20 November 2010

When the original founders of the Abu Dhabi Alpine Club met up again in New Zealand, it was inevitable that the world’s most unlikely alpine club would hold a local outing.
Chris and Stacey had arrived in the Dhabs within a week or so of me back in 2008 and we left within a few days of each other in June.
They’d taken a somewhat faster route back than me, flying direct via Singapore.

By contrast, I’d demonstrated my status as a recalcitrant ne’er-do-well by spending a month in Central Asia, getting unexpectedly deported from Iran, taking five months to hike a 4500km trail along the length of the Rockies and finally landing in the Land of the Long Flat Vowel after a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles.

Now that we were all back in the same place, meeting up to do something adventurous was pretty much a given.

This was a goal only slightly tempered by them being based in Auckland, the wrong end of New Zealand for anything alpine. But as ADAC founders, obviously the absence of alpine terrain was but a pesky detail.
Of course Ariana, the Abu Dhabi Alpine Club’s most promising young climber, had to come along with us. On the ADAC’s very first outing, she’d made the youngest known ascent — eight months before her birth — of Jebel Hafeet.

Jebel Hafeet

As befits someone who scaled the highest mountain in Abu Dhabi emirate long before she was born — and in truth, even before her parents were aware of her existence — Ariana was deemed ready to tackle her first challenging tramp.


She did not seem to share my enthusiasm for this plan.

The Piano This was in the Waitakeres, on Auckland’s wild west coast. It’s where The Piano was filmed, which explained why we were not surprised to encounter wet and blustery conditions.

Hillary Trail

It’s also where the newly-minted Hillary Trail is located. Sir Ed, with whom I’d been in Antarctica and whose funeral I covered as one of my last tasks before leaving New Zealand, had a holiday home in the area. Creating a trail in his honour was one of the ways his memory was commemorated.

Ariana on the Beach!

Compared to the sabkhas of the UAE and my most recent hiking, through the equally arid deserts of New Mexico, New Zealand seemed very green.


Ariana was not initially impressed by all this.
But then, as we approached the beach…
Sand! I remember sand! But isn’t it supposed to be red?
And when it tasted pretty much the same as the Abu Dhabi stuff, life was back on an even keel.


We headed back to the car via a scrambling route up a stream.


The Waitakeres are certainly not alpine but definitely worth a journey.


< Mussandam Dhow Trip   Jebel Khawr & Wadi Damm>

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