The setting sun washes the Forbes Range in a pink rinse. From my vantage point just outside the red corrugated iron walls of Esquliant Bivvy the twin peaks of Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi and O’Leary have also acquired a rosy tinge. My eyes are drawn to the dark colossus known as Pluto Peak which dominates the foreground. On a mild, still summer evening it’s easy to forget how inhospitable mountains can be.
I don’t remember much about my first time running the Broken Axe Pinnacles. It was a bank holiday weekend almost sabotaged by epic nor-westers. I’d abandoned a climbing trip down south because of the forecast. Trail running was my back up plan. I lost a sun hat in high winds on the Tip Track on Saturday. Monday/Labour Day it looked like the wind might finally abate. By the time we arrived at Holdworth Road end conditions were sunny and still thanks to us pausing for a second breakfast in Greytown giving the wind more space. What should have been an exhilarating adventure was overshadowed first by my running buddy Tony getting bad cramp just as we reached the Pinnacles then, when we stopped for coffee on the way back to Wellington, by the terrible news that the two climbers trapped near the summit of Mt Taranaki had died of hypothermia before they could be rescued.