Meeting with Adventure Consultants Wānaka was slightly intimidating 1) you know you’re in the face of greatness c) you don’t want to admit that you hate being cold and up high (which is their job) 6) you know you’re in the face of greatness.
I ambled into their beautiful premises in Wānaka and you can feel there is exciting stuff going on in there. There’s a buzz about the place, all that planning and calculating and discussing. A beautiful two story wooden building facing directly into the abyss of the mountains of Wānaka, surrounded by rope, and large files with words like “Everest’ written on them. You feel slightly awkward when you think you might lose your way to the loo, when they have found their way up the biggest mountains in the world. It’s calm. Everyone is calm, even though you know there is a hive of activity going on in many different countries all over the world. Coordination at it’s very best. This is what you want though.
Its like the saying “never trust a skinny chef”, right here the saying would be “never trust a mountaineering company who are harried and running around like crazy beasts”. At two points during the interview Guy answers his phone to people in two different countries and then re-joins the conversation as if nothing had happened.
And I love it.
Started in 1992, Gary Ball and Rob Hall (like the who’s who of the climbing world) guided an extremely successful Everest trip which led to further trips the year later with the addition of Guy Cotter. Tragedy struck in ’93 when Gary Ball was hit with a pulmonary oedema and passed away and then in ’96 when Rob Hall was caught in horrendous weather he too found his fate in the mountains.
Guy returned to New Zealand and took on the reins of a successful international guiding company and in 1997 took the company to Wānaka, with Suze Kelly who ran the administration side of the company.
These two are who you would want on your side if you were caught out in the wilds, or even a rainy night when your car breaks down. Both answered to ‘what have you always got in your bags?’ A) First Aid Kit B) Swiss army knife/ headlamp and C) Duct tape/ warm hat. I know who I’d like to have with me if my car broke down on the Crown Range.
I begin the interview with the words “you’re all a certain type aren’t you” to which we laugh and kind of agree. There’s something about being cold, tired, up high, at the mercy of the elements that makes you either want that or not. But as we chatted, Guy and Suze eloquently put “it’s a form of expression. Something you just do. Not for a response”. Seeing what the body can do can be done in so many ways. Some choose a marathon, some produce great works of art, some like to be so tired they hike to the top of the world. But it’s all about you as a person. You have to do it for yourself.
“What makes a good climber” I asked. “Someone who can handle pressure and stress but also someone with a great work ethic. Who is never done discovering things about themselves” was the reply from Guy. There’s such a glint of fun in his eyes you can understand why he loves doing this. And continues to do it even though the rate of danger is high. He is a man made for adventure and also wants to give other people that opportunity.
“If you weren’t doing this what else would you do?”. “I’d probably be a fat old climber” he retorts.
But as soon as he said this, we both replied at the same time “nah, that would never happen”.
I ask about the vision of the business. Where’s it going and where it’s been.
A humble beginning of four expeditions a year which has grown into thirty three with a view to add more to this list. I plan one holiday a year, they plan all these and often they don’t even get to go on them. Where’s the fairness in that? Difficulties encountered are; instabilities of countries, political unrest which halts trips, alters plans but still they smile, shift plans and carry on.
The biggest task I feel must be the complete shift in fashion back to day-glo gear. You can be seen from space in that stuff.
The real excitement for me (apart from the fact that these people have been on the top of the world) is meeting them for real and that they’re in Wānaka.
Driving into Wānaka for the first time fourteen years ago and seeing the tiny house they were operating from (since moved) was a real shock. A world renowned climbing and expedition team worked out of there. Impossible. But they did and are and that’s what makes it so fantastical. You can be anywhere in the world and operate a global company. A very successful global company.
As Guy and I stood on the sun filled deck of the new building we pondered a while whilst looking out into the distant blue yonder. “We have choices you and I” Guy stated wistfully. “There is no formula for what is the best thing to do with our life. We just have this environment to enjoy for a while.”
Driving home back to Queenstown I think about the times when I’m scared or pushed to my limits. It’s been a while. There’s always work in the way or commitments. Doing something for myself is not about getting to the top. It’s about what you can do as a person and where that takes you. The possibilities are endless.
All photographs supplied generously by Unsplash where I donated funds for photographer supplying their images.