No Water and No Jacket (Part Three) – Clare Peak(1490m)

“On a Mish” #306 No Water and No Jacket (Part Three). Clare Peak(1490m). Takitimu Mountain Range. 3.11.2021. A real example of how sparsely populated New Zealand is the fact that you can hike into a remote location for a couple of days camping. And then return for another adventure a few years later to find everything exactly the same way as you left it. All throughout this magnificent country we have places that seem to be timeless. Apart from the plants growing taller and the moss cover increasing, nothing seems to change except the weather. After returning to a campsite I had used a few years before, I found that everything was the same except for the fact that I had no jacket, and at this stage no water as well…

After scouring the mountainside for water I was gutted to find that the supply we had used on the last mission was completely dry. It wasn’t the end of the world, as I had brought some drinks with me and I still had water in my water bottle. I wasn’t going to die of thirst in the Takitimu Range.

This did alter my mission however, as I didn’t want to tackle the many ups and downs of the ridgeline that led to Clare Peak(1490m) without having some drinking, and also some emergency, backup water. My plan B was to sneak up to Peak 1221m, take in the view and then head back home early-ish the next morning.

Forgetting my jacket (a rookie mistake indeed) meant I had to take on the mountain in my down gear which was a rather bulky way to clamber up a hill and reminded me how much better my shell jacket is for mountain travel.

I made a beeline for the ridge above my camp, and once there I could see to the south for the first time. The southern horizon was black, but I didn’t think anything of it as my forecast was for clearing skies, right?

I topped out on the long ridge to Clare Peak(1490m) just as the wind began to increase. What started as incredible views of the huge Te Anau Basin, which included both lakes Te Anau and Manapouri, disappeared as the clouds consumed the mountain range. Hmmm, not part of the plan or forecast, but any day above 1000m is a good one!

Clare Peak Ridge

My aching bits needed a rest so I sat on a rock and whipped out a muesli bar. After a couple of bites I started to feel light snow tapping my non-waterproof outer layer. Within a few chews the light snow had turned into a mountain storm which included snow blown sideways by the ever increasing wind.

I have seen so many under-prepared people in the mountains looking miserable, hiking in rain wearing down jackets that offer no warmth or comfort when wet. And now I was one of those people!

Excitement with a touch of fear was flowing as I descended downward towards the safety of my tent. After stumbling down a scree-covered spur for a while, I hit the treeline and it was there that I realised I was heading in the wrong direction. The visibility was now minimal and I knew I had to be careful. After regathering my thoughts I could see the odd footprint and quickly established that I was in a place where I had looked for water earlier on. From here I could follow my own trail back to the tent, and as the snow and wind intensified even more I spotted the green dome of my home away from home.

With my down jacket now wet I was beginning to feel the cold. I didn’t have far to go but the weather was doing its best to make the short journey as tough as possible. It was at this point that I wished I wasn’t in the situation of having no water and no jacket…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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