F.A few years ago I was standing at the edge of a knife edge ridge. A blue rope was entwined at his feet, and his 25-year-old daughter, Lilid, was by his side. We knew we were defeated – we weren’t close to the top just yet. I withdrew from the brink and could no longer pretend to be competent. Despite my best efforts, I found myself completely lacking the technical skills I needed to get the job done. Lyrid was devastated by our defeat that day.
It started casually. Lillido lived and worked near Queenstown. new zealand, as a trekking guide for multi-day hikes. When I visited her, we headed to her surrounding valleys and mountains for her adventures. Back in 2018, two months before her on those trips, Lillido had suggested we try going to Miter Her Peak.
“Oh yeah?” I replied. “Give me Google.” Miter is his famous, rarely climbed 1,700-meter spire in Milford Sound, the jewel of New Zealand’s Fiordland. A thick, steep forest covers it up to its shoulders. A miter is not a walk. There is no road to get there. At 1,000 meters above sea level, it must be approached from the sea before plunging through thickets on a vague rainforest trail to camp for the night. Then comes the exciting part, rock climbing.
“Can’t you climb?” she asked.
“You know I can’t climb,” I blurted out.
“But did you study?” she retorted.
I paused for a moment and went crazy.
“Damn, I learned!”
So I decided to learn rock climbing. After a few uncertain short climbs with two instructors, I found myself as a rookie in New Zealand. For days I hid my true feelings about this project. My confidence was shrouded in a cold, sticky fear.
There is no water in the mountains, so I have to carry 8 liters for 2-3 days. The pack with all the food, ropes, racks, tents and water is huge.
After a four-hour red-eyed drive to Milford Sound, we stepped ashore from the water taxi and headed straight into the rainforest. It’s sweaty and relentless dirt work that follows the whisper of trails climbing densely forested ridges. Then after 600 meters we have a break. My water is in a large plastic bottle, while Lilid sits on top of a camelback-shaped bladder in her backpack. Unfortunately the mouthpiece wasn’t turned off and he probably spilled 2 liters into the soil. A miracle is needed now. After about 30 minutes, you will come to a small vacant lot. It holds a large, clean stainless steel pot with over two liters of clean rainwater. Hallelujah!
The views overlooking Milford Sound are breathtaking from the forest line campsites. Gravity-defying forested slopes (where tree avalanches are occurring), and when darkness sets in reveals the shimmering lights of small settlements. Soon, the pin-pricked universe pours down on us a sea of dizzying starlight from above.
But that was the degree of success. Climbers use the word “core” to mean the most difficult part of a route. The crux in this case is the 30m drop that follows at the foot of his 40m rock climb, roped in by a rope, from which it continues steeply for another 60m. I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough technical climbing experience for the challenges ahead. Up ahead, a pair of climbers took a picture of us as dots on the ridge and emailed us. At 1,300 meters above sea level, I was frozen with despondency like a bug in amber.
Lillido grew up in Edinburgh and was always adventurous. When she was five years old, when she went out along the Esk River, she picked a lot of berries from the tree and asked if it was okay to eat. She took a bite.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I said after munching for a while. She chewed with satisfaction. When we got home, a winemaker friend was sitting at the kitchen table for a visit. Lillid said she felt sick. The winemaker looked at the remaining berries. Elderberry is fine when cooked, but has been found to be toxic raw. Projectile vomiting continued. The rest of the berries are tucked into picture frames, and small etchings of poisonous trees still hang on the walls.
Lillido eventually studied zoology at the University of Glasgow, where he joined the Expeditionary Society and, at age 22, co-directed a trip to Bolivia. It was a terrifying research adventure among roaming gauchos, wildfires, and terrifying snakes. After her graduation she moved to New Zealand where she worked as a guide on the Milford and Routeburn tracks.
My 2018 attempt on Miter Peak was supposed to be the end of the climb for me, but somehow I made it through with moderate success. After that, the new coronavirus attacked, and Lilid and I were separated from the earth.
Early 2023, I was about to travel to New Zealand for the first time post-corona. By then, the logbook had recorded hundreds of climbs. Looking back at Miter Peak’s route, I knew it would be an easy climb now. I told Lillid about this. “Let’s do it,” she said.
I started preparing. I called the water taxi company. They explained that they no longer offer that service due to “past tourism tragedies”.
I called Lili.
“No boats,” I told her.
“Can you packraft?” she replied.
“Lirid, you know I can’t packraft!”
So, on April 18th, I found myself standing on the shores of Milford in a borrowed wetsuit and being taught by Lilid how to inflate a kind of toddler wading pool. 4km to Sinbad Gully, hunker down with an inflated backpack filled with drinking water and climbing gear. We paddle out in our inflatable armchairs and crawl across the fjord, breathtaking in its grandeur.
In Sinbad Gorge, featherweight boats are pulled ashore and tied to trees. Lyrids are stronger, faster and carry heavier loads. I focus on catching up. She sees the road where I see only the forest floor. She arrived at the campsite as it was getting dark.
This time I will be asked to scramble and rope work, which is my specialty. As you might expect, the rope climbing section is easy, but very exposed, so there is no chance of slipping, tripping or stumbling. It takes concentration and concentration. After one 40m rock pitch, we put away the ropes. I gloat that what I couldn’t overcome is now easy to do. It’s still a long way to the top, but expect the rocks to be easy and progress to be rapid. That’s not what we found. Most of the scrambling takes place over steep, slippery snow grass, bushes and dirt, with 1km long drops to the sea or canyons below.
It’s so unforgiving that I find it hard to stay focused. I control the terrifying image of Lilid falling to her death in my head. I ask her how she feels. “I get nauseated with adrenaline,” she replied. An uneasy sense of responsibility eats away at me from the inside.
Yet somehow, in spite of all our misgivings, we made it to the top and enjoyed the magnificence. An impenetrable wallpaper of jagged peaks, clear blue skies pierced by glaciers, and thick green bushes, a chorus of fluttering birds sings the heartsong. outside. Now that we are safely on this pedestal, the feeling of soaring space and altitude is amazing.
A lot has changed since we first tried this climb. At the time, Lilid had no fixed place to live, living the dream of moving into her friend’s apartment while working as a trekking guide. The novel coronavirus has put the brakes on all of this. New Zealand avoided a high death toll, but not a lockdown. Now she has her home, garden, partner, and Bearded Collie dog. She has moved beyond her current job and is beginning to build her experience with the local ambulance service with an eye to her future. Her partner works as a part-time firefighter.
So together we are now standing at the top of Miter Peak. Rather than a conclusion, it’s another surreal crossroads encounter before a new chapter and a new journey begin.
It’s autumn here and the days are short. What gave us difficulty on the climb will be even more difficult on the descent. Plunge through ferns, ivy and shrubs. I follow her in Lyrid, trying to gain her sight. There are many false roads. We got lost a few times, but she was able to quickly distinguish between the dangerous creek bottom and the right faint footprints. They look the same to me.
A painful hour passes, but in the late afternoon we find ourselves at the edge of a rocky ridge. I open my arms and hug my daughter.new zealand “Bird of the Year”A rare Piwa-Wah Wren emerges from the rubble and hops at Lilid’s feet. It feels so good to see Lilid back in familiar grassy terrain, with his pack on his back and in the lead again.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/may/28/climbing-mitre-peak-daunting-murdo-macleod-but-not-let-daughter-down Climbing Miter Peak feels daunting for Murd MacLeod, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his daughter… | Climbing