Summer Snow (Part One)- Ocean Peak(1848m)

“A Mish a Day” #11 The East Face of Ocean Peak(1848m) – Part One. Mt Aspiring National Park. 16.1.2012. To some people mountaineering seems pointless. Putting your life at risk just to stand on top of an elevated piece of earth sounds a little bit crazy when you think about it. However, mountaineering’s obvious risks are nothing when compared to ‘normal’ day to day life. I find a drive on the open road far more terrifying than an exposed ridge with massive drops either side…

Unlike action sports like mountain biking and skiing, everything in mountaineering happens slowly. A whole lotta walking with only a few moments of risk. Lots of careful planning and thinking while climbing can eliminate potential danger, but when driving you have to just hope that the other drivers don’t have a lapse in concentration. I always thought that as long as I take my time and work things out slowly then I should be safe from danger. But while climbing Ocean Peak(1848m) I learnt that no matter how much you try to be safe in the mountains, sometimes accidents happen that are out of your control… If you have ever worked as a guide on the Routeburn Track then you will know Ocean Peak well, as the track circles this mountain on day two of the hike from Lake Mackenzie. After working a few seasons guiding on the Routeburn Track I decided it was finally time to have a go at climbing Ocean Peak(1848m), and I was going to climb this, the Routeburn Track’s centerpoint mountain, from the east. The forecast was for a southerly change bringing snow overnight to areas above 1000 meters, then clearing in the morning to a sunny day. As it was mid January I only focused on the ‘clearing’ part of the forecast, and not the ‘overnight snow’ part, which would be a factor that almost brought this mish to a crashing halt.

Off Track Travel Above the Routeburn Track

An early-ish start from Queenstown had me driving along the incredible Glenorchy Road in the low light of dawn. Even in the faint light I could see the splendor of the stunning area, and the drive is an excellent way to get you excited for adventure. I rounded the lake and crossed over Te Awa Whakatipu / Dart River, then I hit the Routeburn Road and followed it to the Routeburn Shelter. By the time I had marched my way up the Routeburn Valley, the light of the day had revealed more snow than I was expecting. I was hiking in snow above Routeburn Falls Lodge, which enhanced the already amazing scenery. My original plan was to climb a rocky couloir to the north ridge, but as I left the track and began to climb I encountered a barricade of horrid Spaniard plants. Not wanting to slice myself to pieces I had to re-think my route to the summit. Plan B was to follow the basins under the ridge between Ocean Peak(1848m) and the neighboring peak. A lone chamois showed me the way through the huge bluffs to the ground above. Little did I know that when I returned to this area the mission would get really interesting, really quickly…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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