The Weather Says When (Part One) – Mt Barber(1364m)

“On a Mish” #32 The Weather Says When (Part One). Mt Barber(1364m). Fiordland National Park. 10.2.2018. When it is all said and done the weather says when it is time to either go on an adventure or in this case, when it is time to leave. Fiordland is a place of great beauty, but also a place legendary for its heavy rain. And a place you don’t want to be when the rain comes is high up in the mountains….

With boats travelling daily across Lake Manapouri enroute to Patea / Doubtful Sound it was possible to go along for the ride during my time working for Real Journeys. I have used this unique opportunity many times to go on adventures in the remote mountains west of the western edge of Lake Manapouri. Tough tiger country awaits wilderness hunters, and apart from the famous Dusky Track, there are only a couple of short trails around Deep Cove (Patea / Doubtful Sound). If an off track adventure is what you seek then Fiordland has nearly endless wild places to visit / scramble to.

I decided I’d have a go at climbing Mt Barber(1364m) after hearing about a mission that the Real Journeys team had been on. Knowing that there was a rough trail forcing its way up to the mountain’s upper reaches, I decided to make the mission even more epic by camping on the tops over a kilometre above Patea / Doubtful Sound.

Being the only one on the boat across Lake Manapouri with camping gear meant a few yarns with some of the curious tourists. After crossing the lake I hitched a ride on a Real Journeys coach to the top of Wilmot Pass(671m). Walking up to the top of the pass would have taken most of the day so I was very thankful to get a head start on the mish.

After the bus disappeared the area fell silent. Apart from the odd flutter from the local birds I was alone in the mist with a mountain to climb. It was at this point I was very happy to be in my own shoes (or boots), and it was time for my adventure to begin.

The start of the ‘track’ to the tops is very vague and getting advice on the route was the difference between blindly bashing my way through the bush and winding and weaving through the forest with ease. After finding the track I entered the bush and even though it wasn’t raining the thick mist had left the ferns and flaxes damp. In classic Fiordland fashion I was soaked even though it wasn’t raining!

The route was reasonably straightforward uphill travel, with steep sections to keep you on your toes (literally). Thick clouds prevented any view, so I really hoped to get above it at some stage. The flat of the forest abruptly ended and the steepness increased. through the mist I could see the track markers, although some I did have to take a second look at as the lack of visibility made the way look improbable. It was good that I had seen pictures of people on the tops above me as this reassured me the way was correct.

Scrambling upwards made my pack seem as increasingly heavy as the ever steeping terrain. Before I knew it I was grabbing at tussock and scrub, and the road over Wilmot Pass was just a thin strip with the odd little box zooming on by. There is no place like the Fiordland tops and soon I would be setting up a temporary home high above the fiord I worked in. I’d love to hang out here forever however it will be the weather that will make that decision for me…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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