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Elements

It is not the voyage of nature which constrains enthusiasm

rather the nature of the voyager

Falling steeply 3000 feet to the valley floor, the dry rock slopes and tussocky faces of the Alpine fault mountain line wore a different face winter to summer.

Rain made for heavy going. Eroded rock faces & washed out passageways caused delays, turning parties around completely, driving them home. Rivers could wash out bridges, or carry away the stock, the dogs, even the horses, at a moments notice.

The same rain that held the party back for days meant comfort in the right conditions - a sweet drum to lull, soothing on tin roofs at night, immense waterfalls cascading over sheer drops, engendering wonder.

On any given day the wind and sun could wear you dry, even after heavy snow. Parched landscapes offered little shelter. Being caught for too long in the summer could mean sickening heat-stroke, or worse. Nevermind the sunburn. They say the nor'wester drives men mad some times. With good cause.

We're prone to think of mother nature as static and unfeeling - Summer hot, winter cold. But here exposed upon the land we find her - dangerous, vivid and brightly alive...

The crinkle crinkle of hard frost under heavy boots. The crisp crack of frozen puddles. Winter has nothing to say, one does not contend with her. Stay warm, stay safe, but most importantly - stay dry.

Frostbite

- From the diary of Dave Osmers.

 

"The deer winded us and took off, a mob of 18, and even with the snow up to three feet deep they travelled fast and didn’t look like stopping. So on we went knowing we would reach them before the head.

But we were wrong, as in the head of the creek the snow had frozen solid, and the deer had no trouble working their way out over a 7,500 ft saddle and down into the next valley

We watched their movements through the binoculars, and, scanning the steep basins above saw to our amazement what looked very much like sheep tracks in the snow.

Within a few minutes we spotted some sheep and then realized they had come over the saddle during the Autumn muster, down into the basins of this side of the range, and then were caught with the first fall of snow.

When we reached them we found they had worked tracks all through a small basin, and had eaten the few snowgrass bare to the shingle.

It was hard work pulling sheep away often leaving the wool frozen to the rockface. Speed was essential to have the sheep out before dark, and this was finally achieved.

Having spent the last two hours of daylight working in water, I found my feet had lost all feeling, so instead of riding I walked the mile back to the hut.

Inside the hut, the fire going, I had difficulty getting my boots off as they were frozen solid as well as my socks. The fire thawed everything out except my feet which had a burning, tingling feeling and with no difference in the morning I set out to ride into the homestead – 4 miles away while Brian went to gather the sheep.

It was not long before I realized I had a minor form of frostbite, and for the next three weeks went shuffling around in a pair of oversized slippers which the top layers of skin peeled off to the good skin underneath.

We had missed out on the deer, but the owner was so pleased about our ‘find’ we both received a nice bonus on that months wages."

-From Dave's diary

Have we journeyed too far out here?
Wandered too many days alone
How can we, beyond the hours light allows,
surely find our way back home?

Whatever the challenge on the day, musterers and hunters of the high country dealt with each as it arose.

From frostbite to floods, fires to gale-storm forces, the elements took turns working with and against the explorers.

Companion

(Coming April 2020)

HM Chapter Thumb - Companion-4

Solitude

(Coming soon)

Walter Peak - Whiteburn Hut 15 miles from the Homestead

Ps! Just because we live in the wild, doesn't mean we aren't
social