A Toast to the Mish – Balmacaan Saddle Camp (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #89 Balmacaan Saddle Camp – Part One. Hakatere Conservation Area. 26.6.2018. Finding snow to play in is getting more difficult these days. A lot of effort needs to be put in if you aren’t going to a ski field or have access to a helicopter. I was hoping the forecast was accurate as I headed for Lake Clearwater Village with the aim of sliding my snowboard down a hill on that sweet, cold powder. Snow down to 500 meters overnight sounded like it was the perfect time to head to the hills…

I loaded my winter camping kit and snowboard into the car and headed to Lake Clearwater on a cold dull grey, pre-storm early winter afternoon. It was already raining heavily by the time I got to the village, and the mountains were hiding behind thick storm clouds. It was a mad dash as I did my best to dodge the sleety rain showers as I unloaded my gear and dry firewood from the car to the crib. I have sat out many a storm in the little hut in the high country, and on the odd occasion I have seen snow down to village level, and this is exactly what I was hoping would happen. Toasty warm in the crib with the fire roaring, I had an awesome dinner before making the last checks of my camping gear. As I hoped, just before going to bed it went silent outside, and with the freezing air level dropping the rain turned into snow. I poked my head out of the door to see millions of glistening crystals falling from the sky and I went to sleep with a huge grin on my face.

A Chilly Morning at Lake Clearwater Village

An early-ish start had me driving in the dark to the south end of Lake Camp, and the start of the track up to the Balmacaan Saddle(1150m). It was a brilliantly still morning, with the only noise being my feet crunching on the fresh frosted snow. As the day began I was halfway up the valley, and my excitement built as I watched the sun slowly light up the area. There wasn’t as much snow as I hoped for, but it was still enough to go for a slide on, so after setting up camp I spent the afternoon scrambling around up and down the hills around the saddle. It was fun swerving through the tussock poking through the snow and after a couple of hours playing around I needed a break and a feed. After I powered down some dinner I headed up to the saddle for a sunset brew. As the sun lowered itself behind the mountains of the Main Divide I had an outstanding view of Mesopotamia and the snow covered Two Thumb Range. As far as places to enjoy a drink go, this was right up there with the best and I stayed up on the saddle for about an hour savouring the sweet sunset. The foot slide back down from the saddle was fun in the near dark light of dusk, and as soon as I got back to camp I lit up what turned out to be a very pathetic camp fire on the snow. Mostly due to the very limited resources, and also due to the fact it was a fire on SNOW!! Well played Balmacaan Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter