What Mattered Today

27 November 2013–Ambivalence mattered today. Jim and I have passed the planning torch over to the students. They are working in groups of two to plan the days. I have repeatedly told them that this is their semester and we want them to get out of it what they want. Earlier on we had taught some technical skills, yet we have not put ice axe on snow during this ration, nor have we set foot on a glacier. Turning the planning over to students gives them the ability to have a substantial say in what happens during their section. In order to give them true autonomy and not just have them be our puppets, we need to be patient and process oriented. Ambivalence, except in the case of risk management concerns, is key.

Last night the leaders of the day briefed the group on their plan. It was a continuation of the current day’s plan. We were going to move, either to Barker Hut or to just downstream of the confluence of Kilmarnock/White River confluence. Our next camp’s location was dependent on the 0800 weather check. This morning Jim joined Eric and Jesse as they walked over to Carrington Hut, turned on the two-way radio, and called the visitor center at Arthur’s Pass National Park for a weather report. Back at the tent, finishing up my packing and hot drink drinking, I knew something was awry when after a half of an hour they still weren’t back. So I wandered over to the large, thirty-six bunk hut with Jim’s cho-cho and pop in on a skull session around the map. I pass the liter of hot drink to Jim and asked how things were going. Eric’s grim smile told me all I needed to know, but I listen to him anyway. The forecast was looking poor, but it had yet to sprinkle a drop this morning. The barometer had risen, it was calm and the clouds were higher. The chicken scratched weather report on Jesse’s notebook page told a different story. The forecast is calling for high winds and rain above treeline. Tomorrow seemed OK but then Friday was winds reaching 80 kilometers per hour and heavy rain. It seemed the weather gods were plotting against us with their coming northwesterlies, but it was still calm and “dry” in the valley. I voice my thoughts. It is calm out now and not raining. Use the weather when you have it.

Later, as Paul and I hike up valley on a faint Department of Conservation track, I mentally note the inaccuracy of the forecast. The winds have remained calm, the clouds have remained high, the barometer has not risen, but also not fallen and the rain has not materialized. Paul and I travel light, without heavy packs. Our packs are back at the Kilmarnock/White confluence. This afternoon we are just scouting the track for a day hike in the morning. The suggestion to move up, due to what was happening, not what was going to happen was not taken. Instead we moved our camp two kilometers up the valley. Eric and Jesse had laid out options and talked with the group. Then they made a plan. It is not what I would have done, but it is theirs and they owned it. What will be will be.

Now I lie in my tent, write and listen to the chirping tui and the crowing kea. In the distance the white noise of the river drones on, in and out of my awareness. A light rain falls and the clouds drop. There is no wind. My alarm is set for 0500. Tomorrow a handful of us will head up to the Barker Hut and have a look around, maybe try to get onto a glacier or use some crampons. If the forecast is right, that is. Che sará sará…

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A bit of a nomad, Jared likes to refer to himself in the third person.