It was Christmas with a difference for us, pretty much not feeling like Christmas at all as we decided to do something completely different on Christmas Day and go climbing on the assumption that not many people would be out.
We did get into the spirit a bit on Christmas Eve by going into Latimer Square in Christchurch to a YMCA Christmas Carol evening, music by the Salvation Army and a big choir of various schools and colleges in a big floodlit grandstand. Not knowing where to park (and not really sure which roads are open as its right in the area of the earthquake damaged inner city, next to the cathedral), so we headed towards Latimer Square, parking right alongside on a gravel car park. We thought it would be too good to be true, but we checked with officials and they confirmed it was OK, so it was a long 50 yard walk into the square where we bought some doughnuts and a songsheet, found a space and sat down in our folding chairs.
It was not as warm as we’d hoped, so we were wrapped up in fleeces and feeling a bit cool! Nevertheless the carols were great, a lot we knew and a few we didn’t: ‘What Child Is This’ sung to the tune of Greensleeves, ’Worldwide Christmas Message’ to a very jolly marching band type rhythm and ‘Te Harinui’, a Maori carol. There was a minutes silence to remember the 180 who died in the earthquake and a bit of cheering when the MC announced that yesterday (23rd) marked 12 months since the last damage causing aftershock. A very pleasant evening, the square being overlooked by a magnificent 30m high artificial Christmas Tree!
|The first section of the temporary 'cardboard cathedral'|
On Christmas Day we were up at 7:00am and away to Castle Hill in Arthurs Pass. The day dawned grey and quite foggy with a bit of drizzle, but undaunted we still went for it and were glad we did as, when we got to the mountains and gained some height we went above the clouds to a relatively clear blue, still sky, with a very hot sun!
|The Castle Hill climbing area|
Unfortunately the climbing was all a bit hard for us, although it was limestone, which we generally like, it was very rounded, a bit like gritstone (which we don’t like!), relying on friction, with few positive holds, just rounded slopers! The guide book (which we bought for $60!!) told us that NZ grades are based on the Australian grades, though ‘many consider that ours are often a little tougher for the grade’. In addition it said of Castle Hill ‘you may find the routes sometimes need a teensy bit more ‘go’ than those at the same grade elsewhere, the number sometimes also includes a factor to keep the locals feeling good and the visitors chastened’. They were not kidding! We consider ourselves mid-range climbers, around French grade 6a to 6b, which corresponds to 17/18 to 20/21. We’d already found 17’s and 18’s challenging at Paynes Ford up in the North of the South Island, but here 17’s were virtually beyond us! We started on a 13, which we should be able to virtually walk up, but found that ‘interesting’! With nothing much else below grade 17, we tried a couple, but had to ‘top rope’ them and even then had difficulty.
|The 'Tales from the Riverbank' climb.|
As a final climb we attempted ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ a three star grade 17 that the guide book described as ‘This is a glorious beginners climb, but due to its popularity it’s a bit slippery.’ After leading and clipping the first bolt I came down and let Jackie have a go, but she also gave up at the same point. I scrambled round the side, put up a top rope and went up on that. It was a great climb and well worth the three stars and maybe I could have led it, but it needed such commitment (‘go’ as the book said) on some polished holds that I’m not sure I would (maybe if I was feeling super-confident one day!). At that point we had our picnic lunch, packed up a bit disillusioned and too hot in the sun and drove back through Arthurs Pass’ amazing scenery to cook our Christmas dinner, which we ate at about 6:00pm on the patio in baking sun! Roast Chicken with 6 veg! (one sprout each courtesy of the freezer - thanks John!) and apple and blackberry crumble and custard (grand blackberries, thanks John!)
|Christmas Dinner on the patio!|
We totally chilled out on Boxing Day and today (27th), staying at ‘home’, reading, cooking, having skype conversations with family at home and having fun with the cats. Its been just as well as the weather has been overcast grey with occasional drizzle and rain for the last 2 days and we even lit the fire today as it was a bit cold. It is now 5:00pm and as I look out the window whilst typing the sky has finally cleared, the sun is out (now I’m hot!) and Jackie has gone out to do some gardening. No doubt I’ll get moaned at for not helping, so I’ll sign off now and go and help…. Its supposed to be hot and sunny by Saturday with temperatures up to 28 C, so that’ll be good! (I've come in expecting to be force fed gin and tonic, but first he has to do the vacuuming - well it is him who is allergic to the feathers under the bed, the final remains of the bird I cleared out from under there earlier! Perhaps we are not feeding them enough, though I suppose if that was the case it would have been scoffed not left as a 'present'!)
|Tea with scones and cream anyone?|
|Rosie adding weight to our chairs!|
|Ustinov looking very grand!|
|A very pretty, fluffy Tiffany|
|But its all a bit too much for Tigger!|
|But its all OK when its dinner time!|
|Tiffany looking extra fluffy!|