Man / Woman Vs Mountains (Part Two) – Barrier Knob(1879m)

“On a Mish” #30 Man / Woman Vs Mountains (Part Two). Barrier Peak. Fiordland National Park. 25.5.2019. Putting your training up against a peak can produce some powerful feelings. For many it keeps them in the gym and walking the footpaths between trips to the mountains. Mountain motivation is a strong driver to keep you fit and in fighting shape just in case the weather and conditions mean you can go tackle the mountain you have always dreamt of climbing. Man or woman vs mountain has been a battle fought for many years, have you taken up arms (and your feet) and joined the fight?…

After a night at the very busy Cascade Creek Campsite on the Milford Road I was up and at it early-ish. After brewing up a jug of go-juice I hit the road. Light hadn’t made its way into the Upper Hollyford yet, and it was still dark when I got to the start of the track up to Gertrude Saddle. There were a few cars in the parking area but I assumed they must have been staying at the nearby Homer Hut. With my head torch lighting the way I began my adventure.

I was about two thirds of the way up the valley when I stopped using my torch to see where the track was. Slowly the deep trench that is the Gertrude Valley came into sight, and like most times in this part of the world the cliffs just kept going up as the light revealed the grandeur of the Darran Mountains.

Piopiotahi / Milford (left) & Lake Adelaide (right)

Above the valley I clambered up beside the big waterfalls that make their way down with a deep rumble that you swear shakes the ground beneath your feet. I gripped the cables beside the closest waterfall to the track and wondered if they were still secured to the mountainside. The air was much stiller and much more peaceful on the rocks above Black Lake. From here it was a simple scramble upward and when I got to the top of the saddle I found a lone tent and a couple of kea looking like they were having a tent for breakfast. I could only guess what the kea were going to do to that tent!

I could see the snowline wasn’t much higher than the saddle so I was happy to have some of my climbing gear, although I had left my crampons behind for some stupid reason. I adjusted my gaiters so I wouldn’t get any snow in my boots and nearly as soon as I got away I bumped into a fella looking a little out of place. Looking more prepared for a gym than the Darrans, he was stumbling towards me in the slushy snow wearing a hoodie, track pants and running shoes, not really the best kit for climbing in this part of the world!

When he got to me he told me that the snow had gotten too deep for him and he had decided to turn back. This was definitely the best decision he had made as I was soon going to find out that I was going to have my own battle much higher up the hill. With the signs of an approaching Fiordland storm beginning to show in the sky I pressed on not really knowing that I was about to find out what playing another round of man vs mountain in the Darran Range was like…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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