Less Effort Just as Epic (Part Three) – Upper Cleddau Valley

“On a Mish” #313 Less Effort Just as Epic (Part Three). Upper Cleddau Valley. Fiordland National Park. 15.12.2021. Unfortunately, many people around the world will never find their true ‘Happy Place’. A place that makes you smile and be happy no matter how you were feeling beforehand. Some of these places are difficult slogs to get to, but others are less effort and just as epic….

Meditation, or to be put into a mediative state, to me is the art of placing myself at an epic location and simply watching the wild wilderness world go by. Luckily, I own a home in Te Anau and the place is surrounded by epicness and many things to do outdoors. The Darran Mountains are only an hour’s drive from my home, and this is where you will find some of the best mountain meditation on the planet!

My short scramble up the north face of Gulliver Peak(1776m) had eventually got me to a small ledge just big enough to fit my tent on, with a commanding view down the Cleddau Valley. Like most campsites in the mountains, modifications needed to be made to the ground so I could pitch my tent. Getting a tent / campsite good to go becomes a new challenge when you have a 20-metre cliff on one side of your campsite. I had to be extra careful when sorting my gear as the area was very exposed and a gust of wind would send my gear off the ledge and into the wild abyss – never to be seen again.

I managed to get my tent up with no issues apart from an aching back and hip, however due to the lack of flat space on the small ledge I had to construct a floor of rocks to cater for the corner of my tent that was hanging in space on the edge of the airy precipice. Once the tent was good to go, the rest of my evening was just kicking back and enjoying some of the most tremendous mountain uplift in the world.

The sheer steepness of the Darran Mountains always blows my mind and I could spend many days staring at their splendor. While not big in altitude, they definitely don’t lack size and appeal to the eyes. You have to put your neck muscles on alert when traveling around the Darran Range!

As afternoon rolled on into evening the sky began to put on a show in a manner that made it seem like it wanted to get in on the epiness. Pinks, oranges and reds all began to cover the vast openness above the mountains. Both sky and mountain worked together for a few minutes, and the harsh dark grey of the rocky environment turned into a brightly lit and perfectly balanced symphony of soft creamy colours. I have always marveled at the brief moments during a sunset or sunrise where a place which is usually so harsh, cold and barren becomes an array of the sweetest colours we know.

After what was one of the best sunsets I have ever seen, the area went back to being a cold, dark and very barren place. To have those few moments of brilliance made the extra pain in my hip and back caused by the scramble worth it. I couldn’t wait to see what the show was going to look like the following morning, so to speed the process up I retreated to the warmth of my sleeping bag. As I attempted to drift off to sleep, I had a grin ear to ear. My afternoon / evening could have been much different, so I had to thank fate for creating the circumstances that put me in the near impossible camping situation I was in. I was very sore as I lay down on my little ledge to go to sleep. Sore, but more importantly very satisfied…

Homer Saddle(1375m) at Sunset

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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