The Last Big Mish (Part Two) – Sunny Creek Basin

“On a Mish” #88 The Last Big Mish (Part Two). Sunny Creek Basin. Fiordland National Park. 5.1.2020. The classic saying of “you never know what will happen tomorrow” is so true, and at least while I could I got to some pretty epic places. I hope one day to return to the mountain tops (without screaming pain in my hip and back), and I am doing as much rehab / physio work as possible to get back in the game. Just before I hurt my hip I unknowingly went on my last big mish and at least I went out on top, literally…

It is rare for me to spend more than one night in the same spot, as I usually move on to the next objective / valley / mountain. 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, which meant I could explore the wild area.

Day one was getting away from the masses of other human beings at the Divide, and then all of the day hikers on the Routeburn Track. After pushing on past Howden Hut and Lake I began to find more and more wilderness with less people in it, and then finally I left the track completely and bashed my way through the bush to a campsite in the upper reaches of the Sunny Creek Basin.

I had wanted to get into the basin since seeing pictures taken by fellow Ultimate Hikes employees many years ago, and now I finally found myself living the dream and I knew (thanks to all of the scratches on my legs) I wasn’t asleep.

With that being said I did need some sleep so I would have the energy required to climb one of the mountains above the basin.

Dark grey clouds swirled around the peaks as the light faded in Fiordland, and the darkness of night mixed with the whistle of a breeze gave the basin an eerie feeling. I can understand why the Maori never travelled at night. Moving was definitely not on the cards 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, one of the largest located at the head of the valley.

I started my mid mish mission in the semi-darkness of dawn, and after studying the area the day before I knew roughly how to get to the base of the mountain before the real climbing began.

Daylight revealed a pre-storm sky and I quickly realised I was in and out of clouds as I got higher up the mountain. I arrived at a col between the peak I wanted to climb and some other slightly smaller mountains on my left. The view down the Hollyford Valley was spectacular and the col was an excellent spot to stop for a bite to eat.

Above the col the difficulty increased and I started to get that strange mix of excitement, fear and fun that you get when the exposure increases and the consequences of a fall turn deadly.

I climbed a steep rocky gut to a small rock ledge and above it was a climbable but very exposed ridge which disappeared into the swirling cloud above. I paused on the ledge and began to battle the thoughts in my head, some egging me on to climb higher, others telling me I had climbed high enough and it was time to turn around. As I contemplated my situation and next step the cloud level lowered around me and visibility dropped to only a couple of metres.

I had two choices, A: turn back. Or B: continue to climb into the clouded unknown, knowing that the weather was going to deteriorate at some point during the day. Was it changing earlier than expected…?

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

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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