‘Real’ scary as an antidote

The world can feel like an insecure place at present. A New Zealander on National Radio was hypothesising that the combination of COVID with Putin’s threats make this the worst time ever for humanity. There have been some pretty bleak times for humanity. I wouldn’t want to try out the early 20th century, experiencing WWI, the Spanish flu, the Great Depression and infections without there being any antibiotics available, followed closely by WWII. However, our feelings regarding the difficulty of our lives are far more based on personal relativity, than historical accuracy.

Despite feeling like the woman on the radio was over-talking the world situation, the oppression of Putin and the New Zealand Omicron wave, together with a great weather window, led us to escape global terror by getting properly scared. There’s nothing like scaring yourself with something real to make you forget about the myriad of events that might happen and which you could get scared about. The other great thing about taking yourself to somewhere in the back country you can get scared, is that there is no news coverage and, as of writing this I have not yet chosen to catch up with the many events in New Zealand and the world about which I can do nothing.

We headed out for two back-to-back three day tramping trips, the first of which was the scary one. The Rabbit Pass route is infamous in tramping lore, because a small number of people have died on the Waterfall Face, which is a route one definitely should not go on in bad weather. I would like to note here that many people die on roads, but I don’t know which roads I shouldn’t go on because the numbers of people who have died on each one isn’t well advertised.

We went north (top) to south (bottom) We took a jet boat from Makarora to Kerrin Forks – the topmost red dot. Then we walked up the Wilkin to camp in sight of Waterfall Face – next red dot down. The second day we went up Waterfall Face (higher orange arrow) and down a scarier rock gut after Rabbit Pass (lower orange arrow) and then camped at Ruth Flat – third red dot down. On the third day we walked out to Cameron Flat (bottom red dot).

Map of Wilkin River to East Matukituki River route via Rabbit Pass. The Wilkin River is near Makarora township, on the way from Wanaka to the West Coast. The East Matukituki River is 45 minutes drive west of Wanaka.

Waterfall Face looks like the picture below. There is a route marked up it which means you don’t have to figure out the best way to climb. In fact, almost all the route we walked from the Wilkin to the East Matukituki was marked. This made it less hard in some ways than our second tramping trip, where there were no markers and no tracks, so its your personal responsibility to figure out the best way to get between the beginning and the end. However, I will save pictures of that trip for another time.

The route we climbed up wiggled through these bluffs

It is always very hard to show how steep a steep face is. It felt quite steep! However, we all went from feeling apprehensive about a legendary scary place, to feeling great that we had successfully, and comfortably, conquered it.

Why we go tramping – view of Pickelhaube from the top of the gut

The most scary part was the part we weren’t expecting to be as scary – that’s almost always what happens. You work yourself up to something and find you can do it, then you go to waltz down something no-one told you was particularly scary and find it is very steep, damp and slippery with a big drop below and you don’t like it very much. However, we all managed the most scary gut fine too.

By the end of that day we were all buzzing and that feeling stayed with us as we negotiated our way up and down along the East Matukituki River the following morning. Mad Russians and global pandemics had dropped a long way off our mental radars. We had reminded ourselves that the only challenges in life really worth being scared about are the ones that you have some control over, and thus get the satisfaction of putting in their place.

Published by janecshearer

I'm a self-employed life enthusiast living in Gibbston, New Zealand

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