I think I need to accept at some point that I just don’t really enjoy climbing mountains. Yes the views are often amazing – more amazing than you would be able to find without climbing the mountain. And yes, there is a huge sense of achievement when you have managed to tackle a tough climb. But most of the time, I just find myself spending the entire time wondering why on earth I have decided to do this in the first place whilst trying to block out the burning feeling in my legs and lungs. But I’m nothing if not persistent. So despite the pain I go through each time I keep going back for more.
This time it was the Pinnacles walk near Thames, in the Coromandel Peninsula. I had wanted to do this walk for ages so I was excited to be finally getting the chance. However, whilst I had expected a few tough parts, perhaps something on the same level of difficulty as the Routeburn Track or the Rob Roy Glacier Track, it turned out to be much tougher than that. As I was scrambling over rocks and pulling myself ladders I just kept thinking “why the hell am I doing this!?” and “why did nobody tell me this was an actual mountain.”
In all honesty, as far as mountains go the Pinnacles walk really isn’t bad. The last 30 minutes is a tough scramble over big boulders and up metal ladders. But, whilst there are some very steep parts, the rest of it is more than do-able. Perhaps I was having an off day or perhaps I just psyched myself out because we were climbing it with a ridiculously fit guy who was practically running up the hill. My attempts to keep up with him resulted in me feeling exhausted and, embarrassingly, a little bit panicked. He would pretty much sprint off leaving me trailing behind and Dom trying his very best to motivate me. At one point I felt as though I was having to stop for breath every few metres. And yet, we still made it up to the peak in 2.5 hours, beating the suggested time of 3 – 4 hours.
It took us about 1 hour 45 minutes to reach the Pinnacles Hut (a basic DOC hut that you can stay in for the night if you want to break up the walk into two days or get up to the peak early to watch the sunrise). For at least an hour of that first section of the climb I felt as though I was dying, feeling bitter at the injustice that I do significant amounts of exercise and Dom does none, and yet there he was springing up the track like a mountain goat whilst I was practically having to drag myself up (I guess that’s the benefits of a manual job over an office job right there for you).
After the Pinnacles Hut it took us another 45 minutes to reach the summit. Now this part was tough. Half of it involved climbing what felt like hundreds of thousands of steps after which we had to tackle huge boulders and steep metal ladders. This section was a proper scramble – almost on the levels of the fabled Fansipan climb, although considerably shorter than Fansipan’s 6.5 hours.
But when we reached the summit the views were just breath taking. I’m talking panoramic views over the whole valley. I mean, I was exhausted (too exhausted to even eat my cheese and pesto sandwich that I had been so looking forward to the whole way up) but it was worth it. Yep, all of that pain had been worth it. So worth it that I couldn’t bring myself to move for another 30 minutes (nothing at all to do with the fact that my legs no longer felt as though they were working and I was too terrified to move for fear of falling off the edge of the mountain).
It was even worth the 2 hour dehydrated descent we had to make after we ran out of water and couldn’t bring ourselves to drink the brown water that came out of the taps at the Pinnacles Hut (perfectly drinkable according to the DOC ranger who was stationed up there).
But my absolute favourite part of the whole day? Nope it wasn’t the summit. Or the climb. Or the descent. It was getting home. Getting home and having an amazingly long hot shower whilst rivers of mud ran off me (perhaps the best shower I have ever taken) and eating the biggest Indian meal I have ever consumed, absolutely guilt-free! Yep – even if I hadn’t have seen any of the view, it was worth all the pain of the climb just for that.
For more information on the Pinnacles walk, click here.