Relief From the Quakes (Part One)- Mt Somers(1688m)

“A Mish a Day” #184 Mt Somers(1688m) – Part One. Hakatere Conservation Area. 16.6.2011. Christchurch was still on the move every couple of hours during the earthquakes of 2010 / 2011. Each day was started with the thought of “how many aftershocks today?”. This meant everyone’s stress levels were high and hiking, to me, is the best way to de-stress while dealing with the constant quakes…

After one shake to many I decided I needed a good walk to relax my very active mind. Having family living in the Ashburton District my whole life meant many childhood excursions to the foothills of Canterbury, mostly around Mt Somers Village, and further west to the Ashburton Lakes. The area is fascinating with both epic scenery and interesting history. As a kid I always wanted to climb Mt Somers(1688m), as the pyramid of the mountain is a very distinctive landmark in the area. Mount Somers’ distinctive triangle captures the eye when approaching the hills west of Rakaia.

An early-ish start from Quakesville had me crossing the Canterbury Plains on a frosty early winter’s day, which was meant to change with a nor’west front on its way. A temporary detachment from the world was what I was after and after pulling into Sharplin Falls Reserve my mission excitement was at an all time high. I arrived in the car park to start my mish at exactly the same time as a couple of local fellas looking to go on an adventure run. After a brief chat they told me they planned to run up Mt Somers(1688m) via the Southface Track, then drop down the northern side of the peak across un-tracked ground to Pinnacles Hut. And then finally return to the car park on the track over Dukes Knob(739m) on the Pinnacles Hut Track. They jogged off on their ambitious quest (much more daring than my planned outing), and I slowly followed on, happy with my simple and less taxing plan to go up and down the mountain the normal way via the Southface Track. The day was still, but signs of the weather change were already written on the sky above. What started as a peaceful day with zero clouds was quickly changing into a pre-storm skyscape. The cool temperatures meant I had to move to warm up and luckily I started with a grunt up Hookey Knob(731m) then along the Southface Track up to Staveley Hill(1085m). The earthquakes had done some significant damage to the Sharplin Falls Track, but the Mount Somers South Face Track (opposite side of the valley) was mostly fine. There was one small section where the trees had toppled over, but this was an easy obstacle to overcome. The views of the Canterbury Plains are always an awesome distraction from the strain on my quads and calves, and I had views right out to the Pacific Ocean. As I turned off the Southface track onto the Summit Track, I could see the tiny figures of the lads already high up on the south east spur, still moving with speed and purpose….

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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