Snowslides & Sandflies (Part Two) – Tutoko Valley Camp

“On a Mish” #76 Snowslides & Sandflies (Part Two). Tutoko Valley. Fiordland National Park. 27.10.2019. Most people around the world do their best to stay as far away from avalanches as possible. The mere thought of millions of tons of snow, rock and ice crashing down from above is enough to send chills down the spine – just like the shattered material flying its way towards the valley floor. As long as you keep as far away from the danger as possible, then the experience / noise will be something you will not forget in a hurry…

The thunderous sounds of snow falling echoed throughout the valley every ten minutes or so, and every time it got our adrenaline pumping. Most will head to Aoraki / Mt Cook Village to witness Mother Nature’s angry side, as you can watch the glaciers collapse from the comfort of the village or from one of the excellent tracks that extend from one of New Zealand’s premier little mountain towns. With low cloud covering the mountain tops, and due to the established forest around us we just hoped that we were in a safe spot.

The temperature dropped as the rain set in, and it was safe to say that it was now snowing above our little campsite. The chill in the air was enough to make us retreat to the warmth of our sleeping bags and we both drifted off to sleep to the sound of snow sliding off the mountains.

Early-ish the next day we were up looking at clear skies and fresh snow. With the mountains now on show we had a chance to watch the avalanches travel from the tops to the very bottom of the valley, resting on the massive piles of snow and debris that lined the edges of the massive Fiordland Valley.

This was our rest day so after a breakfast of food and sandfly we began to explore our temporary home. Our first side trip took us further up the valley, closer to Grave’s Couloir. The thin gut of ice was the site of the first attempt on the mountain, and to think that a couple of novice mountaineers attempted to climb it without crampons and using garden tools as ice axes! Even though they were unsuccessful, their incredible journey has been etched into history with the great gut being named after the party’s leader, William Grave.

After lunch in paradise we ventured up Leader Creek, the now normal route people take to climb Tutoko. With such an active snowpack we didn’t want to go anywhere near the tops, so we were satisfied with a scramble up the rocky creek. The view across the valley was awesome, and with the sun beaming down from above there wasn’t anywhere else we would want to be!

Due to work and other comments, normally my missions are overnight but with a couple of free days we could relax and enjoy the place and, thanks to the hot sun, we had a couple of hours of sandfly free fun…

Fresh Snow Covering the Surrounding Darran Mountains

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter