Mountains for me are as close to my soul than anything else in this life. I’m not sure why exactly other than they give me goosebumps, a lump in my throat and a feeling of ‘being’ like nothing else. Quite random really from a bloke who grew up in a council house in central UK.
What astounds me most about the mountains is that they are my life mentor. They teach me about life past and present like lost generations before me. Spending time on a mountain is a true gift that I never take for granted. Back in 2011 I first visited Mount Taranaki as a very different man. I was on the cusp of my post ultra running ‘phase’, Christchurch earthquakes, and Fatherhood, I had just ran my third Kepler Challenge and in all honesty lost for what was coming next in my life. None of that mattered though as I was there with a crew of Salomon runners for some serious missions.
I woke at 3am and scaled Taranaki with a wee head torch and little more than a basic camera setup, food, and so much clothing! It was my first ‘real’ commercial running photoshoot, and the highest peak bag of my life- at 2600M. I was so passionate. I was so naive. I was so fearless.
The experience back in 2011 rates as one of my all time favourite life moments. It was utterly perfect in every way and Taranaki let us play hard out under some amazing conditions. Part of my soul was left at 2600M that day filled with the joy of life. It’s utterly nuts when I think about it- and the pace at which I hit the summit (less than 4 hours) feels a lifetime away. I feel it’s this reality that makes the experience even more memorable for me- in that the mountain allowed all of us to play and pass that weekend and the weather, stoke and energy was just right. But that was then, and my life, physical abilities, headspace, and running is now very different now.
Returning to the region this week had me excited, and scared. So much has changed in my life since the last visit and I was not sure how it would go. To see the utter scale of this mountain is difficult to put into words as you drive on flat country roads with nothing on the horizon to then a near vertical giant snow covered rock. It’s simply breath taking. Looking up to the top… I could not help to declare that “I climbed that thing??!!” Tears started to fill my eyes as the emotions flooded back from the great time spent in such a wondrous place with good people, and life pre earthquakes.
The mountains don’t expect anything from us though, and hitting the trails have reminded me that like in life, you need all of these little ‘ingredients’ to make it all work, and for it to all come together. Mostly it does not come easy, but when you keep trying and waiting, it does happen. You can’t win them all – and that passion will always trump talent. Every second spent here has refuelled my joy that in all honesty has been lacking of late, and creating new memories. The fear of life which has followed me soon disappeared as I started to climb upwards with my energy rising. What an amazing feeling and reality.
So after being in the region for 4 days i’ve been up a few times to the snow line and beyond. There is no chance of the summit attempt being Winter time and ice on route- but i’m loving the climbs- sunshine-fresh alpine air and good mountain vibes. The smell of the warm mountain grass, sound of running water as the snow melts, crisp air within the lungs, and even the feel underfoot makes me feel truly happy. It’s so amazing to be back here Mount Taranaki and look forward to sharing it with my Family and friends over Summer.