Sunday, October 24, 2010

Explore Your Own Backyard: Instalments 1&2

Coming off the back of the good reception that "Patience" recieved, and on a similar theme, I thought I might roll out the first of a couple of mini-series that I've wanted to kick off for a while. Here's the first two instalments of the new "Explore Your Own Backyard" series:

Whilst I love nothing more than new places and faces, I'm as guilty as the next man of suspecting that the grass is always greener some place else. Not always so. It's easy to overlook your neighbourhood for providing you with the environment, ways and means to get your kicks, and when you realise that fact and make the most of where you are right now rather than pining for someplace else, you get a lot more enjoyment, a lot more often.

Part 1:

This is Pete. He runs his familys dairy farm in Westland on the South Island of New Zealand and works flat out. I worked for Pete one Spring time a few years back. Being a dairy farmer is rewarding but damned hard, especially during calving when we spent weeks working 14 hour plus days in the cold and rain milking, delivering calves and doing all the other hard graft required to keep the farm going - "A whole lot of death and mayhem" was how he described the calving season.
The farm stands under the shadow of the Southern Alps, and the Franz Josef glacier is a 15 minute drive away, we were on the edge of the nearest village. One of Petes oldest friends had been one of the original guides on the glacier, but despite this and his lifelong proximity, Pete had never been more than about 20 metres onto the ice. Until now. Myself and the other guy working on the farm wanted to climb the glacier, and Pete figured that if we got up super early and got the bare minimum of farm chores done by day break, we could all go up with his friend. So we did, kitted up in a rag-tag array of old crampons and ice axes, we spent a day up there, first on and last off looking down at the identically dressed tour groups tramping the well cut steps far below. We got to cut our own steps and searched for giant quartz crystals.
When your backyard is one of the most accessible Glacier National Parks on the planet, it's well worth exploring.

Part 2:

I must've looked at this cave and patch of cliff a thousand times whist sat out in the line-up surfing, but not being a proper climber I never really appreciated it. That is until I moved in with Matt, who IS a proper climber. At low tide you can walk out around the base of the low cliffs and over the reef, to patches of secluded beach in the mouth of the caves, and we carried around a crash mat, climbing shoes and a bag of chalk to try and suss some bouldering routes. Here's a shot of Matt with a vicious heel-hook, just about to haul himself up and over the lip of the cave onto a patch of rock that is "merely vertical" rather than massively inverted.
The whole coastline around here is like this, if you've got a climbers eye and can spot the routes. Lucky for Matt he runs powerboat Sea Safari tours so every day at work whilst pointing out dolphins and seabirds to tourists, he gets to explore our backyard looking for climbing routes.

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