The enjoyment of seeing two friends so happy is awesome, as was catching up with all our mutual friends gathered from around the place.
Sunday was pretty laid back, gossip around a barbie then a tide thwarted mission to Cape Kidnappers. We caught up briefly with other friends Lisa and Tim in Napier before shooting off to the famous Reids farm on the banks of the Waikato river just south of Taupo. There really is an infestation of "self drive" tourists. Vans from Africa filled the massive Reids farm fields, and this is getting out of season.
Camping has recently become a more comfortable experience for us with the addition of thermarests, a new tent and a fluffy fluffy sleeping bag for me, my late 90's purchase now worn to smithereens.
Our major holiday destination was Kawakawa Bay on the shores of Lake Taupo. I have some connection with this area already having organised an Adventure Race through here in 2007, but we were returning this time to climb. Sport routes have been developed on the serene lake edge cliffs. It was a solid 90 minute walk in with big packs but worth every step.
The climbing was a continuation of our rock climbing journey. Quite a shambles. After quickly setting up camp we headed out on the rough track around the lake to the crag named "the point". I had attempted to memorise the online guide and was looking for a highly rated 3 pitch 16 named "High Hopes". Up to the base of the cliff, along a bit and mmmm that looks likely. We set up and I scrambled up the first pitch to an uncomfortable belay stance. Penny joined me and we uncomfortably swapped over for me to lead again. The next pitch quickly turned to farce. I hadn't experienced a 16 with an overhang and a big hand jam before. Then when I confronted some slippery looking moves with no positive handholds and sparse bolts I began to get suspicious. Luckily I was physically unable to go any further and suffered only the ignominy of loosing a draw. If I had completed the pitch I'm not sure how I would have managed to descend the 40m of grade 19 it really was - as well as the first pitch with a 50metre rope.
Regrouping, we went exploring again and managed to stumble over the easiest sport climb on the crag, the pleasant grade 15 "Mellow Yellow". Three pitches of scenic fun highlighted by the big first belay ledge in a garden of Kowhai's. The lake really was gorgeous below in the setting sun.
THe next day we gradually worked our way back to the Point, warming up (or wearing out) by picking out a couple of 16's on the "cracks" and "main cliffs" crag. I really enjoyed the first route "Rohans Little Sister", using an edge up a big blank slab, and Penny mastered "Jug Addiction" after I had found a more awkward route first time around. By the time we got back to the Point and finally found "High Hopes" - jjust further on from our previous days escapades - we were already pretty warn out. I set out though and the first pitch is amazing! Up onto a slab, then up and up and up then a big step right over space to a hanging belay. Exhilariting exposure for a neub like me. Wow. Sweat streaming off me everywhere. Penny was looking apprehensive below. Ideally she would climb up and lead through in this situation, but we are not quite there yet and I was worried about managing both of us up there so we decided I would abseil down and belay Penny from the bottom. I angled down taking out the draws and all was going well until the last metre when I lost my footing and took a masivve pendulm out across the face smashing into the side of an arete. Shaken and stirred. I had taken my hand off the belay rope (my lifeline) in the process of protecting myself from the collision and was lucky there was enough tension in the rope to keep me safe. With some justification Penny decided she didn't want to top rope this pitch (for fear of a repeat swing) so we bailed from this, with Penny instead leading her first 14, repeating the bottom pitch of Mellow Yellow.
By late afternoon we were out of there. Heading south now to Ross Leckies place at Turangi, to say hi to the big fella and spin some yarns. Thanks to Ross for my new favourite piece of kit a bright bright orange lightweight fleece T-Shirt which has reinvigorated my love for bright colours! The next morning before the long drive back to Wellington we headed up into the edge of the Kaimanawas. Umakarikari is a pleasant 90minute walk through ancient red beech forest and the typical rounded tops of that area to an easy summit with rocky ridges satretching down into the mist. Beauty. What a walk.
I wasn't back home for long. Just a night before heading down south to a Leave No Trace meeting in Castle Hill. This is an organisation dedicated to promoting a code of outdoor ethics that I have become involved in. It was a really fun weekend and a great group of people. I might dwell on this more some other time. In the meantime though I am at Mum and Dads place in Arthurs Pass, eying up an easy climb tomorrow before heading back home midweek. I can't wait to get back to the morning sun and the elemental harbour staring me in the face from my "office" all day. Not to mention the wife!!