Darran Mountain Gold (Part One) – McPherson Cirque

“On a Mish” #318 Darran Mountain Gold (Part One). McPherson Cirque. Fiordland National Park. 6.2.2022. Solace in the mountains is what I seek and usually find in this spectacular country I am lucky enough to call home. For those of us who work in the tourism industry, a weekend is the day or days you are not working, not necessarily Saturday and Sunday. This means that mainly I venture out during the times when most of society is busy with their 9-5’s, and this usually means peace and quiet, and the mountains to myself…

Maybe wanting the mountains to myself makes me a little bit selfish? But living in a country where you can go and have an entire valley to yourself is a pretty cool option!

With New Zealand’s borders closed for a very long time I thought that the fact that it was Waitangi Weekend wouldn’t mean much as far as visitor numbers go. I was very wrong.

My original plan was to go on a camping mission to the gravel fan at the base of Barrier Peak(2039m) in the Gertrude Valley. After years of map browsing it had been a location I had been wanting to camp at for some time. Surrounded by the grandeur of the Darran Mountains it is hard to imagine a better scene.

Light southerlies kept the temperature down and the skies clear, and to miss this excellent weather window would be foolish. Blue sky above Fiordland is a gift that must be accepted and enjoyed.

Mount Moir(1965m) and Moirs Mate(1811m

After a fairly casual morning I gathered my gear and began the just under 100km journey to the upper reaches of the Hollyford Valley. The closer I got to my destination the larger the grin on my face grew. As I drove along the Upper Hollyford section of the road I noticed that the Monkey Creek car park was empty. Great! I thought, as I believed this to be a sign of the lack of people as normally by this time the car park is teeming with tourists.

I approached my driving goal of the gravel square surrounded by spectacularness, the Gertrude Saddle car park. I noticed that there were some cars parked out on the road. This was strange but I just assumed this meant you couldn’t park in the normal car park for some reason. Once again I was wrong! The car park was so full of cars that people were forced to park out on the road!

I was shocked at the number of people and instantly knew I needed a plan B. Luckily just up the road is the McPherson Cirque. A grand place that would make an excellent alternative mission.

I drove slightly up the road and was surprised again to see cars parked all over the show. People were everywhere and while it was great to see so many enjoying the stunning weather and incredible scenery, I was hoping for a small section of paradise to myself.

I was now under the impression that wherever I went I would encounter other human beings, which isn’t such a bad thing in a place as amazing as the Darran Mountains.

Time for a mish.

From the car park I followed a dry creek bed which took me into the uppermost reaches of the valley. The grand area was just perfect and after pausing to soak up the awesomeness I began my search for the tent-site I was after.

The Homer Saddle(1375m), access to a very popular climbing area, is located on the true right of the valley. My plan was to get over to the left side. As luck would have it it didn’t take long for me to spot the perfect spot at the top of the short glacial gouged gut.

With the McPherson Cirque towering above me and a view down the Upper Hollyford Valley I knew I had struck Darran Mountain gold and it was time to start mining…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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