Outnumbered and Surrounded – Kea Camp On Percy Saddle (Part One)

“On a Mish” #116 Surrounded and Outnumbered – Part One. Lake Manapouri to Percy Saddle. Fiordland National Park. 20.7.2019. For humans the alpine area is only a place to visit, and temporary stays are all our bodies can take. It takes a unique creature to survive in an area that sees the country’s most violent weather. There are a couple of birds in Aotearoa that are tough enough to step up to the challenges of the high altitude lifestyle, one is the Piwauwau / Rock Wren (bird of the year winner!) and the other was about to test my patience….

For the record this was an unprovoked and organised gang attack on an innocent human!

I’m a fan of putting my gear to the test in the environment that it was supposedly designed for. And sometimes you have no choice, for the winter weather won’t relent. So sometimes, to get a Fiordland fix you have to just brave the weather and put faith in your gear. I found myself with some time off work during the 2019 winter, and after a series of nor’west storms, the wind finally turned south, and I saw a small “opportunity” to camp up on Percy Saddle(1075m).

As per usual I enjoyed the casual conversations that happen on the boat over Lake Manapouri to West Arm, as it’s mid winter, and I’m the only fella on the boat with a hiking pack and camping gear. I am amazed at how amazed some people are that I am going on a mission in the winter, they mustn’t have seen the beauty of Fiordland during winter!

As we approached the end of our boat ride the bigger peaks around West Arm were in cloud as we made our way towards the power station and its lines that dominated the area. After being dropped off in ‘paradise with a power station’ I wandered up the Percy Saddle Road, which climbs its way out of the Spey Valley into the Wolfe Burn. Only three roads have been cut into the mountains of Fiordland and along with the Wilmot Pass Road, the Percy Burn Road is one of the most remote stretches of road in the country.

The area is one that I have revisited time and time again, due to the easy access to the surrounding mountains. I stopped for a bite to eat on the bridge over the Wolfe Burn and took a moment to take in the surroundings before I tackled the final calf grinding zig-zags as the road heads up to the saddle. The weather had improved from the dreary grey morning and now on my hike up apart from a layer of high cloud, the mountains were on show, and what an almighty show it was.

The Percy Saddle is a rare flat spot in mountain country, and once up there you have the convenient issue of finding the ‘perfect spot’ amongst many places I would consider to be a perfect spot! Eventually I found an excellent location to camp about 500 metres to the south east of the road on a small ridge. My elevated spot gave me an awesome view of the many tarns that are scattered all over the saddle, probably not the weather for a swim!

The saddle had patches of snow with the tussock poking through, and I noticed some movement amongst the tussock near my camp. After I got my tent up I heard a loud ‘shreeeeeeeek’, as a couple of airborne scouts circled over my camp like a drone above a battlefield…

Nestor Notabilis (trouble covered in feathers!)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter