Avalanche and food poisoning fail to halt trek

OVERCOMING FEAR: Sarah Wilson, climbing Mt Cook as part of her Cook to Cook challenge.
OVERCOMING FEAR: Sarah Wilson, climbing Mt Cook as part of her Cook to Cook challenge.

It took 14 months and she almost died, but a Waikanae woman has finally completed her Mt Cook to Cook Strait trek.

Sarah Wilson, 48, completed a world-first attempt to scale Aoraki/Mt Cook and paddle Cook Strait, cycling the distance between to fundraise for the Melanoma Foundation.

Mrs Wilson first attempted the challenge in November 2011 with friend Cat Shand, but was unable to finish after being trapped in an avalanche on Mt Cook.

Ms Shand dug Mrs Wilson out with her bare hands. Both were left with frostbite injuries to their hands.

Mrs Wilson completed her second attempt yesterday, greeted at Titahi Bay beach by cheering friends and family.

"It feels amazing. Coming in to the beach with everyone cheering was really cool."

Going back up the mountain was mentally difficult, but she wanted to complete the challenge.

"It was scary going back to the same place where I almost lost my life.

"There were other fears that surfaced along the journey and it was always worse at night. But I just brought my mind back and breathed and took it one day at a time and we did it."

The first stage saw Mrs Wilson and Bridget Janse of Paraparaumu complete a 21-hour climb up Mt Cook on January 5, before walking down on January 7.

Mrs Wilson, Ms Janse and Bronwyn Ward of Picton then cycled 770 kilometres from Mt Cook village to Picton over eight days from January 11.

Finally, Mrs Wilson and her nephew Luke Wilson, 24, did a two-day 60km kayak across the Cook Strait.

It is the first time all three stages have been completed one after the other, Mrs Wilson said. "It became an obsession for me."

"I have done adventures all over the world, but it is amazing to do a world-first trip in your own backyard."

The trip was not without challenges - Ms Janse fell ill with food poisoning four hours into the Mt Cook climb.

"We have renamed the challenge crook-to-cook," Mrs Wilson said. "Bridget said she was feeling a bit sick. I thought it was just nerves because it was her first time on Mt Cook and it is a big mountain.

"However, she then yelled ‘Stop!' and turned around and threw up in the snow. I thought we were going to have to turn back, but we didn't. She was just amazing."

Mrs Wilson said one of the best parts of the challenge was having her family involved, including her primary school-aged niece and nephew who rode with them during one day of the cycle leg.

Mrs Wilson's partner Elise Vine said she was very proud of her.

"She is just amazing. She loves having adventures and I've never known her to only take on small challenges."

The Cook-to-Cook challenge was one of seven trips to receive grants from the Hillary Expedition Fund.

The Dominion Post