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Archive for January 30th, 2021

Immediately after finishing the Mt. Fuji challenge, and without further ado, I started my next challenge: the Alps to Ocean route in New Zealand on 30th December 2020.

This brought me to the end of the year and helped me to reach my Conquer 2020 goal of 2,020 kms.

And off we go….from one mountain on an island to another mountain on an island…

Imagine crisp alpine air, snow-capped peaks, glaciers, milky lakes and starlit nights. The training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing skills in preparation for Everest. The legendary story of Aoraki and his three brothers. These are just some of the highlights of Mount Cook.

Stage 1

At 12,217ft (3,724m) tall Mount Cook is located on the South Island and the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It sits within the Mount Cook National Park which runs 37mi (60km) in a southwest-northeast direction. Home to more than 400 flora and fauna the national park is part of the Te Wāhipounamu South Westland World Heritage Site. The park is also home to 35 species of birds, including the only alpine parrot called Kea.

When I was looking into Mount Cook, I was wondering about the 98ft (30m) height discrepancy between different written sources. Further investigations revealed that in 1991 an avalanche of 350 million cubic feet (10Mm³) of snow and rock followed by twenty years of erosion had shrunk the mountain’s elevation by 98ft (30m).

Of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand, eight of them are within the park with Tasman Glacier being the longest at 15mi (24km). The glacier terminates in the Tasman Lake which up until the 1990s never existed. The lake was formed due to rapid glacial melting whilst the glacier itself continues to recede annually by as much as 2,697ft (822m). It is anticipated that within a few decades the glacier will be completely gone and the lake fully formed.

The lake’s primary outflow is the alpine braided Tasman River which flows south for 16mi (25km) through the Tasman Valley and into Lake Pukaki. The glacier, lake and river were named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who in 1642 was the first European to sight the northwest coast of NZ’s South Island.

My journey begins at the base of Mount Cook, northwest of the river. Needing to cross the river to connect to Rotten Tommy trail, I took a short helicopter flight. The aerial view of this glacially-fed river and Mount Cook was a sight to behold. From Rotten Tommy, I took a southward bound route alongside the Tasman River. Although part of the route was quite rough and I had to cross several creeks, eventually the track changed to gravel road and made it easier to navigate towards my first overnight stop. Being a clear and sunny day, I had the treat of seeing Mount Cook in the distance rising above the lower snow-capped peaks in the National Park.

Before I go let me tell you about the Ngāi Tahu legend. The story goes that once the “Gods existed in the midst of a great sea of nothingness” and Raki, the Sky Father and Pokoharua-te-po, his wife had four sons, all living in the heavens. Raki left his wife to be with Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, and together they created the world. Aoraki, the eldest son of Raki, along with his three brothers came from the heavens with a canoe in an attempt to persuade their father to return to their mother. Upon seeing him together with his new wife, the brothers knew Raki would never return. The brothers decided to go home but unfortunately their canoe wouldn’t rise and following strong winds and rising seas, the canoe overturned tipping the brothers into the water. Climbing atop the upturned canoe they waited for help. As time passed with no help coming, they eventually turned to stone. The canoe became the Southern Island and the brothers became the Southern Alps with Aoraki (Mount Cook) being the highest peak.

It all sounds absolutely amazing. I’m really going to have to seriously consider planning to walk these routes for real as part of my Project 101, especially if I want to see that glacier before it disappears completely – I’ve got just over 4 years to save…

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Or Stage pre-2 🤣🤣🤣

Oooopps, it seems I missed a stage on my Mt. Fuji virtual walk, and frankly it’s a pretty awesome stage, so even though I missed the email (found whilst tidying up my mailbox last night), I thought I’d share it anyway. So here it is; the correct Stage 2…

Mt. Fuji – Aokigahara Forest

Aokigahara nicknamed Sea of Trees and at times infamously referred to as Suicide Forest, is a dense, moss-covered forest that sits within the Hakone Izu National Park. Registered as a National Natural Treasure the forest was born out of an eruption from Mount Fuji about 1,200 years ago, when new trees started sprouting from cooled lava. Because the forest is formed on top of dried magma, trees are unable to grow their roots deep into the ground. Although the thickness of the soil is only 10cm, the forest is filled with evergreen conifers, Mongolian oak, Fuji cherry and maple trees.

Hiking trails have been paved in the forest for visitors but anyone veering off the designated path can easily get lost and be difficult to rescue. Plastic tapes can often be seen rolled out to mark the path and assist visitors to find the way out. Then there are times when people have no intention of coming out and getting lost is a means to ending it all.

When I entered one of the trails on Aokigahara it was with the intent to find Fugaku Wind Cave and Narusawa Ice Cave. The trail was wide, well-marked and well-maintained with sunlight streaming through the canopies of the trees. I needn’t worry that I might get lost.

Fugaku Wind Cave was a 659ft (201m) long lateral cave accessed via a staircase. Due to its natural ventilation and year-round average temperature of 37°F (3°C) the cave was used as a refrigerator during the 17th to early 20th century to store the eggs of silkworms.

Narusawa Ice Cave was a looped 492ft (150m) lava tube that maintained the same temperature as Fugaku and was also used as a natural fridge during the pre-electric refrigerator era. A small section of the cave was only 3ft (91cm) high where I needed to walk sideways in order to see remnants of trees from a thousand years ago. Ice pillars begin forming over the winter period here reaching their maximum size by April. They can grow up to 10ft (3m) high and as thick as 20in (50cm) wide.

Leaving the forest, trail and caves behind, I proceeded to trek through urban areas to Lake Kawaguchi.

Doesn’t that description just make you want to go there right now? Imagine all the cool photos you could capture!! I’d spend a whole day there if I could, besides being described as the Suicide Forest, it looks so invitingly peaceful and calm.

I’m sure if we stayed still long enough, and looked hard enough, we’d see faeries.

And as for those caves…..oh my gosh, bring it on!!!

If you missed the start of this (my) challenge, click here to read Stage 1 of the Mt. Fuji Conqueror challenge

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This is a really old article, but sometimes my random and accidental keywords take me to interesting places. I also tend to follow a string of articles, clicking from one link to another.

I recently read this article and thought I’d share it with you. It will be interesting to revisit this in what is now only 9 years time and see how much has transpired.

In the meantime, a couple of those predictions are already heading in the right direction, and one of those mentioned, teetered perilously close to the edge of an abyss – the prediction was almost too close for comfort.

I wonder what you think?

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