Borland’s Sky Scraper (Part Two) – Mt Burns(1645m)

“On a Mish” #7 Borland’s Skyscraper (Part Two). Mt Burns(1645m). Fiordland National Park. 25.3.2017. Each step upwards is one less to take to get to the summit of a mountain. Sometimes this needs to be repeated in your head to keep you going on when your calves and quads are screaming at you to stop, and you start getting thoughts of taking the easy way out and turning back. Climbing at times can feel like you are surmounting a skyscraper from the outside, and you wonder why you didn’t just take the non-existent lift to the top…

Early-ish the next day I peered out the van’s foggy windows to see an excellent sunrise, and more importantly no wind. We were witness to a still morning in the mountains just perfect for an adventure. The stillness meant low cloud still lingered below us down in the Borland Valley, trapped waiting for a breeze to send it into the sunny skies above. We powered down some breakfast with a coffee and then laced our boots up for a mountain mish.

The only downside (literally) about climbing the full length of the west ridge of Mount Burns (a west to east traverse) is going down the Borland Road to its base. This adds more climbing to a day already full of going up! Oh well, life is full of ups and downs and today life presented us with some down and a whole lotta up.

With my fellow Fiordland fanatic by my side together we looked up at the steep ground of Mt Burn’s west ridge and the mission’s steep reality started to sink in. In only 500m or so we had gone from camp chairs, breakfast, and a hot cup of coffee, to gripping tussock as we scrambled up steeply sloping terrain. It was a big change to say the least.

After a couple of minutes of quads pumping skywards our blood was also pumping, and layers used to warn off the early-ish morning chill were stripped and stashed. While we climbed, the cloud in the valley seemed to slowly follow us. Climbing amongst lingering clouds makes a stunning visual spectacle that is normally seen only from an aircraft. After ascending our first section of damp tussock we arrived at the slightly less angled lower west ridge, and this gave a place for a break and incredible views down to the Borland Road. More importantly, we could now see up to the rocky summit ridge we were aiming for.

We arrived at the junction of the west and south ridges (the south ridge is the normal route to the summit ridge) and then continued towards the craggy rock of the upper reaches of the mountain. The exposed terrain between the mountain’s low and high peak is awesome for those who enjoy a challenge. A single mistake could mean game over, with no second chance or round two. The ridge was a real test of mind over matter, as the climbing isn’t very difficult but the drop of nearly 1000m on the peak’s north face keeps you on your toes.

Slowly we carefully pushed on, overcoming each obstacle as we got to it. We were nearing the top of the skyscraper, but there are no buildings on earth that will give you views like this! However sight seeing would have to wait as we needed to focus on the task at hand, and that task was navigating a rocky ridge with big consequences if a mistake was made…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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