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

“On a Mish” #45 See Ya Later Sleeping Mat – Part One. Mt Burns Upper Basin. Fiordland National Park. 22.10.2018. Unless you are using a helicopter there is no easy way to get onto the mountain tops in Fiordland National Park. The three exclusive 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. Get you up high in Fiordland can be both a blessing and a curse as once up there you will be exposed to not only the elements, but also the creatures that call the tops their home…

One day during a busy summer on the Fiordland Navigator my exploration buddy Dylan and myself both had rare time off work at the same time as there was a sunny weather forecast for Fiordland. We only had a very small weather window and wanted a proper alpine experience, so we turned our attention to the Hunter Mountains.

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. I’m not surprised that many think Lake Manapouri is the best looking body of water in Aotearoa.

After the lake we made our way to the Borland Road and began the first climb for the day, this climb is the easy one as we are still in the car! Obviously the higher you can get in a vehicle 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 splendour as we gathered our gear and began to hike up the Mt Burns Tarns track. We passed the odd hiker out enjoying the outstanding weather and with each meeting we had a “How lucky are we” chat. In a place famous for rain, having a bluebird day is always a massive bonus and we both (from experience) knew we were very lucky.

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 metres below the rounded summit. From the peak we turned north east over another rounded peak and then 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 Fiordland mountain after Fiordland mountain.

Almost immediately after getting our camp set up we had a feathered welcoming party performing a powhiri. Several Kea (Mountain Parrot) circled us before flying down to perch on the rocks around our campsite. Uh oh! It is always unnerving when Kea are around your camp and it has been that way since the first explorers entered the domain of the only alpine parrot on the planet. You are never at ease knowing that their inquisitive nature has led to countless holes in hundreds of tents throughout the mountains 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 soft snow up to the south ridge of Mt Burn’s West Peak(1635m). It was completely different to the last time I was here, as then the entire upper reaches of the mountain weren’t covered in snow and ice. Optimistically 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) and both thought ‘Nah’. 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.

After the side mish we headed back down to camp, and once there we were kept on our toes by the Kea who were really part of the team now, whether we liked it or not. As one person cooked, the other guarded the camp from the inquisitive residents who stayed with us most of the evening. The day had been full of fun, views and the magic the goes with an adventure in Fiordland. Little did we know the night would be the part of the mish we would remember the most…

The World’s Only Alpine Parrot (The Kea)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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