Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Copland Shelter

During the holidays my 17 year old son Sam and I climbed to Copland Shelter in Mt Cook National Park, along with a good friend and experienced mountaineer, Andrew.  The plan was for us all to climb up from the Hooker Glacier to the Shelter (1,960m  or 6,430.4 ft), and then the next day we would climb the remaining 190m to the Copland Pass.  Sam and I would walk out the Copland valley to the West Coast and Andrew would return down the Copland Ridge to Mt Cook Village.

The day up to the Shelter was beautiful - almost too hot - but sadly a westerly front came in sooner than we hoped and the winds coming over the main divide were too strong to allow us to go over the pass safely.  That second day we all returned to Mt Cook Village, tired, a little frustrated that we only did half the trip, but delighted to have had time in such fantastic alpine country.

My reflections?
I value that kind of time with my son Sam, and our friend Andrew.  Great talks, testing ourselves against the mountains, trusting each other...

It taught us more about peseverance.  I was fairly fit, and Sam was even fitter, but our legs felt the test of the 7 and a half hours walking and climbing.  We were very glad to see the Shelter at the end of the day.  We got there because we kept on going, even when it was hard, even when I got cramp, even when it was a bit airy scary.  Yes, we stopped to rest.  Yes, we refueled with meusli bars, chocolate, nuts and water.  But we kept on going.  It was a lesson in pressing on no matter what.  It's amazing how far our legs can take us if we keep on going.

But it was also a reminder of our limitations.  The shelter is a 4 bunk, round drum. Without it we would have spent a cold, uncomfortable, even dangerous night in the wind.  And it was that wind that convinced us to return to the valley below and wait for another time when the weather would be better.  Against the splendour and power of God's creation, we are quite small and weak.

It also taught us about the importance of disciplines and procedures.  We filled out our intentions with the DOC staff.  One of those staff checked in at the scheduled radio call.  We carried our share of emergency gear, GPS, Satellite phone, first aid kit...

And yet there was also risk.  We managed the risk with safety gear like ropes and helmets.  We avoided unnecessary risk by chosing our route carefully.  We treated the weather with respect.  And yet there were risks involved in our climb.  There are always risks in life.  Not always obvious risks, but risks are present if you look hard enough.  The obvious danger we faced reminded us that as long as we are alive we face threats of some kind.  The Macaulay Clan motto is dulce periculum, "danger is sweet."  It reminds us we are alive!


No comments: