On the lower slopes, looking up to the clouds.
You have to be some kind of crazy to summit Mount Herbert in a raging Nor’easter. Apparently my family and I are some kind of crazy.
To be fair, we didn’t set out to summit. We’d hoped for a day at the beach, but the wind and cloud cover wasn’t promising. So we pulled into Orton Bradley Park thinking we’d do a nice little hike.
We thought, ‘Let’s go toward Mount Herbert; we haven’t actually hiked that track before.’
It’s a typical Banks Peninsula track, winding through non-native forestry blocks, pasture, and scrubby native bush on its way up the mountain. As we got higher and higher, the wind picked up. The ridge line and summit were shrouded in cloud. It certainly wouldn’t be nice up there.
But, hey, it was great hiking weather down lower—not too sunny, and the breeze was nice … until it started whipping off our hats. We carried on up the slope.
By the time we reached the bottom of the cloud layer, the wind was getting a bit ridiculous. We checked our location on the topo map.
Well, it wasn’t too much farther to a shelter where we could eat lunch. Surely we could go that far. We carried on, around a switchback so the wind was blowing full in our faces. I laughed and shouted, ‘This is silly!’ But no one heard me over the wind.
We were in the cloud now, hiking blind to the shelter. When we found it, we tumbled inside, laughing and a little breathless. As we ate our lunch, the sturdily-built shelter shimmied and moaned in the wind. Billowing waves of cloud poured in with each gust.
It would be ridiculous to go on in this weather. What would there be to see, anyway, in the cloud?
But it was only a little bit further to the summit …
We donned our raincoats, shoved our useless hats into our bags, and made for the top.
And so there I was, leaning into the wind, a cramp in my left thigh and a blister on my right heel, condensation dripping off my hair and running down my glasses, unable to see the rest of my family just ten metres ahead of me through the cloud … and stupid-grinning the whole way.
At the summit (the highest point on the Banks Peninsula) we should have been able to see a huge expanse of the South Island spread out around us. We could barely see each other. We cheered our accomplishment, admired the view, and then set off back down.
Our little walk ended up traversing 15 kilometres and climbing 900 vertical metres. It was a ridiculous walk to do, given the weather conditions, but it was absolutely brilliant.
And we got our beach time in, too. By the time we made it back to sea level, it was sunny and hot, so we had a little splash in the sea before returning home.
Sometimes a little bit of crazy is perfect.