Ocean Peak from Lake MacKenzie

“A Mish a Day” #117 Ocean Peak(1848m) from Lake MacKenzie. Fiordland National Park. 12.5.2012. Lake MacKenzie in Fiordland National Park is a very special place. It is also a very welcome stopping point for the lucky few who hike the sweet steps of the world famous Routeburn Track. The grand Lake MacKenzie Basin, with its beautiful body of water and mighty surrounding mountains, Emily Peak(1815m), F-Knob(1919m) and Ocean Peak(1848m), are all classic Routeburn Track peaks, and create a scene that has made its way onto many postcards and desktop backgrounds around the world…

Not many get to experience the area after the hiking season has finished and the first snow falls of winter start their icy cycles. The area basically becomes a well guarded fortress due to the number of avalanche paths that cross the track and caution must be taken when visiting. During May and June, I was at Lake MacKenzie Lodge working my first stint as the Lodge Manager during a building project upgrading the lodge and adding on a few additional rooms. The build was operating outside of the hiking season so as not to disturb the guided walkers, and during this time I had a visit from my friend and fellow guide, Jule. Much like myself, she enjoys the delights of standing on top of a peak after a challenging climb, therefore on her visit, a scramble up Ocean Peak was planned as one of the missions we would do during her time at the lodge. The area had been hit by a storm over the days before she arrived, and everything was covered from about 1000 metres up in clean, crisp white snow.

After all the jobs at the lodge were completed we set off, following the Routeburn Track up to Ocean Peak Corner through the fresh, fluffy powder. At Ocean Peak Corner we started following the south west ridge, and were both impressed by how much snow was on the mountain as we gained altitude. We scrambled up to a point around 1750m, where we traversed across a steep snow face to get to the last part of the ridge to the summit. This would have been a death sentence for us to cross, as we only had ice axes and no crampons. Because both of us enjoy living we were pretty happy to get as far as we did. The views down to Lake MacKenzie were awesome as the clouds swirled their way around the large basin. And to the other side (west), a big drop down to Gunns Camp in the Lower Hollyford Valley and the mighty Darran Mountains beyond. We carefully followed our tracks in the snow back down the mountain back towards Lake MacKenzie. We had to stop every now and then to take in the views of a stunning snow covered Darran Mountains and the surrounding area, before dropping off the south west ridge back onto the Routeburn Track, and then back to the lodge to reheat our frozen bodies. Ocean Peak(1848m) was an excellent day out and an adventurous change from the normal Routeburn Track. However the danger increases massively during winter and I would really recommend you have firstly winter mountaineering experience, and secondly crampons for the snow if you want to get to the top!

Descending the south west ridge of Ocean Peak(1848m)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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