Into the Clouds – The Queens Drive (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #44 The Queens Drive – Part One. Remarkables Conservation Area. 15.2.2013. The view of the Remarkables from Queenstown is one of the most famous mountainscapes in New Zealand. Dark grey jagged towers rise from the flats around Frankton in a very abrupt manner. The upper reaches are usually covered in snow during the winter, and this an excellent addition to a mountain range that is already called remarkable!

Most will visit via the road up to the Remarkables Ski Field, and it is on from one small spot on the ski field that you can look back at Queenstown, and get the reverse view of the famous mountain vista. When you look up at the tallest peaks from Queenstown you are looking up at a small ledge known as the Queens Drive. The ledge is more visible with snow. An almost straight line runs along the base of the mountain’s multi peak summit pyramid. I had heard that sheep used to get pushed through the small gap in the mountains on to Queens Drive back in the day, so I thought if a sheep can do it then I must be able to hike it! The adventure began with a drive up the Remarkables Ski Field access road, which also meant taking in the incredible views from the road on the way up. The upper reaches of the mountains around the ski field were in and out of cloud, something I should have paid more attention to. I parked up at the ski field and then began to hike up towards Shadow Basin.

Climbing up to Shadow Basin

The best way to the start of the Queens Drive is to follow the chairlift pylons that lead to the small saddle at the northern end of the summit pyramid. This was an easy uphill grunt, and in no time I was definitely warmed up. The wind, mixed with the contrast of the grey rock and grey clouds made for excellent swirling clouds, which fascinated me and took my mind off the couple of hundred meters of elevation I had to hike to get up to the saddle. Apart from seeing one person at the car park, I had the mountain to myself. The empty ski field was far from the winter playground most people see. In place of the soft snow was a harsh windswept environment. Barren black and grey rocks and golden tussock are a big change from the last time I was here with my snowboard. Eventually the saddle went from a tiny dip on the skyline to under my feet, with some effort I might add. As it was last time when I was here with my board, the view was amazing. Far below was the aqua green colour of Lake Wakatipu, then beyond lay the sprawl of the Queenstown community. An excellent example of just how high I was located was when I watched a plane take off from Queenstown Airport. It took a long time for the 737 jet to get to the same level as the saddle I was on. The easy ski field part of the mission was over and it was now time to start the Queens Drive…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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