Darran Mountain Gold (Part Two) – McPherson Cirque

“On a Mish” #318 Darran Mountain Gold (Part Two). McPherson Cirque. Fiordland National Park. 6.2.2022. I have never had any issue with heading out on an adventure by myself, and really enjoy having some one-on-one time with Papatūānuku (Mother Nature). Luckily for me I not only live in the best country for missions (personal opinion), but also in the best part of that country, and a mission is always on offer…

Another massive bonus is the fact that most of the time I can go somewhere and never encounter other humans. A factor that makes this possible is usually having my time off during the week and not the weekend, when the rest of the country are out enjoying themselves. However during Waitangi weekend 2022 I was going to have to work very hard to get away from the masses that had gathered in the Upper Hollyford Valley.

Sometimes a place almost has a massive sign saying ‘Please Pitch a Tent Here’. I found a place like this at the very top of the McPherson Cirque Valley, nestled amongst the rock of the Darran Mountain Range.

An easy stroll of about 45 minutes had got me to a rather epic location. This was great as the uneven ground and weight of the pack was starting to make my hip ache.

I was a bit gutted to have only travelled a very short distance and still feel sore, however large doses of big Fiordland mountains was the best medicine I could have asked for!

As I started setting up my camp I saw the first climbers making their way down from an adventure above the Homer Saddle(1375m). Around the saddle is some of the best rock climbing found anywhere in the world, and on a sunny day people flock to the area to test themselves against the granite. What began as just two became a steady, continuous line of people right up until dusk. It was awesome to see so many people out enjoying the weather and the epicness of the Darran Mountains. It was also surprising to see how many people were out and about.

Snow Cave in Avalanche Debris

After getting my tent up I went for a wander to inspect an ice cave made of avalanche debris near my camp. Winter snowfall had left a massive pile of snow and over time the trickle of water underneath had created a perfect tunnel. I got close but not too close, as I could see places where the cave had collapsed and I didn’t want to be squashed by a slab of snow. Remember I was here to enjoy myself and not here to get crushed by snow!

Waitangi Weekend had delivered the goods and plenty were reaping the spoils. At times while on a mish I would only encounter foreigners and now thanks to the borders being closed, I was very impressed to see so many people from Aotearoa getting some Fiordland action.

Just before sunset the wind picked up and this got me on the move constructing a perimeter wall of rocks for protection. Thankfully rocks are bountiful in the McPherson Cirque, and I managed to build a fortress around my tent which provided excellent shelter.

With all of the camp jobs taken care of it was time to think about retreating to the warmth of my sleeping bag, and just before I did I saw the head torch light of the very last adventurous folk making their way towards the Milford Road. A busy day was coming to an end in the Darran Mountains and it was excellent to have my own perfect little part of paradise to myself. I had struck gold in the form of a night out in the mountains I love…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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