Mountains and Milford (Part One) – Barrier Knob(1879m)

“A Mish a Day” #30 Mountains & Milford – Part One. Barrier Knob(1879m). Fiordland National Park. 25.5.2019. The difference between a happy upward stroll and mountaineering is a fine line in the Gertrude Valley. While the Gertrude Valley track provides hikers some thrills and a good workout, it is nothing compared with the steep ground towering above. The lure of this steep ground can be tempting, but careful steps are needed when traveling above the saddle. After the end of the busy 2019 summer tourist season I had a few spare days and really wanted to stand on the summit of a ‘real’ mountain…

There had been the normal early May cycles of cold rain and snow from the south, followed by days of warm weather. Autumn was doing its thing and I knew winter was only just around the corner. I got my gear packed in the car and then headed for the spectacular surroundings of the world famous Milford Road. I decided to camp at Cascade Creek Campsite so I could get an early-ish start on the mountain the next day, and as expected it was a busy little campground (pre-Covid days!). I got up at 5am (a little bit early-ish) and drove in the dark to the Gertrude Valley car park, and was an hour into the walk before I saw any sign of daylight. Hiking in the dark is an awesome experience, and even though I couldn’t see the giant mountains due to the darkness, I could feel their towering presence. As the first of the day’s light caressed the very tips of the highest peaks, I knew that this was a better idea than staying at home. Early mornings in the Darran Mountains are very hard to beat, this one was epic!

The trip up to the Gertrude Saddle(1410m) went past quickly, and the views to Milford were at their stunning best. I stopped for a quick snack with the local Kea who were intrigued by the fact that there was someone up on the saddle so early. There was already a lone tent pitched on the saddle so I knew I was not alone. The occupant must have had a hard time during the night, as I know from personal experience that once a gang of Kea find a tent they don’t leave it alone till the morning! I passed a guy coming down off Barrier Knob(1879m) wearing track-pants and running shoes. He was the occupant of the tent and yes, he did have a night of unwanted Kea action. After a quick chat I learnt he had camped on the saddle (with the Kea), and at first light he planned to climb Barrier Knob(1879m). He was forced to turn back because of the deep fresh snow and being way too unprepared (a wise move). It was good to know that life was more important than a view for this particular fella. For me the easy stuff was over and now it was time for the real adventure to begin…

The Central Darrans

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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