Climbing a Kiwi Icon

Mitre Peak is a drama queen. Everything about her shouts “look at me”. She is permanently posed for a close up, rising straight up out of a fiord like a lochness monster. On a rare clear sunny day she is riveting. In more typical pluvial Fiordland conditions she’s inscrutable inviting observers to engage their imagination to fill the gaps. You may catch glimpses of her through tendrils of mist, her head may emerge above the clouds, or her feet may be revealed but not her top.

Continue reading “Climbing a Kiwi Icon”


Gem Tour

Tramping is nowhere near as addictive as smoking, drinking or pizza. It would be easy to give up. It’s time consuming, hard work, uncomfortable and lacks glamour. There is no instant gratification and no showers. You have to invest in specialist gear which you’ll only use if something bad happens. You have to put up with crap weather, other people’s idiosyncrasies and, even worse, your own. The food is pretty average. I go tramping when I have failed to make other plans. Continue reading “Gem Tour”

Round Taranaki

Dawson Falls to Waiaua Gorge Hut

My running mates at the start line.
My running mates at the start line.

The dark sky is fading to a blue grey twilight as we park at the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre. It’s not quite light enough to forego head torches but we can make out the shapes of other vehicles, information panels, vegetation and crucially, the snow dipped cone of Mt Taranaki looming promisingly in the distance. The air feels like hot chocolate warm, thick, steamy and sweet smelling. Everything is moist, a leftover from the last few days of intermittent rain. Puddles pave our way. Water drips off trees and shrubs. Ascending the Fantham Peak Track initial attempts to keep trainers dry and mud free are soon abandoned in favour of more efficient stair climbing. The stairs appear to have been designed specifically to trap water and mud. It will take more than a bit of mud and moisture to dampen our excitement though. Everyone wears big grins, happy feet and high spirits as we tackle the stair master. Over our shoulders to the east the sky starts to lighten and brighten in earnest illuminating the black and white outlines of Ngaurahoe and Ruapehu. As I watch the chameleon sky switch from grey to candy colours I’m reminded of the story behind Taranaki’s location. Continue reading “Round Taranaki”

Getting high in the Pyreneese

One of the great advantages of being a pessimist is that you are often pleasantly surprised. I thought that compared to NZ the Pyrenees would be over crowded, difficult to navigate physically and linguistically, and scenically underwhelming. I was proven wrong on all counts. Continue reading “Getting high in the Pyreneese”

Those Were The Days

The longest day

White light streams off dewy fields. Steam rises off the road’s shiny asphalt surface. The dawn feels soupy as we stroll north on SH6, coast on the left, farmland on the right. Already sweating we turn inland at the Wanganui Valley access road and clamber gratefully into the coolness of Tarpot Creek. After a bit of a wallow up the creek bed we identify the tired track, periodically resuscitated with tape by hunters. The ground trail of the hunted is easier to spot and sometimes we follow it instead. The forest starts off reasonably open and pliant by West Coast standards but we’re soon climbing and sidling a bush face to reach a side ridge. The side ridge connects to the ridge that leads to the Karnbach Range. By now we are negotiating barely penetrable scrub about the same time the gradient tilts to precipitous. Topping out on the crest of the Karnbach my arms are pumped, my hair is full of twigs, expletives are flowing as easily as a shortness of breath will allow and I’m wondering why I’m not jetting up the Landsborough. DJ points behind me to the Lord Range and the view of the snowy top of Mt Lambert and the Lambert Glacier at the edge of the Garden of Allah. We all grin recalling Xmas 2009.

Lambert tops
Lambert tops

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To the Ice Plateaus and Beyond

Maybe it’s the commitment involved in getting there, the satisfaction of realising a dream, the fun had along the way, the attraction of the unexpected and unknown, the company, the seclusion, the beauty. The allure of special places like the Gardens is intense, immediate, magnetic and addictive. Continue reading “To the Ice Plateaus and Beyond”