One and Done (Part Four) – Leaning Peak(1477m)

“On a Mish” #2 One and Done (Part Four). Leaning Peak(1477m). Fiordland National Park. 30.12.2017. The community of humans who happily hike into the untamed wilds of Fiordland are a unique bunch. There is nothing easy about off-track travel in one of the world’s last untouched wilderness areas. The undergrowth does everything it can to slow your feet down, and the forest does all it can to block your view and disturb your navigation. Ironically, above the jungle-like forest are open tops with peak after peak just begging to be climbed. I have been lucky enough to be able to get as high up as possible before beginning my climbs in New Zealand’s largest national park. With Leaning Peak there was no head start. This is a mountain that does everything it can to prevent you from standing on top of it…

After finding a camping stop we decided it was better to go for the summit than stop and have a go in the morning. We knew a storm was on its way, and if it was early then we would lose our window. The Fiordland weather forecasts are usually accurate to within five to six hours of what is stated. We didn’t want to take the risk of getting stuck on the tops when Fiordland unleashed its frightening fury.

It was hard to get going again, but after lugging our heavy packs all morning we were flying without weight slowing us down. The west ridge was a delightful scramble with the odd area of exposure. After about an hour of easy climbing we were standing on the summit looking down at the huge cliff on the ‘leaning’ side of Leaning Peak.

Tiredness and the need to sit down got us off the summit reasonably quickly, however we did soak in the epic scenery before we clambered back down to our camping spot. I have set tents up in many different places around the world and I can safely say that our spot on Leaning Peak has to be one of the most amazing places I have slept.

Early-ish the next morning we woke up to find that our decision to climb the peak on day one was a very good idea. Blackish grey clouds were like a dark shadow on the western horizon, warning us of things to come. Getting off a mountain becomes a huge priority when you feel the first drops of rain.

We had decided that heading back down the way we had come up wasn’t a good idea, instead we picked a line straight down the middle of the south face. Our progress was steady until we realised we were standing at the top of a massive bluff. To get to better ground we had to clamber through the trees that hugged the top of the bluff / cliff. At one point I dislodged some foliage and watched it sail through the air before resting on the forest canopy a couple hundred metres below. Once past the cliff we found a way down that was still challenging but didn’t involve any massive cliffs!

We arrived at the bottom of the hill covered in scrub and dirt, and also in need of a good sit down. It was awesome to hear the voices and see the faces of some of the long-time Real Journeys staff members when we told them what we had been up to. Not many make it to the top of Leaning Peak, and the battle with the bush and gravity is tough. But the ones who manage to fight their way to the top are in for a real treat. Just a heads up, if you are going to climb that mountain I am busy that day. In my eyes Leaning Peak will always be a one and done mountain for this old outdoor adventurer!!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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