“Jaime! You alright?” asked one of my hiking companions, already 10 feet ahead of me on a steep slope, having scaled up with a single rope.
It was my 2nd day in Milford Sound, and I was tramping through the lush New Zealand bush to go atop the Lady Bowen Falls, the area’s highest at 162 meters. The views were supposed to be one of the best.
“Um…I think so!” I yelled back.
Not wanting to hold up the group, I hoisted myself up only to slip again. The rainfall from the previous week had dampened the rocks, which were slick with mud. After using the rope with no avail, I decided to use my hands and knees to work my way up with the natural footholds – vines, rough and jagged rocks, and patches of vegetation – on the slope.
I arrived at the end of the rope with soggy shoes, wet sweaty clothes, and record amounts of slippage. This was proving to be more challenging than the Tongariro Crossing. Whereas the crossing was about endurance, this track was about obstacle and level of fitness.
We followed an old water pipe for a good 15-20 minutes, before we reached ladders to bring us to a pool of glacier water helm by rock formations.
Everyone except me jumped in. I frozed, overcome by self-consciousness and fear of the unknown. What if I hit a rock? What if the water, iced cold, would be a shock to my body? More importantly, I was feeling unconfident in both situation and in my body; the fear of judgement still consumes me at moments like these. I just couldn’t will myself to do it.
We sunbathed and chatted by the glacier pool for a while before setting off to see the top of Lady Bowen Falls. After 20 minutes of meandering through the trees, bushes, and rocks we finally made it and were treated to the most magnificent view of the fiord.
On the second to last day of my time in Milford, we climbed up again and I willed myself to let go and jump in the glacier pool. It was electrifying.