Overly Ambitious (Part One). Hanging Valley Camp

“On a Mish” #258 Overly Ambitious (Part One). Hanging Valley Camp. Deep Cove. Fiordland. 17.12.2017. When I worked for Real Journeys I did my best to use every chance I had to get to remote places. From Percy Saddle to Patea, Murchison Mountains to the Milford Track. If I could get there I most likely have done a mish there. Some places (like Percy Saddle) are obvious locations for camping. But others seem less likely, but still so appealing…

For those lucky enough to have been to Patea / Doubtful Sound they would have felt the isolation of the very remote area. The peacefulness is heightened with the fact that you are about as far away from masses of humans as possible, unless you are in Antarctica. Just to get there is a mission in itself, but the rewards make the effort seem insignificant.

Before the road for the power station project was cut over Wilmot Pass(671m) there was a hiking track. This was one of the best hiking tracks in New Zealand and the former owner of Real Journeys began his Fiordland Travel company taking people over the pass and into Deep Cove.

Starting with a cruise across the very scenic Lake Manapouri, the costumers got to nourish their wilderness appetite before taking a single step. With the mountains closing in around West Arm the excitement and anticipation of exploring this pristine part of the country gets to boiling point just as the boat reaches land at its most western destination.

Finally it’s time to saddle up and begin the trek over the pass and into Deep Cove. The climb up out of the Spey Valley into the Dashwood is accompanied with the windswept peaks of the Turret Range and the many other mountains towering over the valley containing the Dusky Track. The gradual climb up the Dashwood Valley leads to the pass, and then a steep descent down into Deep Cove.

With the dark water of Patea / Doubtful Sound lapping the heavily forested coastline, and massive volume of water of Helena Falls pumping down into the fiord it is hard to imagine a more pristine location. Like most, I immediately fell in love with the place from the first time I went there.

It was in Deep Cove where a lodge once housed the weary hikers after a big walk up and over Wilmot Pass from West Arm. From the only accommodation for miles many of the tied trampers would have stared up at Huntleigh Falls just like I did on my first visit to the area.

On the opposite side of the valley is another magical Fiordland waterfall which has its own brilliance. Huntleigh Falls comes crashing down from a great height as it exits Lake Troup at a height of just under a thousand metres above sea level. The fact that the base of the mountain begins at sea level makes the mountain’s mass even more impressive.

Well above the Hanging Valley towers the peaceful pyramid of Mt Troup(1512m). My plan was to travel into Deep Cove on one of the many Real Journeys buses and then climb up to a camp at Lake Troup with the intention of scaling Mt Troup(1512m).

The scene was set for an epic mountain adventure.

Patea / Doubtful Sound from Wilmot Pass(671m)

Sunny skies, light winds and the craving for adventure high. By this stage I had only been to Deep Cove twice, and those two visits left a real impression on me. I had heard that there was an old track up Mt Troup(1512m), and this track started somewhere on the Hanging Valley Track. The Hanging Valley Track is a steep grunt uphill from Deep Cove to Huntleigh Falls, and with elevation comes views.

Along with the bus load of tourists, I was lucky to have the classic view of Patea / Doubtful Sound from the top of Wilmot Pass(671m). Some travel from far away and only get views of mist when they get to the top of the pass.

I got dropped off at the lodge in Deep Cove, and from here the climbing began. Before starting I caught up with Billy the Deep Cove Hostel Manager, and I could tell that he thought that heading up the peak with a full pack on a hot day like this one was a little bit ambitious. But I could tell that Billy is someone who also loves a good adventure, so he wished me all the best and I began my climb.

A full pack vs the Hanging Valley Track is a quick fix for ‘bus-legs’, and in no time I was sweating up a storm in the fresh Fiordland forest. The added weight made for tough going, but this is what I crave and the reward is constant as I become more in tune with the environment.

The Mt Troup side track that I was aiming for is located about halfway up the Hanging Valley Track, it was at the time a blink and you miss it marker. Unknown to me at the time was a recent storm forcefully removed the markers for the start of the track…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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