Crackers & Cheeseman (Part Three) – Mt Cheeseman(2031m)

“On a Mish” #58 Crackers & Cheeseman (Part Three). Mt Cheeseman(2031m). Craigieburn Forest Park. 1.9.2016. A mountain is merely a mass of mounded material. Many just look and then carry on with their business. But a few look at a mountain and wonder what the world would look like from the top. I am in the latter and, after years of free skiing and a close workplace relationship with Mt Cheeseman Ski Field I was finally standing on top of its mountain namesake…

After a quick coffee I suited up and began the slow plod up the first section of the east ridge. Scrub became snow as I climbed higher, and just below the point where the steepness eased I pulled my crampons out. Having the aid of twenty four spikes made the going much easier and amped up the awesomeness factor.

It was when putting my crampons on that I had a chance to survey the view. Up until this point I had had the view to my back, and it might have been a good thing as now, with the sun up, looking back down on the Castle Hill Basin was very mesmerising. Looking the other way would have definitely slowed me down!

Part of the relationship between Mt Cheeseman Ski Field and McEwings Ski & Board was the rental department up on the mountain. McEwings owned the gear available for rent and part of my job was tuning the gear when required. During my six years at the ski shop I tuned hundreds of skis and boards with Mt Cheeseman stickers on them.

You would think that so much exposure would draw a mountaineer to the mountain itself, however it took four years before I would tackle the peak and as I stood on the summit I really wondered why it had taken me so long!

I topped out on the low peak (2025m according to my GPS), and from here I pushed through deep snow towards the mountain’s highest point. It was while I was plugging steps when I felt like I was being watched. I paused and looked around to see a tiny figure on a ridge on my right. I was looking at a skier who had ventured from the Mt Cheeseman ski area, and I’m guessing he / she was surprised when they saw a person around two kilometres from the busy ski field.

I waved and could tell their returning wave was one of surprise. The brief encounter gave me enough of a rest to continue the rest of the way along the summit ridge.

From my high point I could look along the Craigieburn Range past Mt Cockayne and the Mt Cheeseman Ski Area to Hamilton Peak(1922m) which towers over both the Broken River and Craigieburn ski fields.

By the time I had traversed from the low peak to the high the figure on the ridge of the ski field had become two. I could tell that the first was telling the second about the random dude climbing solo. Humans seem so minute when seen from a distance in the mountains.

After a quick snack I began the trek back to my campsite and I knew it would be easy, apart from a steep point just below the mountain’s eastern shoulder. It was much easier to get there due to having my steps already prepared for me by me on my way up.

The shoulder wasn’t as tricky as I expected, however a slip would not end well, and during the death slide I would probably have the time to ponder the plight I had got myself into.

Careful down climbing got me back onto the lower east ridge which I followed back down to camp.

I wasn’t surprised to find that my tent still had a good layer of frost on it and when I shook the ice off it twinkled in the late morning sunlight. I knew my tent would need to be dried out when I got back home.

From my campsite it was an easy hike back to my car at Texas Flat, and my pack was much lighter minus the drinks I had drunk and of course less the crackers and cheese. I had finally climbed the mountain whose name I had seen so often for many years. And after this mish this I could tell people about both the ski field and the mountain that it is named after.

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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