On the 17th, we did the Waiau Pass, purported to be the most difficult day of the TA (by word of mouth). I set out from the hut ready for anything, and soon found it. Midway through the morning, we came upon a huge (HUGE) scree slope. Strait up. The way was marked by poles and you could see where previous trampers had sidled their way back and forth up the mountain. Having been told that it was very windy and cold at the top, I pulled out my jacket, ate a granola bar for strength, and began.
Mountains can be very sneaky things. You look ahead on the trail and see blue sky ahead. Aha, you think, that is where the uphill section stops. I can do that. Then you get to that section and realize that the mountain has simply flattened out for a bit before continuing strait up, or that a rocky knoll simply blocked your view of the continuing ascent, or that the trail turns a corner and you simply keep hiking up a different slope. Such was the way with the Waiau Pass. I thought I was almost there, 4 more trail markers to go (I gave myself a 5-10 second break at every trail marker) and would discover I'd failed to see an entire section of mountain.
I did, eventually make it to the top, of course, and it was beautiful! Unfortunately, there was no time to linger as fog was on the mountain and more clouds were rolling in by the second. I didn't even stop to eat my apricot, which I'd been looking forward to greatly. I've begun writing odes to fresh fruit in anticipation on the trail, and they've gotten rather melodramatic. I don't really remember much of them afterwards, but I do remember that the ode to my apricot on the day of the Waiau Pass compared their tender golden flesh to the sumptuous bosom of Aphrodite. Bethany pointed out that I didn't know Aphrodite's views on apricots or whether she would appreciate this comparison, but I assured her that, had she heard the reverential tone with which the ode was recited, she would have taken it as the compliment it was intended to be. Oh, the things we think about to distract ourselves from soreness and pass time on the trail...
The down was nearly as difficult as the up and there were times when I had to turn around and, clinging to the rock face like a ladder, lower myself to the next ledge. It was harder on my joints but easier on my knees and I enjoyed the thought, the planning that went into every second of descent. I was also very grateful for my limited experience with rock climbing.
We made it to Caroline Creek Bivvy by evening, a disgusting and slightly creepy little hut. We opted to erect our tent rather than sleep in the mouse-dropping infested bunks. There was another girl who had opted for the same option, Ann from London. She was an awesome girl who was running the trail! Although we didn't talk much because there were a ridiculous number of sand flies and we all retreated into our tents, we connected on some level and she left a note for us in the morning when she left, inviting us to visit her in London for a couch an dinner. She also left her card with contact information, which proclaimed her "Adventure Queen and All Round Good Egg". I liked her :)