Leaving the hut in darkness with only my Petzl headlamp as company to light the wasy, I trudged along the track breaking the thin crust of ice atop the snow with every footfall. It was bitterly cold as I meandered down the gentle incline towards the unseen but noisy river. My journey now aquainting me with my voiciferous neighbour, although we had different destinations and agendas. The way ahead for me was witchbum black and inspite of the channel of directed white light, I still would trip and stumble and bark my shins against unseen rocks and stumps.
As time progressed however the inky blackness of night was slowly replaced by the shadows and half light. So it was, when my watch registered a half hour of travel, the light had strengthned to the point where Mr. Petzl was thanked for his services and retired to the depths of my day pack. This coincided nicely with the end of my bush journey. There I squatted down and surveyed the options ahead. The tussock and scrub sided river stretched out a hundred or so yards ahead before taking a steep left hander out of sight, Large slips and screes savaged the upper bush on both sides rising up to steep rock formations. Immediately to my right spilled a sizeable creek which had a 30ft waterfall just visible from my position. It was this creek I decided to explore this day. Crossing the creek to the true right I battled the snow conditions to the bottom and to one side of the cascading water. The scrub and tight bush imposed it’s presence, leaving only a narrow soggy at first open climb, it quickly became more rocky and icy eventually leading me to sling my rifle on my back to leave my hands free.
I stood above the waterfall, somewhat shakily and a good deal warmer. I glanced ever upwards at the increasing steep sides of the creek towering above me. I was now roughly inline with the bush edge on both sides. The open country stretched before me, dressed in tan coloured tussock , hebes and assorted alpine plants that reached far up the slopes and ended in drab grey and black precipitous rock formations. Everything generously decorated with white snow and ice.
I left the confines of the creek, and contoured away to my left skirting the bush edge. I started to flounder in drifts. When not finding those, branches that I would brush again would reward me with a neck full of snow., Looking on the bright side though , I was generally feeling grateful of my knee length gaiters, I just wish I had a pair for my neck as well !!.
A chamois buck materialised trekking out of a depression high above. He was moving in a purposeful way conveying haste to me. The way ahead for him had perhaps fifty yards of open ground leading to a prominent ridge, once over that who knows. I threw my body to the ground and quickly sought his form in the glass ware. The animal continued to pick at this and that , whilst still on the move. I was in a position that could hardly be described as benchrest , being draped over one hebe and angling by body around another. The buck was within a few strides of the ridge, he then paused and looked straight down to me. The sights quartered his shoulders and I squeezed the light trigger....thud/kabalm...the animal looked as if he was picked up by some invisible force and slammed against the hill. A few minutes later his leg was seen to twitch twice.
The long climb up to the chamois was a mixture of exhaustion and anticipation. His coat turned out to be a first class winter one, but when I turned him over, I was to find horn rot on his other side. I reached for my buck folder and proceeded to relieve him of his pelage. Too bad about the hooks, but skin and meat was still a good deal for me.