A Close Call (Part One) – Mt Philistine Bluffs

“On a Mish” #57 A Close Call (Part One). Mt Philistine Bluffs. Upper Otira Valley. Arthurs Pass National Park. 28.5.2015. A fact that most try to avoid focusing on is that going into the outdoors can be dangerous. With that said, getting into your car and driving around can also be seen as a dangerous thing to do. Like an accident on the road, a whoopsie in the mountains can happen suddenly and without warning. On the odd occasion I have had a couple of close calls when out and about, and just like getting back in a car after an accident, you don’t let it stop your fun and just get on with it…

A lot of my climbing has happened within the small and yet extensive Arthurs Pass National Park. The little town is surrounded by mountainous giants, some with trails. After checking out the tracks that lead on to the tops I began to poke and prod around mountains without routes that help you bypass the maze of bluffs, bush, and all sorts of other features that slow your upward progress.

After several missions up the Otira Valley Track I started to investigate the surrounding peaks. At the top of the valley is Mt Rolleston which is one of the park’s largest and most popular outings. Another popular uphill wander is Mt Philistine which is located at the entrance to the upper valley. After checking out the guidebook for routes up the mountain I packed my bags and headed west.

I got to where I wanted to camp and after kicking away the loose snow I set up an epic camp with a view across down the Otira Valley and up to the Temple Basin Ski Area. The crisp white of the snow and the dark shades of the rock worked in unison with the colours of the sunset. My short walk had taken me to a cool and very visually appealing place for the night, and the mountain motivation had me buzzing about the next day. I rode the buzz into the warmth of my sleeping bag, and drifted off to the sound of the Otira River and the peace found when in your ‘Happy Place’.

Early-ish the next day I was up in the dark valley jam packed with frigid air. The water warming for my coffee looked like a train with the cooker, steam, and water being the only warm thing in the valley. After thawing myself with a cup of go juice I sorted out my gear and began my quest up Mt Philistine not knowing that my mish was taking my towards a close call with a section of the mountain that didn’t want to stay where it was…

I didn’t have very far to tramp to get to a spot where I wanted to camp. This meant a late start and a very casual wander up the Otira Valley Track. The late May sun disappeared not long after appearing , and with the sun out of the picture the temperature plummeted. There is a reason why snow and ice move into the valley from around May to October / November, sometimes even later. I recommend packing an extra jumper when heading up the valley!

Cold Camping in the Otira Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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