Mountain Monday – Ben Lomond, NZ: A Day That Changed Me

It was a stunning day out, the trail was beautiful and the views ever changing. From the valley the path wound up through Woodland, over streams and along forestry tracks before opening up onto a vast mountainside. Winding upwards, we were rewarding with views of the southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu before a final steep ascent leading to the top of Ben Lomond (1748m) with a panoramic view stretching for miles.

 Instead of descending the path we’d already walked, we made our way down the ridge, map in hand and big smiles on our faces. After walking downhill for near to an hour, we met the tree line and consulted the map in an attempt to figure out where the faint trails led. Deciding to press on, we followed the most obvious trail into the dense forest until it disappeared leaving us to fight our way through the branches between clearings. After a good hour of this we stopped in a clearing, reevaluated and realised 3 things; we had less than 300ml of water left between us and a hand full of mints, it was already late afternoon and we were still the height of Snowdon. Getting back down to civilisation was going to take every skill we had and a hell of a lot of perseverance.

We consulted the map, spotted that there was a power line below us which led to a footpath which would consequently lead us back to town. Continuing downhill, avoiding cliff tops and gullies, stopping at the occasional clearing to get an idea of how high we were and how far away the power line was. The bush got less dense and we reached a steep down climb with no way around it.I had 3 options:
1. Refuse to do it
2. Make a massive fuss, cry about it and make it traumatic for all involved or
3. Just do it.

Seeing that we were in it together and making a fuss would help no one, I took a deep breath and talked myself through every move, one step at a time, down to the ground. A moment that, in hindsight caused a change in my mindset that has since allowed me to push myself further than I ever thought I could.

Another hour or two and the trees disappeared, leaving thorny brush down to the power line and the footpath beyond. Nearly 7 hours after leaving the summit, a street of houses appeared as if out of nowhere. We stuck our heads in a sprinkler, asked a confused local to fill our water bottles and hitched back into town in time for a Fergburger and New Year’s Eve celebrations.For me, this was a day that changed me, that I look back on when I’m finding something hard. It was the first time I talked myself through a problem step by step, something I now often find myself doing on a hard climb or exposed scramble.

Never underestimate the power of the mountains, they are wild spaces that get the best of many who dare to enjoy them. They will sometimes challenge you, often reward you and always change you.

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