Today, I climbed Mount Doom. For those too boring to be familiar with Lord of the Rings, please see below:
The ascent of the mountain, which is actually a volcano called Mount Ngauruhoe, starts a couple of hours into the Tongariro Crossing. Alas, I was told by my shuttle bus driver that I wouldn’t have enough time to do the entire crossing and also reach the summit of the Ngauruhoe, or even the summit of the smaller Mount Tongariro.
Of course, he said this because he hadn’t realised I was a Guildsman. If there wasn’t enough time, I would simply punch Chronos in the face until he gave me some more.
In fact, I would climb BOTH mountains and make the crossing. That would show…somebody…something.
Thus it was that, when I reached the base of Mount Doom, I surged up it like a flaming Uruk-hai…only to realise that the first part of the ascent is like attempting to scramble up a 2,300m high sand castle! A mass of fine powder and rock slides, it is tricky going from the very start and something my legs will punish me for later.
Eventually, the rocks cleared and gave way…to snow. Snow was fine. Then ice. Ice was fine…until it became razor sharp…
The grizzled adventurer in New Plymouth had warned me about this when I tried to climb Mount Taranaki. Some combination of wind and rain turns the ground into a killing field of ice spikes which, as well as being difficult to walk on, will also take chunks out of you if you fall down…which you inevitably will.
As I circled the summit, it became clear that it was entirely covered in ice spikes; I would have to conquer them to conquer Mount Doom. This was unfortunate…FOR THE ICE SPIKES!
With no gear to help me, I had to use my own tactics. They were simple: stamp on the spikes with my Adventuring Boots until I had created the semblance of a foot hold. Stand in the foot hold. Repeat. All the way to the top…
…via THE CRATER!
Finally – FINALLY – at the top of a flippin’ mountain, I was in no rush to descend. I even dropped my trousers and took and old school Bum photo to send home. (I shall spare your eyes from that.)
Even so, the feeling of finally being higher than I had even been in my life was both exhilarating and relieving. 2,900 metres is not high. Not at all. It’s not even a bump of a mountain – but it is the highest thing I’ve ascended thus far.
Eventually, however, the time came to head back down the ice spikes…which was virtually impossible. By dodging from exposed rock to exposed rock, I made some decent progress but then, later than I expected, I fell.
Bizarrely, I felt nothing but total calm as I slid down the ice face, the spikes tearing at my hands and long-suffering shield jacket. It had been inevitable all along, so I was ready for it. Now all I had to do was find a way to stop…
Luckily, a rock took care of that for me.
Many types of pain later, I wound up back on the plains of ice. There was a fair amount of blood to be seen, but it was only from a few tiny superficial holes in my already numb fingers. Once I washed it away with some snow, it didn’t come back and already the holes are barely visible.
Then came more sliding. I’d disappear into a rock slide for a few seconds, have a fraction of a moent to grab hold of a spiky volcanic rock to stop myself being carried back down in the least comfortable way possible, then repeat.
40 minutes of dodging rock slides all the way down the sheer rocky face of Mount Doom later…I was back on the crossing. I had 2.5 hours to get cross the Tongariro before my bus left. The first sign I encountered told me it would take 4.5 hours.
Luckily, I still had my secret weapon…
Turisas. Battle Metal.
At 15:00 exactly, I arrived at the car park. I was the last one from the bus back…but the only one who had done anything at all off the crossing.
I felt disappointed on their behalf.
They should join the Guild.