Frozen Feet (Part Three) – Cameron Range(1936m)

“On a Mish” #66 Frozen Feet (Part Three). Cameron Range(1936m). Hakatere Conservation Area. 2.5.2014. The first time I really felt what frozen feet could feel like was in the Cameron Valley. A mish hadn’t quite gone to plan and I learnt that being cocky in the wild is a foolish move. I’m glad I take notes when a rough lesson is taught, however wilderness college lessons are always in session and ironically I’d be back in the same valley but my learning matter had changed…

Unfortunately ‘wild school’ has taken the lives of many modern and past day explorers. I have done many missions on my lonesome so I have very little margin for error. If I encounter things like loose rock or snow, my progress goes very slow and I guess this comes from experiences where luck played its role in the game too. Doing potentially dangerous things has led me learning to really respect life and how delicate we really are.

I sighted what I really hoped was the top and to my luck it wasn’t another false summit on what looked like a relatively short ridge. Now on much more solid snow I could travel much faster and eventually I pulled myself on to the peak of Point 1936m.

While my breath took its time trying to catch up with me, I looked around at the endless Southern Alps of the South Island. While sucking in the big ones I was once again reminded why I climb mountains and why I put up with the challenges of a winter mish into the mountains.

Eventually the inevitability of reality reared its ugly head and I had to begin my descent back to base many metres below. Luckily I had kicked away most of the loose stuff on the upper ridge so I was much more confident than when going up. With that said I did have the odd occasions when I was reminded that a single mistake could lead to a forever sleep.

I got back onto the easy east face and from here I had the option for a fun way down. I could see my zigzagging track and decided to glissade (butt side) my way straight through the middle. It was definitely a quick way down however at one point I started to get to a speed which was borderline out of control and in my messy attempt to self arrest I rolled over a couple of times and ended up losing a couple of things out of my pack. I didn’t realise it at the time but my small piece of bedroll which I use for a rock seat and my drink bottle now rested half way up the side of Point 1936m. Another lesson was learnt that day.

I got back down to camp and in all of the fun of the climb / slide down I had really looked up at the weather. What was once a blue sky was now grey with lenticular clouds rolling over the biggest peaks at the head of the Cameron Valley. It was time to get my feet wet again and make for my car. On my way out I saw a big group of hikers coming up the valley and when I finally bumped into them I found out they were a university group from the USA. I wish them the best knowing they were in for a wet one, and then I picked up my pace so I wouldn’t be stuck with wet boots again and I think just like on my first wild wander up the valley, I don’t think my toes were very happy about the treatment they had received during the last couple of hours. Oh well at least this time there wasn’t the likelihood of them becoming refrozen and I was heading in the direction of my car’s foot heater. Why do we do this? Because for some reason it’s fun and always seems worth it!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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