Ivory Lake

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March 1st 2011
Published: March 1st 2011
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There are certain things I found out I was capable of in this last tramp, many of them I never wished to have learned. The only proper way to describe this latest hike accurately is EPIC and ADVENTUROUS. For many weeks now, Ivory Lake has been mentioned in future plans with the idea we should build up to it, as it was expected to be the most difficult tramp we had available. Little did we know than that this was exactly what we had in store for us, and then cranked to eleven. We began this tramp as a party of six, being joined by three of our Christchurch friends who we hiked with over New Years. Everyone later would describe this as some of the most physically challenging and intense days of their lives. The trip began innocently enough, with a steady seven hour climb to the first hut, but it was day two nobody was prepared for. On the second day, our plan was hike along the Dickie Ridge-line, which we understood to be tough and "exposed" as described by the Department of Conservation. I was not aware at the time what "exposed" meant, until a few hours along the ridge. I can best describe this condition when I came across what I call a, "no mistake moment", meaning a misstep would cause a horrible, bloody, falling, certain death to the rocks/valley below. What quickly became more discouraging was that this "no mistake moment" was followed in guesstimation by roughly 247 more moments over the course of several hours on the mountain side. We were told some people had wished they had rope for one section of the ridge, which was a gross understatement to the degree that I would not set foot there again without several lengths of rope and perhaps a Priest. However, despite the frightening experience of getting across that ridge, everyone made it (largely thanks to Matt and Rowan) with mere cuts. Sadly, surviving the ridge-line was only part of our day, and now the struggle was in navigating in the thick clouds that had settled on the mountain tops. The combination of all of these elements throughout the day meant very slow route progress to the point we had to settle for another first-time tramping experience for me; sleeping outside. What made this significant was our complete lack of tents, instead everyone simply throwing down plastic pack liners and sleeping pads on the ground and hoping for no rain. Luckily, we only received a light shower for a few hours, soaking the outside of our sleeping-bags but not us inside. That next morning (day three) we tramped two fast hours to the hut we meant to reach the night before, and even got just enough sun to dry our gear. Amazingly, this is where the tramp really got interesting. For the second time since being here, and ironically with the same people as before, the group decided to split up and hike out two separate ways. Chad was not going to accept leaving this route without actually reaching Ivory Lake, which was the goal and point of the tramp. This did mean more days of uphill and some more ridge-line walking to get back to the cars. Nick, Helen, Rowan and Matt decided they had enough of ridges and opted to forge down the Waitaha River to an exit below. I wasn't real keen on the idea of Chad hiking out alone, and knew I may never have the chance again, so I chose to go on to the Lake and take the ridge out as well. After a happy reunion with the entire company a day later, I can say I made the correct decision. Despite my route out with Chad still being extremely challenging, the account of the others on Waitaha was traumatic. Our route had ridge walking again, but a paved highway in comparison to the nightmare on Dickie Ridge. Even though I cursed our path many times, in reality the other river was much worse. When everything was said and done, this was the most difficult and crazy experience of my life. With little exaggeration, some of the greatest joy was simply that everyone made it out alive, and relatively unharmed. While I will never look to put myself in some of those situations again, when push came to shove, everyone rose to the occasion and became just a little bit more bad-ass.


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