The nighttime silence of the Cameron River valley seeps in through the yellow fabric of our tent. The pale green glow of the light on the Timex watch I wear around my neck shows the time as 0430. I lie, cocooned in my sleeping bag, nestled as I am between Hayden and Christian and silently watch the green light die out. And I listen to the silence and picture the calm still night on the other side of the nylon. Next to me, buried deep in his down sleeping bag Hayden’s breathing is regular and deep while on the other side, Christian’s is almost imperceptible, even in the silence. I think of our previous evening’s plans: early morning and a long walk due to high winds, low visibility and low clouds. I silently appreciate the stillness and quiet of the world beyond our Hilleberg Kaitum 3 and grin at my pessimistic “either right or pleasantly surprised” attitude towards whether or not we would be walking or if the helicopter would fly.
The previous evening, as we lay in the tent, Christian had broached subject of the re-ration. “So any bets on what tomorrow brings?” he says as we settle into the tent. We are expecting our re-ration via helicopter at 0700 and the weather forecast is not promising. We are camped a couple hundred meters south of the Cameron Hut which, thanks to the hut’s proprietor, the Canterbury Mountain Club, has a mountain radio. Previously that evening we had caught the Canterbury High Country forecast at the scheduled time.
“I say we are walking” I respond pessimistically implying that the weather will not let the helicopter fly and referring to our back up plan of hiking 25 or so kilometers round trip to the trailhead to pick up our groceries.
Hayden grunts at my prediction and says “it’ll be clear.”
“I am cautiously optimistic” Christian adds in.
Outside, the afternoon’s high winds have abated somewhat and the rains have subsided. The night sky is overcast, but the ceiling is still quite high. I poke my head out one last time but see nothing that sways me toward my mates’ optimism.
I drift in and out of consciousness but soon enough my bladder tells me to make my nightly sojourn from the tent. Christian and Hayden remain comatose and I inch quietly forward and down to the door at the foot of the tent. I sit up. “Whoa, that is a lot of ice” I think for a split second as my head hits the hard and sagging tent ceiling and that thought is quickly replaced by “oh man” as I hear the soft sliding of snow on nylon. The shroud of silence is quickly replaced by the light, soft tinkle of snow on the fly. I tap the walls gently and hear more snow slide, then more tinkling and realize that the silence, the calmness and the stillness, all indicators of our food getting choppered in a few hours from now, were simply the product of a soft white blanket enveloping my world.
I slide my wool sock clad feet into my shoes and peer out the vestibule. My head torch pierces the darkness revealing steadily falling flakes and low clouds. I step outside into the darkness and snow. I do my business then start brushing the snow off the tent. As my gloved hand scoops the snow away from the sides I can’t help but think to myself that at least I was right.