on Friday. I know what I am doing, I have the right equipment (I even borrowed a personal locator beacon from a very kind friend), I know the track very well, I have maps, I have the right level of fitness … but I still get excited like a kid, struggle to sleep much the night before and picture all the possible disasters happening. Not cool right? Plus the weather forecasts were pretty wet.

How did it go in the end? I went up from Pinchgut Track (called like this because it’s steep and painful) and I felt the pain all the way till the bush line. I had to stop many times, I thought I was pretty stupid to push myself on a hike on a Friday after work, I regretted adding a bottle of wine to my pack to share with my friend and I was starving. That was the kick-myself-in-the-butt moment. I focussed on my breathing and started counting, 50 breaths at a time, then another 50, then stop for some, then 50 again, you get it. If I am really struggling I am perfectly aware when 50 comes, if I am in the moment and lost in myself I can go past 50 easy. Then I leave the trees, get to the shelter, have some food and my mood starts lifting big times. My body was in gear, the light was brilliant in the sky, late afternoon and warm as midday, sun on my skin (50+ sunscreen on of course! we don’t want no sun nasties) and nobody on the track. The track was mine, the views majestic and perfect as usual. My anxiety decided to stay behind and let me be. Another plus of hiking a popular track in the evening when you are the only soul around … you can pee wherever you want!

Surprising my friend was the very best moment, she thought I called it off and instead there I was (with Syrah and cheese and crackers). We enjoyed a evening of chats and a slow morning together before I made my way back.

This trip taught me a lot, it helped my confidence in the mountains and … it’s always reassuring when you realise you are more fit that what you actually think. If you are out alone please be smart, be responsible and respect the mountains. (And read the forecasts, the hut was full of people completely oblivious of the storm coming and the 50kph gales, like they knew about it but they thought it was not relevant!!!).

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