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

“On a Mish” #2 One and Done (Part Three). Leaning Peak(1477m). Fiordland National Park. 30.12.2017. I once worked as a possum trapper and it was during this time that I was taught the valuable lesson of ‘don’t fight the forest’. Climbing peaks or moving through dense forest can be very time consuming and taxing on the body. On a good mish you need all the energy you can muster, and I can say from experience that exhausting yourself on the lower reaches of a peak can ruin your opportunity at standing on the top of the mountain. We (my girlfriend and I) didn’t think we would have any issues getting through the forest on our quest to climb Leaning Peak in Fiordland, we were wrong…

The ‘track’ we were following quickly disappeared into the bush. At this stage the forest was reasonably open, however our view forward was obscured by the fact that the land steepened dramatically. This didn’t dull our enthusiasm one bit and with grins of people doing what they love, we pushed on through the damp undergrowth.

In Fiordland it is obvious where deer can and cannot get to. On Leaning Peak the difference was like night and day. Within about twenty metres the open bush closed in and the terrain steepened. Our walking poles became a hindrance instead of help, and we stashed them in our bulky packs so we could start using our hands. I wanted to get onto the south east ridge, however this was much easier said than done.

The dark near vertical forest seemed like it was getting the better of us, but nothing but positive communication between us kept our hopes of achieving our goals high. Luckily we got the odd view across to the other side of the lake and this would act as motivation and a rough guide of our height on the mountain.

We eventually found the south east ridge and this took us to a couple of rough bush clad bluffs that had to be surmounted in order for us to get above the treeline. In places we cursed having large camping packs. A big pack seems extra heavy when you’re dragging yourself up a cliff covered in scrub and bush. Eventually we got onto easier ground and with bits of bush still clinging to our bags we arrived at the treeline.

Due to the temperatures in the alpine areas of Aotearoa we have a very distinctive treeline. When going up the forest finishes and within a matter of a few metres you go from trees to alpine scrub. After our adventurous morning we were extremely happy to get to the treeline and ground that was much easier to move over. Originally we planned to find a camping spot and climb to the summit in the morning, however the weather forecast had us questioning whether that would be possible. Our big day of climbing wasn’t over yet, but at least the next part was going to be on mostly open ground. After we found a good spot to camp we dropped our packs and began our quest towards the summit. By this stage our bodies were screaming for us to stop, however the outstanding views of Fiordland were acting as fuel to keep us going, and after our very challenging morning we needed all of the fuel we could get…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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