Mt. Tongariro and the Internal Winter

Surely I had underestimated my fitness levels when I agreed to do this. We weren’t an hour in and my heart was pounding, the wind was blasting my skin and the burn in my legs would only be just the beginning.

We were walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with the team at Adrift on the second day of winter, and my goodness did it feel like winter! The whole trek consisted of two stages of decent climbing with a flat stretch in between before we would descend down the other side. The first climb really let me know that I hadn’t done proper exercise in a good while, but the whole way up I would turn and be blown away from the view that had started to reveal more of itself the higher we went.

As we came along the flat, behind the sounds of excited people and crunching of snow underfoot…I could not help but hear the stillness. The snow either side of the guided path that the groups kept close to was pristine, untouched and a sweet taste of what nature might look like without man. It felt like the Earth was holding her breath, life had ceased for the winter and all that was left behind was this empty, created space.

It brought me back to why we have winter, what the longer nights and cooler days meant for us. As people who go by the clock on our devices rather than the sky we have forgotten to be in tune with the natural cycles that we came from. Now we start our days with more coffee and louder alarms to drag ourselves from bed with the “harden up” attitude so we can soldier on through our work day. We have forgotten to give ourselves an empty space, to find the time to cease our busy lives and tend to the self.

As I grew more in tune with my body last year, I started to notice the deep internalising that winter always provided for me. My exercise routines on the Peak turned into yoga by the fire, smoothies turned to soups and partying with friends were converted to deep talks around nourishing food. Winter hasn’t quite set in yet in Hawkes Bay, but the change in temperature is prompting enough to encourage some more internalisation.

On June 21st we will have the winter solstice – or the shortest day – and it is a perfect time to look over the past year with gratitude, and to focus on what you would like to work on for the year coming. Are there new goals to achieve or old ones to revisit, and reestablish? What can we provide for ourselves in the cold days to come?

When we came down from Tongariro, seeing the first signs of life in a few hours and feeling the awareness of the nature that had not yet been touched by snow, I finally felt reconnected with life. The crossing was empowering, and something I would never have attempted without the amazing guides to lead us through. I have such a great appreciation for Stewart and his team, who not only take up anyone keen for the challenge, but also providing a space of inspiration to someone who might have no idea that they have a passion for snow and high places.

Coming out of the winter on the mountain I feel prepped and ready for the cold days to reach the Bay… However there no signs of it just yet.

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