Sunny Creek Basin – Just off the Well Beaten Track (Part Two)

“A Mish a Day” #88 Sunny Creek Basin – Part Two. Fiordland National Park. 5.1.2020. It is rare for me to spend more than one night in the same spot, as I usually move on to the next objective. As I had a few days off and a craving for a good mish I decided to spend two nights in the Sunny Creek Basin. Day one was getting away from the masses at the Divide and then on the Routeburn Track, and finally on to my campsite in the upper reaches of the Sunny Creek Basin…

Dark grey clouds swirled around the peaks as the light faded to night, and I was excited about sleeping in my tent and being cosy and warm in my sleeping bag. I needed an early-ish start the next day as there were ‘possible afternoon showers’ in the forecast and I wanted to climb Peak 1889m, located at the head of the valley. After starting in the dark of dawn, I realised I was in and out of clouds as I got higher on the mountain. To go with this the ground became steeper and steeper, with bluffs now becoming more common. I climbed a steep gut to a small rock ledge and above it was a climbable but very exposed bluff which disappeared into the cloud above me. I paused on the ledge and then visibility dropped to only a couple of meters and I reluctantly decided to retrace my steps and climb down out of the fog. My main issue would have been finding my access gully in the thick fog, so I chose the safer option of plan B. This was to traverse some of the other peaks that towered over Sunny Creek Basin, to the west of Peak 1889m, including the distinctive cone-shaped Peak 1620m. Most of the time my view south was obscured by the other mountains, but at one stage I got a glimpse and saw very dark clouds approaching. I got back to camp as some nasty dark storm clouds rolled in and the ‘afternoon showers’ in the forecast turned into a storm with thunder, lightning and hail! The aggressive southerly change was a real experience to be part of, and I was safe and happy in my tent between the two massive rocks. My new tent is a lot bigger than my old one and thanks to the size I could cook a feed inside as the storm raged on outside.

High Above Lake MacKenzie Looking Towards Emily Pass(1607m)

At some stage during the night the storm button was turned off, and the clouds quickly cleared to a star covered sky. There had been a massive temperature drop causing the rain drops on my tent to freeze in huge frozen drops and the upper reaches of the mountains had a good dusting of snow. To pack up my tent I had to knock off the chunks of ice before packing it away in its bag, and then I was off. First was easy walking down through tussock meadow, and to avoid the boulder field I struggled through on day one I stuck to the north side of the basin. Small gaps in the forest made it way easier to get back to the track, and I know for the future to attack the basin from this area. Once back on the track it was back to the masses, as I immediately came across a large group of guided walkers. As I continued down I ran into all the other day walkers, who increased in numbers the closer I got to the Divide car park. A definite shook back into the reality of being around other humans, and as I removed my boots in the busy car park I reminisced about the private adventure I had just done in an area so close to a track used by many. Ahhh the benefits of thinking of something different to the norm!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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