See Ya Later Sleeping Mat – Mount Burns Tops (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #45 See Ya Later Sleeping Mat – Part One. Mt Burns Tops. Fiordland National Park. 22.10.2018. It seems a little bit Ironic that I love to be high up on a mountain yet I currently work underground! Unless you are using a helicopter there is no easy way to get onto the mountain tops in Fiordland National Park. The three roads that make their way through the park are an excellent way of knocking off some of the uphill work, and I have utilised these many times on many different missions..

Early in the 2018/2019 summer season Dylan McHardy and myself had a rare time off work when there was sunny weather forecast for the Hunter Mountains in Fiordland. We only had a very small weather window and wanted a proper alpine experience. The easy fix to this was to head to my second home, the Borland Road. We really are spoiled in Aotearoa when it comes to stunning scenery. Even the drive to the start of our mission was loaded with incredible views of Lake Manapouri and the mountains that stand over it. Obviously the higher you can get in a car the better, and you can’t drive any higher than the Borland Saddle anywhere in Fiordland National Park’s 1.3 million hectares. From the top of the saddle we soaked in the alpine splendor as we gathered our gear and hiked up the Mt Burns Tarns track. We passed the odd hiker out enjoying the outstanding weather. After cresting the hill at the Mt Burns Tarns we then continued south east to Peak 1476m to take in the view of Green Lake, over 600 meters below. From here we turned north east over Peak 1456m and into the snow filled basin below Mt Burns(1645m). On my first adventure up the mountain I remembered how epic the area was, and how perfect the place would be to spend a night. From the elevated basin we could see out to the plains of Southland to the east and south-east, and everywhere else stood mountain after mountain.

Almost immediately we had a feathered welcoming party, as several cheeky Kea circled us before flying down to perch on the rocks around our campsite. Little did I know that these fellas were going to hang out with us until the next eventful morning. It is always unnerving when Kea are around your camp. You are never at ease knowing that their inquisitive nature has led to many holes in numerous tents throughout the alpine areas of the South Island. We set up a very basic camp, keeping most of our gear stashed away from our new friends, then climbed the snow up to the south ridge of Mt Burn’s West Peak(1635m). Much different to the last time I was here, as the entire upper reaches of the mountain were covered in snow and ice. Thinking we might be able to sneak along the ridge to the proper summit(1645m) we looked along the craggy ridge to the high peak of Mt Burns(1645m). To tackle the ridge without crampons would be suicide, and this made us really appreciate the fearless climbers who used to take on peaks like this(and much more difficult) without the aid of 10 or 12 spikes attached to each boot. As we both enjoy living we left that challenge for another day. Dylan decided to repeat the trip in the snow back down the mountain, sliding his way down on his back or butt (many times over!). Back at camp we were kept on our toes by the two Kea who were really part of the team now, and they were very keen to have a good look at the gear we brought with us, and more importantly the food we had for our dinner. As one person cooked, the other guarded the camp from the inquisitive residents who visited us throughout the evening. As we enjoyed our dinner in the epic place we had got ourselves to, we had no idea of what the night had in store for that particular part of Fiordland National Park…

The Kea in it’s Environment

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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