Making the Most of a Disaster (Part One) – Hollyford Valley

“On a Mish” #393 Making the Most of a Disaster (Part One). Hollyford Valley. Fiordland National Park. 26.2.2024. Fiordland is not only a place of great rain, but also one of constant change. There aren’t too many places where huge chunks of land slipping off the side of mountains is a common occurrence. In places you can see the evidence of slips in the form of scars. Sometimes these scars can be used to our advantage as the cleared forest makes it much easier to navigate, and when I needed a night out camping, I thought I’d make the most of what some might call a disaster…

In Fiordland very heavy rain (and sometimes no rain) can force areas of foliage to peel off the land. The forest gets stripped back to bare rock and it is like a bulldozer has carved a road. The regeneration process begins almost immediately, but for a while there is an easy way to gain altitude in a location famous for tricky travel on foot.

I had recently been reminded how lucky I am to be back in Te Anau when I realised how quickly I can be on the Kepler Track. The town sits on the edge of one of the last pieces of untouched wilderness left on the planet. Most come from far away to enjoy all that is on offer in Fiordland, but for me it is a quick drive or even a walk away. Because of this I can wait for the right times to head out, and in times of unfavourable weather I can still get out and then retreat home to dry off. Either way, Fiordland keeps my head in check while I wait for life to resume.

Day hikes are a good appetiser, but to get a full meal you need to spend a night out in the wild. I hadn’t managed to get out for an overnight mish since returning, and with the stresses of life starting to creep into my headspace I needed a night away from civilisation. I didn’t want to destroy myself with a massive mission, so I had to think of something easy with views. Strangely it was while looking at photos of a disaster that I came up with a plan.

Back in 2021 there was a storm of epic proportions which sadly wiped Gunns Camp off the map. Gunns Camp (or Hollyford Camp) was accommodation in the mid Hollyford Valley, until a slip came crashing down off the mountainside and took out some of the cabins. The damage immediately closed the camp, and how no one was killed boggles the mind. The people at the camp may have dodged a bullet, but the camp certainly didn’t.

Ironically it was back in 2012 when a similar slip came down, but the camp was spared as it was just under a kilometre up the Hollyford Road. I had been reading about a mission I had done around the time of the 2012 slip, and it got me thinking about how I could use the slip to get up onto the side of Ocean Peak, which is on the east side of the Hollyford Valley.

I had a location, and I hopefully a weather window that would allow me a quick mish into an area I am a little bit obsessed with. After sorting out life I put the real world on hold and began to drive up the Milford Road on my way towards what many would call a disaster…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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