Hiking off the Map – Lost (Part 1)

“A Mish a Day” #43 (Part 1) Lost. Hakatere Conservation Area. 26.6.2012. Over time I have clocked up many hours under the stars when I have foregone the tent for a night out in the open air in my waterproof bivvy bag. While working on the Routeburn Track along with other guides I stared up at the stars, before waking up wrapped in a damp duvet. Camping without a tent can take you back to the days of the early explorers, who tackled the harsh New Zealand mountain environment with only a swag and a lot of determination. Hakatere was my first experience of not getting to my destination and having a forced bivvy without a tent…

I was very unfamiliar with the Hakatere area west of Lake Heron, so after spending a lot of time around the Taylor Range I was keen to explore more of the park. I saw Boundary Hut located amongst the mountains of the Potts Range, and felt the need to visit the area for a night’s stay at the hut. I had a topo map which showed the hut, but it was located right on the edge of the map and this would come back to haunt me later. I drove into the 60,000 acre park near Mt Somers Village, then on to the Paddle Hill car park. The very rough access track was over frozen tussock and puddles of ice, on a 4wd track probably not suitable for a Honda CR-V (but the mighty green machine is no ordinary CR-V!). After the adrenaline had warn off from the drive on the sketchy track, I got my gear sorted and began hiking. Not long after leaving Paddle Hill Car Park I arrived at forks in the track (the area is now sign-posted and all tracks marked with poles) and one direction would take me off my map. But to me it looked like the most likely way to the hut. Mistakes do happen sometimes, and each is merely a life lesson, and a way of teaching you so hopefully you do not make the same mistake again. After travelling for several hours through increasingly deepening snow I eventually got to a frozen Mystery Lake(1091m). I didn’t have a map for this area, and if I had turned right just before the lake I would have ended up at the hut I was attempting to get to. I made my way past the impressive spectacle of a completely frozen lake and its icy surroundings before starting to descend towards the Rangitara River. The sun had disappeared behind Mt D’Archiac(2875m) and its lofty mountain mates.

With the darkness of night rapidly approaching, I made the decision to stop and assess my very lost situation. Due to the extremely low temperatures over the previous couple of days, some of the matagouri in the area had small sheltered caves under it caused by the snow freezing on top. I didn’t have a bivvy bag (I purchased one not long after this trip!) or sleeping mat as I had planned to spend a night in a hut with comfy bunks…

Sunsetting as I looked for a place to spend the night

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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