Our year 13 OED class went to Wanaka for a rock climbing assessment, this piece of writing is about my experience during the trip.
Before the trip, my feelings towards going were mixed. I was nervous but also excited. The class had been practicing lead climbing, belaying and other skills at the Roxx indoor climbing gym, but due to inclement weather had no outdoor climbing experience, which made going to Wanaka kind of daunting. However, my expectations were high about the quality of Wanaka, especially after the good words Miss Herlihy and other people had to say about it. The build up to the trip was a bit last minute and rushed for me… I had no food until 9 hours before we were supposed to leave, but I felt like I didn’t haven’t enough food even though mum was convinced I would bring home leftovers. Whilst trying to pack I was getting furious with inanimate items around the house when I couldn’t find stuff and realized I had little clean clothing. I was drying clothing until 2 in the morning. But when I woke up after only having 4 hours’ sleep, I was ready to go. The ride to school to meet up with everyone was frustrating, since I only live 2 minutes away from school and it took 20 minutes just to get a park close enough to the OED sheds, it was good to finally put my bags in the van and hit the road. Within the first 10 minutes of leaving we had the first breakdown of the van… While pumping up the tires Miss noticed the front tires were dangerously bald. We were stuck in town for a further hour and a half.
Once things got moving again the banter and yarns started. We got out to Geraldine where the first pit stops and pick up happened. We acquired the helpful hands of Pete, who left his car in a small carpark somewhere in a Geraldine residential area to join the chaos of a van full of lads. A lot of banter was being talked in the car, but funny at least. The second stop was in Fairlie where we collectively decide to make tracks straight to the Bake House, where I bought the best pie I have ever tasted, big beast of a pie, packed to the max with the most succulent beef and cheese with a hint of a beer. I was very tempted to return and buy another pie but we ran out of time. The drive continued until we reached the Mount Cook lookout at Pukaki, which was a bit of a let-down as the entire mountain range was blanketed by a thick cloud. But the water was incredibly blue, almost iridescent! I sort of can’t remember what happened for the rest of the drive, I think I may have been drifting on and off to sleep. But when we arrived in Wanaka it was as nice as I had imagined. The lake and alpine views at Glendhu Bay were magical. There was some heated discussion about who got what bed, as we figured out how well made the bunks were. Once we had our stuff sorted and set up for the days ahead, we had some time to spare before the sun went down. We took the chance to practice some bouldering, which was pretty enjoyable. When we got back to camp, my partner and I made a killer feed! A load of nachos meant to be devoured by four people, but ended up feeding only two. It was great.
The first day of climbing started off unideal! It was raining and cold. We had been given a deadline to be ready and in the van by 8am on the dot otherwise she would leave. Myself and a few others missed that deadline… We thought we had been left for the day, so begun to set ourselves up for a day at camp. What we didn’t know was that Miss H had parked the van just around the corner and was waiting for us to catch up. She came back to the carpark rather infuriated and we hustled ourselves into the van quick smart. The heavens opened up on us and it bucketed down. I was already in the bad books for almost being late, but to make things worse I forgot my climbing shoes… The rain sent us away from the outdoors and back inside to the Wanaka indoor gym. I was asking politely and apologetically if I would be able to borrow shoes, but I was quickly shut down from remarks flying at me from all directions for being the “idiot that messed up”. The climbing was challenging in my Under Armor running shoes, but I managed to stay on the wall for the majority of the day. As punishment for being late to the vans, Miss Herlihy agreed to take away 10 minutes of the time we owed her if we did a set amount of exercises in the rain. I was the only one who didn’t grab a rain jacket… Because of the weather, there were several other groups wanting to use the indoor facilities, we were lucky enough to get half a day to ourselves, but were sent packing to the bouldering room when the gym started filling up. After leaving the gym, we were allowed to sift around the town and find food. I found the local bike shop and had a yarn to the mechanic about riding in Wanaka. To completely remind us who were late and of our punishment, the friendly and suggestive Vaughan took it upon himself to make the entire group walk up Roy’s Peak track in the rain and wind. Cheers Vaughan!
Day two we were lucky enough to climb outside for the first time ever. The crag that we were going to clamber about on was called Riverside, which was scenic and picturesque. As my crew and I were setting up our ropes and counting our quick-draws, we eyed up our first climb. I was getting some pretty funny looks from Vaughan and Miss H about my choice of climbs… I decided to get a little smart which was not the best idea at 8am on a chilly Wednesday morning. One would say I was getting “sooty”. The professionals questioned my decision to start my day with a grade 17 climb, and with some ‘I told you so’ persuasion got me down to a grade 14 climb. The rest of the day we jumped around trying the different climbs at Riverside, also taking some time to go for a walk down to the river. At around lunch time we set sail and headed for the second set of crags, Bakehouse, where the climbing quality increased majorly for me. I only had time to climb one advanced climb, as my crew decided they wanted to climb the easiest line in the area. Although it was a great place to practice change-overs and such. We shifted down to the next climb, where Vaughan suggested we climb using only our feet, a challenge that proved very difficult, but in fact improved our climbing immensely. To end the day, the friendly South African and I tested each other’s power by tying each end of the ropes to the back of our climbing harnesses and running as fast as we could in opposite directions. When the rope came tight whoever was weakest got flung back onto their butts. This provided sufficient entertainment for the tired lads. Back at camp it was a very relaxed evening, while making dinner a few of us had a game of touch with another outdoor ed crew staying at camp. Which got me just tired enough to sleep soundly on the not so luxurious beds.
Day 3 was great! We started at Kai Whaka Pai, which took some bushwhacking to get to, but the climbs were just right. The sun was sitting perfectly on the rock making it much nicer to begin with. My ability to run distances while busting for a toilet stop were tested. The nearest toilet (5-star long drop) was a good 5 minute run away. Needless to say I found climbing a lot easier for the rest of the day. We hung around at Kai Whaka Pai for a couple of hours, getting some great photos from Vaughan and his very expensive SLR camera sitting at the top of a cliff 30 meters up. As we still had a whole day ahead we split into groups and found our own climbs. Myself and 2 others along with Vaughan decided to tackle the extremely fun Tombstone crag. We searched around for a suitable climb, thinking we had found a fun little grade 17. I was the first to climb, what I hadn’t realised was how different Tombstone was to every other rock I had so far climbed. The nice horizontal holds and jugs were now vertical. I later found out that my shrieks of fear and cries of horror were obnoxiously loud and to make it worse were amplified by Tombstone, profanities and loss of dignity were echoed across the expanse of Wanaka. When we had all gone through the climb, Vaughan mentioned we may have made a mistake. Looking at the guidebook, we realized we were far from the 17 grade climb we thought we were on, but in fact we had climbed a grade 19. Well above my ability, so I had thought. I am still proud of myself for achieving it. We moved around the bulk of tombstone looking at the different faces, until the strapping young lad who out of all of us fellas is easily the best climber, found an arête that tickled his fancy. I opted to belay for him, letting him know I was ready he set off. Looking strong he made it little over half way before coming to a stop. The arête was proving difficult. 3 times I was dragged into the wall feet first as my man on the other end of the rope lost his grip. The other groups set themselves up on a ledge to watch the show. After trying his hardest, we ran out of time and called it a day. But the fun didn’t end there. Back at camp, Miss Herlihy took everyone into Wanaka town to get food and have a swim. W jumped of the wharf giving our best efforts at staples and manus, and turning into big sooky lalas when 4 foot eels swam beneath us.
The trip home from Wanaka was not exactly a Caribbean cruise for me, I was overly tired and felt rather ill. The overall atmosphere of the group was sombre, leaving such an epic time behind us. But there was some relief of going home to family and food and internet. Stopping at all the same places, the Fairlie Bakehouse, Geraldine’s little carpark. Saying our goodbyes to Pete, chasing him down to gift him with a group hug and a thanks. The rest of the trip consisted of sleeping and dribbling. I wanted to get home and sleep.
Our trip to Wanaka, speaking for the guys and me personally, was an amazing experience that we couldn’t have enjoyed more, even if sometimes we were acting a bit sooty. Without the help and guidance of our three incredible mentors and supervisors, the trip wouldn’t have been much fun. A very big thank you to Pete, Vaughan and especially Miss Herlihy, for making it great. Highly recommend for any lads coming into year 12 and 13 to get involved with Outdoor Ed if you’re a keen outdoors man or an avid adventure seeker, even the subtle conservationist, its one very fun and rewarding subject.