A Wild Winter Wander – Mt Guy(1319m)

“On a Mish” #77 A Wild Winter Wander. Mt Guy(1319m). Hakatere Conservation Area. 16.9.2014. Nothing makes you feel alive like facing a southerly blast head on. A wild wilderness wander can be an epic adventure as long as you are wearing all of the appropriate clothing. Some might be thinking it is foolish to climb a mountain during a storm, but this mountain is only a stone’s throw away from a cosy crib with a fire blazing and hot shower awaiting…

I have often headed to Lake Clearwater during winter with the aim of being there during a snowstorm. Lake Clearwater Village sits around 700 metres above sea level and sometimes sees snow during the winter months. My aim on these trips is to get photos of winter at its wildest as the storm bears down on the tiny town, and then the snow covered peacefulness that follows once the storm has cleared.

On this occasion I timed it perfectly and as I rolled into the village I was being pummeled by sleet which soaked and chilled me to the bone. Luckily I had that shower at the ready!

I woke early-ish the next morning to the silence of snowfall. I pulled the curtains back to see the ground twinkling in the moonlight. At this stage I was expecting to hike in a post storm wonderland.

The billy went on as I prepared my gear and made sure the fire was well stocked with wood. The sunlight was only just starting to warm up as I took my last sip of coffee, today was going to be a good day!

Before leaving the crib I made sure I was over-prepared for the mission with extra warm gear and all the other essentials needed to make me as weather / waterproof as possible. At this stage I hadn’t had a chance to look to the west.

Mt Guy during a break in the storm

Now in the light of the day I began my hike beginning with a walk around the lower end of Lake Clearwater to the start of the Mt Guy Track. As I walked around the lake it was as if the world went into reverse. The approaching storm clouds re-darkened the sky and it immediately began to snow. Some might choose to turn back and return to the warmth of the village, I didn’t.

I got to the Mt Guy Track and began to climb. The track itself was under snow so it was very good that the way is well marked with poles with very visible orange tips. Each step got me a little bit higher up the mountain and that meant more wind and more snow. To say the hike had an ‘extreme’ feel to it would be an understatement of epic proportions!

The route follows a ridge which is steep in places, before it mellows out near the summit of the mountain. The less steep areas had their own challenges due to the snow building up in places. Plugging steps in deep snow drifts early-ish in the morning during a snowstorm might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a coffee man myself.

The weather cleared briefly after getting to the summit, giving me a brief break from the blizzard. It had been quite the morning and I was only at the halfway point of the mish.

The weather returned on the way down and I was once again forced to battle the wind and, for variety, the visibility had dropped to next to nothing. Luckily I had the marker poles sticking out of the snow to prevent me straying off track.

By the time I got back down to lake level the wetness of the storm had finally got down to my lowest layer. Even though I was starting to feel the chill I knew I only had a short distance to travel and then it was nothing but warmth and food. It was on this final leg of the journey that I really started to think about the dangers of being cold and wet.

I was now very cold and wet, and after kicking off my boots and the door I stumbled into the crib and reloaded the fire. It didn’t take long to warm up in my happy haven of heat and now, showered and with dry clothes, I was ready to start planning the next wild wilderness wander.

I know plenty of people who would have hated every minute of the mish I just went on, but thanks to my love of a good winter storm I enjoyed every second of my battle with the elements!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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