Climb­ing four peaks with Brando Yelavich

Adventure - - Contents - By 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.

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