Climbing four peaks with Brando Yelavich
The mountain air always found a way to seep into my bones. It crept through every gap it could find, giving me the exciting chill that only alpine air can. My boots crunched through the ice with military repetition/ rhythm as they carried me up the north ridge of Mount Taranaki. This would be the first of four mountains that we would summit over three days. ‘Four Peaks' was the mission and we were off to an epic start. Together a friend Jack and I had set the challenge to climb the four highest peaks in the north island. Our aim was to raise money to build roofs on the houses of a small town in the Everest region of Nepal. Two years ago I was contacted by a woman called Lisa who was seeking help for her son Jack. Jack was 11 years old - like me, he suffered from ADHD. As a result he was being bullied at school because he didn't fit in. After spending time with Jack, I realised I could help as a positive role model. I took him on adventures during which we talked about life and how to deal with its problems. We became good friends over the next two years. He is now 13 and growing into a healthy, confident young man with a passion for adventure. I chose to support Jack by taking on “Four Peaks” with him as it was not only for a good cause but I could also see it would be a pivotal point in his life. A movement from boy to man. An early 1 am start was the beginning of our mission. We hiked and climbed for 5 and a half hours through bush then on to steeper terrain and finally ending in snow covered rocks and ice. As we popped through the cloud reaching the summit of Mount Taranaki we were treated to one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever witnessed.
As an adventurer I have never attempted to summit multiple mountains on consecutive days, I hadn't considered the physical toll it would have. The same day we summited Taranaki we then drove on to National Park where we would begin our next hike. We dragged ourselves up to the saddle between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro. This is where we would camp for the night in preparation for our second summit the following day. We were so stoked with our sunrise on Taranaki we thought we would get up in time for our second sunrise from our camp spot in the saddle. We began to climb to the summit at 5 am. Jack was quite tired at this point, but I could tell he was driven by his enthusiasm for the project. It takes a special kind of person to put their needs after someone else, and I was proud of Jack for never questioning or wanting to quit this adventure. The volcanic terrain was cool to hike in, it’s other worldly like you could be on Mars. There was steam rising from cracks and thick ice coating every rock. We reached the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe at 0930am. It was a steep but not technical climb and the feeling of being half way was awesome. One of the best things about reaching the top of Ngauruhoe was the scree run back down! We skidded our way down the mountain with the small stones flying out from under us. Typically, I took it too far and fell down the scree, cutting my hands in the process. There was no sympathy from Jack though, he has his eye on Mount Tongariro. We made our way across the saddle heading for our third peak in two days. Although we were tired and our bodies wanted to rest, Jack and I wanted more adventure. The normal route up Mount Tongariro is the summit route, Jack and I decided to climb the southern ridge of the mountain instead. This route is exposed to the east and a bit of a scramble. It’s a steep rocky face with loose holds and no track to follow. It was a good way to avoid the ‘ main highway’ of Mount Tongariro. As we climbed higher, the fog set in, making us feel like we were climbing through the clouds. We reached the summit feeling triumphant yet exhausted. At this point, I had found my second wind. I spend so much time in the mountains that my body has strengthened to be able to cope with the physical stress of constant climbing and hiking. Jack is 13 and an absolute machine. However, I could see he was feeling the strain that his body was under. I love the outdoors, I love camping, I could sleep on the ground for weeks, and you would never hear me complain. I actually get a sore back from sleeping in soft beds, give me a roll mat any day. This day however, was the exception. We were so happy to be in proper beds on our night before our fourth and final summit, Mount Ruapehu. To get to the summit of Mount Ruapehu, it is relatively straight forward. We just had to convince our bodies that they could do it. With muscles aching in resentment of the past two days of non-stop exertion, we set out on our last mission. We made our way up to the Pinnacle ridge. At this point we got geared up with our crampons and ice axes. There was too much snow and ice to attempt to get to the summit with no gear. Jack realised he had forgotten his sunglasses, so me being the supposed ‘adult’ in this situation had to give him mine. Jack happily made his way up the mountain. Meanwhile I'm steadily becoming snow-blind from the glare of the sunshine off the white snow. We had a few good reminders on the importance of having the right gear for the terrain and elements that we were exposed to. Thankfully each mountain in itself was an individual mission, so it wasn't a dire situation when something was forgotten. I'm hoping for Jack it did highlight how wrong things could go if he wasn't organised in the future with everything he needed. This is true in the ocean, on a boat, in the bush and most adventurous activities. I used a cloth and wrapped it around my head, covering my eyes. I could see through small slits that I had cut into the material. It did the trick! We made good time up to the summit, about 3 and a half hours. Reaching the top was a huge feeling of accomplishment. It was so rewarding to help Jack achieve something so epic at such a young age. Watching him push through when he was struggling and seeing him achieve something so great for such selfless reasons was such a great thing to be a part of.