How hard can you go? How hard are you willing to push yourself and your team? is the question circling your mind. Looming ahead of you is a scree slope, between the scree rocks you are able to see a way to the top.

Another bead of sweat joins the pool on your forehead with each step up that you take. You can’t forget about the burning sensation in your calves. The pain is like nothing you have felt before, aching, fatigued and so so tired. Up up and up you go, getting higher and higher. The sweat forms a trail down the side of your cheek, like the slime of a snail and drips onto your thighs as they power up  and over the rocks. The distance to the top is rapidly closing in as you and the group haul yourselves up over the mossy volcanic rocks. All that can be heard is the panting, puffing and painful moans from your team members.

Due to the scorching sun that is beating down on your heads, your mouths have dried. The uncomfortable feeling of sticky saliva coats your lips and tongue, only once you take a rationed sip from your drink bottle you begin to feel refreshed. But this feeling doesn’t last long. Mother nature has other ideas. A strong whiff of sulfur overpowers all other senses. Little rocks and slimy moss create and obstacle as you slip and slide. You pray you won’t fall as you look down into the beautiful valley you have climbed from. The weight of your pack slows you down but the nearing brow pushes you further. The people that have any breath left call encouraging words, “come on, we are so close!” “The checkpoint is at the top then we will head towards that lake to set up camp.”

As you reach the summit after what feels like a lifetime of up, you realise it was worth it. Turning around you feel like you are on top of the world, literally. The feeling of accomplishment overpowers the deadness in your legs. As you scan the horizon, the overwhelming views of the tussock plateaus, intertwined by creeks that run from the snow capped volcanoes. You see the pockets of native trees, kanuka, manuka and beech. Near the mountains, where the never ending blue sky ends, you can see whisks of clouds beginning to form. Up, up. up and over you and the team continues. As you touch your face, dried salty sweat crumbles off like snowflakes. “How gross.” you think to yourself before you are brought back to the tightness your lungs are feeling. “Almost there, we need to pick it up guys.” A jog is almost impossible with the weight of your pack and the hurt your whole body is feeling. But somehow you  manage to push that feeling away and you find a new lease of life.

The tent flaps and flaps and flaps and doesn’t stop. “What’s happening?” you wonder. You look to your right and see everyone passed out from the demanding day. Unlucky for you, you are on the open side of the tent. A quick peek outside confirms that the weather has turned. The clouds are rolling over the hills and then the rain starts. Rain? Then the sleety hail starts. The wind whips the tent around and you try to cover up the opening so that you can get some rest.

 

When you wake up nothing much has changed excpet for the fact it is 5am and none of you can sleep due to the storm raging outside of your tent. Everything is wet. But there is nothing that can be done, you have to keep battling. Although you have used 1/2 the food, everything is soaked through making is 2x as heavy.

Waterproof pants, water proof jackest soon become another wet layer as you climb up up up to the next ridge. vision is limited. You put your head down and all you can see is the shoes infront of you. Thats all you can do, follow the ryhthem, one step, 2 step. One of the boys shout but the words are whipped away by the howling wind and you had no chance of hearing them beacuse of the poundig rain against your hood. It is cold. So cold. Like nothing you have ecver felt before. You watch the feet in front of you to ensure you dont fall behind or get lost.

 

The water splashes up as you start to jog. Once again you wonder where that extra energy emerged from. The chaffed burning sensation flares up between your thighs and you know the red rash that is forming due to the damp dirt and sweat that has built up over the past couple of days. All you can think about is being warm, dry and curled up in your bed and the tears spring to your eyes. You think to yourself “keep going, we have to keep going” and urge yourself to toughen up. One of the boys fumbles around and attaches a tow rope to your harness. You watch the rhythemic puming of his calfs gping up down, up down and you feel the pull, dragging your forward.

 

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