A Fowler Wind Blows (Part Three). Fowler Pass Track.

“On a Mish” #375 A Fowler Wind Blows (Part Three). Fowler Pass Track. St James Conservation Area. 3.6.2023. Part of the appeal of hiking to me is the satisfaction of completing your self appointed challenge. Pre-injury my targets were mountain tops. There is something special about looking up after nothing but uphill travel, and seeing that soon there will be no more up. This, along with the feeling you get when back home safe and sound with a tale to tell, are driving factors in repeating the tortuous battle over and over again. Now post injury I have to set my sights on challenges a little lower than the summit of a mountain. Recently during my biggest challenge since first hurting my hip I would have a battle with not only a foul wind and pass, but also a rude awakening to my body’s capabilities when compared to how I was before being struck by a large fridge door…

We had driven up and over Jacks Pass and after stirring up the dust on the Tophouse Road we pulled into the parking area beside Fowler Hut. We were met by a wind that cuts through any so-called windproof layer, meaning beanies and gloves on and zips zipped up to the very top. We had around eight kilometres to hike to get to the top of Fowler Pass and I was ready to slog my way up the slopes of Mt Seymour(1793m).

The Fowler Pass track was once a packhorse track and in some places I’d much rather walk than put my life in the hands of a horse. Even just the idea of lugging heavy swags of gear over the pass back in the day made me feel tired so I just focused on my feet.

The cool conditions chilled my normal aches and pains more than normal. Starting was a struggle at first but once I got going the scenery was enough to keep me striding up towards the pass.

Unfortunately my Mother was having her own battle with asthma, and the many stops were actually a blessing in disguise. When she stopped to suck in precious oxygen, I would rest on my walking poles. This went on until just after the halfway point of the track. The incline was giving my worn parts a good run for their money, and I was enjoying the breaks. At one point after a steep section I went to rest on my poles only to discover that my Mother’s asthma had come right and I turned to look back to see where she was only to be surprised by the fact that she was standing right behind me!

Another slowing factor to our quest to the top of the pass was my Sister’s dog Blue who seemed to refuse to walk in a straight line. Hearing my Father swearing in anger after another stumble caused by the dog slowing his progress provided a little light relief …

The last push to the pass seemed to go on forever and the track gave us false summit after false summit. Eventually I saw the land dropping down to a point about the same altitude as us and I knew that the pass wasn’t that far away.

Blind stubbornness got me through the last couple hundred metres and as I finally got to the point where the track begins to drop down into the Smyths Stream Valley I was met with slightly different emotions than expected. As I gathered my thoughts and did my best to ignore the pain in my hip and back, I thought back to the days when I used to climb mountains and the peaks around me would have been easy pickings. More annoyed than elated, after a snack we began the journey back to the start of the track at Fowler Hut.

Having gravity on our side made the return hike much easier, but we weren’t going to break any speed records on our descent. At one point my Father pushed on ahead with the aim of having the billy boiled and hot drinks ready by the time myself and my Mother got to the bottom of the hill.

Eventually we made it to the bottom of the track and near the end we were met by my sister’s whanau and we regrouped and enjoyed hot drinks at Fowler Hut. Well everyone except me. I had made it to the car and that was where I would stay until it got back to Hanmer Springs!

It took a while to shake off the negative thoughts of “I used to be able” and replace them with the reality that I have made a massive amount of progress since I first got hurt and this walk would have never happened if I hadn’t put in a ton of rehab work. I might be in pain but the pain would be overwhelmed by satisfaction… Eventually!

As time has gone on I have learnt to appreciate the positives from our battle with Fowler Pass. Although the mish left me battered and broken I am now very proud of myself and the mission team. From here I now know what is too much and what I can actually do (much more than expected). So hopefully there won’t be any more setbacks on my climb back up to my former capabilities…

The sky told us it was time to go home…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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