Rob and I were on our way to Mount Cook recently, reminiscing how a whole year could possibly have passed since our inaugural Aoraki adventure in 2016. Yet there we were, car full of snacks and lenses, cruising past Lake Tekapo once again.
It is an open secret that the Mount Cook workshop, while being our favourite, can be challenging in many ways. Just a few steps east of the divide the weather risk is high. Buying food, at least at hours compatible with photography, can take on a 'hunting & gathering' spirit. Yet nothing beats walking through pristine mountain valleys at 5am, chasing a sunrise over crackling icebergs.
Where last year's trip treated us to perfect weather, storm clouds were, quite literally, gathering this time. The forecast was showing rain for every morning throughout the workshop. None of that was apparent when we arrived on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Little did we know that the next few days were going to be an exercise in workshop improv.
Right on the first morning we had to stop halfway into Hooker Valley. The morning had started with light drizzle that intensified with every step. The group discussed the situation and came to the smart decision to circle back to headquarters.
This pattern would, unfortunately, repeat over the next days. But while low after low was battering the West Coast in the mornings, the afternoons were ours. We made the best of them by covering our lessons in the mornings, followed by extended excursions in the afternoons. Luckily there is no shortage of amazing locations near Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau. The Holiday morphed into a road trip.
That by itself was a good learning experience for our group of aspiring landscape wizards. Three out of four times the heavens conspire to ruin your plans, so you just make new ones. We spent a lot of time analysing weather forecasts together, checked out regional webcams, and came to informed decisions on how to maximise our chances.
What I loved most about the trip was everyone's stubborn insistence on having a good time. We might have missed out on Hooker Valley this time, but our surprise trips to Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau were a huge success. Our enforced sleep-ins even allowed us an impromptu astro session one night.
One thing is for sure: this was not our last trip to Mount Cook! In a year we will probably be cruising through the mountains again, wondering where time has gone. At least we will not have to worry about the weather. With an awesome group in an equally awesome location it will all work out!