FIVE PASSES, FOUR GIRLS
I first met Selena five years ago in our first year at Otago University, but our history started 62 years earlier when our grandfathers tramped together on many adventures through the Southern Alps. The most memorable of those being a two-week epic to the
HAVING SPENT MOST of our respective childhoods outside, we decided in a moment of madness to retrace the steps of our grandfathers, and return to the Olivine Ice Plateau. Soon enough, however, we realised that we had very few of the skills required for that kind of expedition. After revising our plan, we settled on a more modest excursion through the kind-of-famous-but-not-really Five Pass Route in Mt Aspiring National Park. The plan was to complete it in four days, with four girls and slightly insufficient three ice axes.
The Queenstown region over the New Year period was absolute chaos and overflowing with people, to the point that even Glenorchy, quite literally on the way to (admittedly, a very pretty) nowhere, was teeming with people. So many, in fact, that after tramping up the Dart River for four hours we came across tour upon tour of tourists in fun yaks, locals on jet skis and holiday makers in jet boats. Speaking from experience, it is advisable to remember that, when crossing the Beans Burn, one should look left, right and then left again to avoid getting skittled by a jet boat. Had we forded the river 15 seconds earlier, this article could have possibly been an obituary.
Some time later, we forgot about the jet boats and tourists, and continued our way toward the first of the Five Passes. At every break, we were busy reading and rereading Moir's Guide North so that, when the time came to begin the first ‘technical' route of the trip, we would know exactly what to do. On the ascent to Fohn Saddle, Moir says, “Climb a small gut on the true right of the river”. Despite knowing the instructions by heart, we, in eager anticipation to begin the climb, saw an obvious gut (which was in hindsight by no means small) and thought, ‘ Yes. That's it.' It wasn't. We only realised this about half way up when two of us got stuck and were unable to get back down, and so our only option was to keep heading up. We decided to divide and conquer, sending the other two a different way. We reconvened an hour later on a small ledge, somewhat relieved to be with life and limb. The theme song of the climb (and consequently the rest of the trip) became Coldplay's, The Scientist, “Nobody said it was easy... No one ever said it would be this hard…”. To celebrate having survived the first