Sweet As (Part Two) – Sugarloaf Pass(1154m)

“On a Mish” #39 Pretty Sweet Scenery (Part Two) Sugarloaf Pass(1154m). Sugarloaf Pass to Te Awa Whakatipu / Dart River. Mt Aspiring National Park. 11.8.2010. I like to think that going on a mish is similar to having a meal. Just like with food the lack of hiking makes you hungry for more, and the longer you wait the hungrier you get. And then once you get going you start to enjoy what you are doing, and sometimes we overindulge. Also a short mish is like a snack meaning many will be needed to make up a meal. So for me a good overnight or two mish is like the perfect meal, and while I hiked my way along the Sugarloaf Pass Track I was finding the taste of this meal / hike pretty sweet…

The start of the track up and over Sugarloaf Pass into the Rockburn Valley is about twenty minutes or so up the Routeburn Track and within that time I didn’t see a single soul. There isn’t much happening on the Routeburn Track during the winter due to the avalanche risk. Although there was the odd car in the track’s carpark I didn’t expect to see anyone apart from Diggidy during my travels.

I turned off the Routeburn ‘Highway’ and immediately the track turned into a classic Kiwi backcountry track with roots for stairs and the lack of gravel gives way to the plop of a muddy puddle. Luckily I was there when most moisture was frozen solid. In places below where water had attempted to escape downward hung icicles, some measuring nearly a metre. Winter was working it’s magic and I loved it!

The steep and yet not too steep trail eventually took me above the treeline and this gave me excellent views back down to Te Awa Whakatipu Dart River which flowed into the distant Lake Wakatipu. If I had turned back here the hike would have been worth it, but I was stoked to be climbing higher and getting even better views.

The snow on the track had been well beaten and I just assumed this was due to previous hikers on different days. As I neared the top of the pass I was surprised to see a group of about fifteen sitting down on the snow having a snack. I was even more surprised when I saw my friends and fellow guides Sophie and Dan. The group was an outdoor education class and as far as classrooms go, you don’t get much better than this! I enjoyed my lunch with the group and found out more about the course. After food school was back in session so I left them to it and began the descent into the Rockburn Valley.

Sometimes I think it is a shame we have trees in certain places. Mt Nox and Minos Peak plus the other peaks in the area were looking incredible covered in snow. There were no rock faces or bluffs visible. There was nothing but smooth white painted right down to the trees and as I dropped below the treeline I wished that there were more gaps so I could keep staring at the spectacle of winter and the mountains working together.

After I lost the view I picked up the pace knowing there was a big team on my tail. I wanted to make sure I got a good bunk in Rockburn Hut, but at one stage I focused on the bunk more than the trail and all of a sudden I couldn’t see any orange triangles. Oh dear, the thought of a bed to sleep in and the pretty sweet scenery had distracted me. The Outdoor Ed Group might be the ones enjoying the spoils of getting to the hut before me…

Te Awa Wakatipu / Dart River

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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