Birthday Dinner in the Darrans – Part One

“On a Mish” #282 Birthday Dinner in the Darrans – Part One. Milford Road. Fiordland National Park. 8.6.2021. I’m not the most social person and I don’t drink, so I like to celebrate my birthdays a little bit differently from most people. A crowded pub or bar is not my scene, and I’d rather exchange the noise and people for mountains and nature. The simple pleasures of camp life are what I think about when I drift off to sleep each night, and as soon as the opportunity presents itself I’m already in the car heading towards a mish. We are very lucky in Aotearoa to be able to head into the heads, and have an entire valley to ourselves

An empty epic valley sounded like the best birthday present I could give myself, and with the roster giving me my birthday and the day after off it was meant to be. I couldn’t go on an all-out alpine assault yet, but I had improved 1000% since this time last year and I was determined to enjoy my birthday in the mountains I love the most. The plan was to head north on the Milford Road towards the biggest peaks in Fiordland National Park. Having hiked every track starting from the Milford Road meant I had to start to look at the side valleys near the road for a fresh mish in the same old outstanding national park. So far Cirque Creek and Monkey Creek have been fantastic forays into mountainous country I thought was going to be harder to travel in. I looked to the valleys on the west side of the Homer Tunnel and saw the flat-ish West Cleddau Valley. Starting at The Chasm on the Milford Road meant I could bypass the deep gorge (The Chasm) and get a head start on the start of the valley. I had been watching the weather and it looked like all the stars aligned and happy birthday to me! I am still getting used to the lack of traffic on the Milford Road. This was once the most dangerous part of an already pretty dangerous mountaineering mission due to super slow drivers or mad passing techniques on blind corners.

I got to the Homer Tunnel and waited at the traffic light completely by myself for 7 incredible minutes (I know the exact time due to the clock at the traffic light). I can understand having a remote side valley to myself, but to have the Upper Hollyford Valley to myself is borderline greedy! I made my way down the tunnel into the near impenetrable fortress of the Cleddau Valley and I could see the clouds were beginning to break up and reveal the mountains of the mighty Darran Range. I zig-zagged down the valley with an uncontrollable grin on my face which turned to a frown when I pulled up to a CLOSED Chasm car park. The walkway still lay in ruins due to the February 2020 monster storm. I sat for a few seconds wondering what to do, then I continued down the road towards Piopiotahi / Milford Sound. I briefly thought about heading up the Donne Valley, but in my current state that would be pushing my broken body past its limits so I decided on a stroll along the Grave Talbot Pass route alongside the clear water of the Gulliver River. I did wonder what the track damage would be like after the storm, but I’m here and I’m ready for a mish…

Plan B

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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