A cyclone had just hit New Zealand the week prior to this trip. With it came the winds and the rain, pummeling the entire island. In this steep mountain country, that much rain has nowhere to go but down the mountain. The small streams transformed into powerful waterfalls, and the gentle rivers became impassible raging torrents of water. Hello trouble.
Three friends of mine; Robin, Sean, and Janus, came down to chase tahr with me for the first time. I was planning on driving up the river valley then having us all hike from there. This plan was now sunk.
“Head to the choppa”! in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
It was plan B in action. If we couldn’t walk-in, then we were going to fly-in. One way or another we were going. There was a little break in the weather and I planned to take advantage of it.
The chopper put us down on a small mountain tarn surrounded by rocks and cliffs. I have hiked here in the past and figured it would be a good place to base from. The clouds cleared just enough to land and unload. Shortly after the pilot’s departure, the clouds socked back in and a cold wet mist swallowed us. We pitched our tents and prepared for a long cold night.
The outside of my tent and the clear water of the tarn was slightly iced over before the morning sun cracked. The plan was to hike to the top of the high ridge behind camp before sun up where I would show the other guys around before we split up from there.
As Sean and I neared the edge of some cliffs that cut their way through the middle of the steep mountain to the valley below, I caught some movement. I slowly dropped down and Sean followed suit. From the crag below emerged a tahr. The angle was steep, straight down. I readied an arrow on my string, drew the bow back, and shot.
The arrow found its mark. The trouble now was just getting to where tahr fell to recover the meat. I set my bow and pack down at the top, bringing only my Vital pocket folder knife and a short length of para-chord. It was going to be dangerous enough without my gear. It was a good 300 feet down.
I picked a manageable crease and slowly worked my way to the bottom of the canyon. One step at a time bracing with my legs and hands, sitting then turning and lowering to the various natural steps in face to the bottom. A few times I got cliffed out before having to go back up a short way and try another route.
When I reached the Tahr, I made quick work with my knife before taking it back up a good route I had found on my way down. Going back up was quicker than the down climb. My center of gravity was better going up, not to mention I could see all my hand holds and foot holds. The route was steep but manageable as I scrambled back up to the top of the mountain.
The smell of herbs, garlic, and meat filled the small kitchen in the cottage. We had an excellent week of hunting in the mountains and were back. Fresh Tahr meat from the journey sat in the pot waiting to be eaten. We had hunted the mountains hard and made it back all in one piece. With us we brought back a pile of meat, some which was about to be eaten for dinner. The four of us sat around the small table, bowl in hand, talking about the past week, and devouring the dinner we brought back from the journey.