Back to Borland – Part Three

“On a Mish” #272 Back to Borland – Part Three. Fiordland National Park. 20.4.2021. There is something very special about being high in the mountains at night time. Something that can only be achieved with an overnight mish, either in a tent, hut or sometimes roughing it outside. Look up at the familiar constellations, and on occasions the moon shows itself and lights up the sky like a huge L.E.D light. On some nights the mountains become one dark ridge line, a silhouette of peaks in the darkness. But there was no moon to light up the area for me as I got my gear ready for an early morning hike…

I knew I was racing against time, as I wanted to be up high when the dawn began its daily show. I closed up and locked up, hoping my car would not become a morning chew toy for the local Kea.

The track begins with a climb through a contorted alpine beech forest covered in the light green hair of high altitude Old Man Beard. I couldn’t see any of this because in my rush to get ready I had stashed my head torch into my pack. Stubbornness took over, and not wanting to miss a second of Fiordland’s early morning display I pushed on into the dark. A couple of stumbles to begin with did make me think about stopping and getting my head torch out, but it was not long before my eyes (maybe because of working in the Te Ana-au Glowworm Caves?!) adjusted to the lack of light.

After about 15 minutes I got above the treeline, and I could see that the dawn spectacle had begun. Slowly the landscape around me revealed itself, and the outlines of the mountains became a more individual mix of separate peaks and valleys. Now well over a km above sea level, I was getting hit by strong wind. The alpine tussock was getting pushed flat by the consistent wind, and every now and then a big gust would rumble its way over the mountains in the west. Even though my hip was starting to get sore, I still pushed on higher as the views were getting better and better.

The sun’s early morning light was glowing behind Mt Burns(1645m), and in the west I could see dark clouds beginning to change colours. Apart from the odd spit of rain I was in an area with much better weather than further west. The sight of the clouds reminded me that it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, and I didn’t want to take any chances. After getting to the high point of my mission on Peak 1183m, I started to head back to Borland Saddle(990m). The sunrise show was best on my trip back, with dark greys turning peachy orange, and more mountains, lakes and rivers appearing below the distant signs of rain. I was looking forward to getting out of the wind so I took my last photos, then headed back into the alpine forest.

Now visible, I made my way through the forest and it was interesting to see how steep the track actually was. In the dark it didn’t seem very steep, but now lit up, I could see that I had somehow avoided all the roots and rocks on the steep track up to the tarns. Just before getting back to the road and my car I heard the shreeeeeek of a Kea, and this quickened my pace.

Thankfully my car was untouched by the flying Swiss army knives. I drove back down to my campsite, then began packing everything up. The mission now really benefited from my tent site being so close to where I could get my car to as I could just collapse my tent and not worry about carefully packing everything into a hiking pack. Just like with the Lake Marian mish, I was sore. But with the amazing time I had it was worth it!!

Mt Burns Tarns at Dawn

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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