The Coolest Coldness (Part One) – Upper Eglington Camping

“On a Mish” #292 The Coolest Coldness (Part One). Upper Eglington Valley. Fiordland National Park. 11.7.2021. Winter is very cool in both the literal sense and also from a visual perspective. The way ice or snow can dramatically brighten and change a landscape is incredible, but to see it you will have to put on an extra jumper. With our latest clothing technology we can brave and survive the cold wrapped in merino wool and down feathers. A huge change from the thick wool and tweed suits of the past. How those fellas didn’t freeze to death puzzles me…

I always marvel at the fact that the Milford Track was first cut during the winter of 1888. Quintin MacKinnon and Ernest Mitchell were tough as nails and didn’t mind putting up with the odd chilly morning. We have gotten soft as time has gone on!

As my body has healed I have found more and more mission motivation which has led to some epic mini missions. Sitting around for a very long time has meant I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Luckily Fiordland National Park is just down the road from my house in Te Anau, the main reason why I bought it.

After an excellent mission up to Lake Marian had left my body feeling a little bit battered and bruised, I wanted more but not as much as that mish. I had two consecutive days off work and fine weather was the forecast , so it was definitely time to go ‘On a Mish’. So like a cigarette smoker with a sore throat, I was just gonna have to put up with a little pain in order to fulfil my cravings.

There was no way I was going to go on a long hike with my camping gear attached to my back, so I searched the massive Fiordland map for an easy mish. There aren’t too many available in one of the wildest places on the planet.

A wander up the Upper Eglington Valley seemed like the perfect night out without doing much harm to my hip. So with a location sorted I gathered my gear (which I had just put away!) and headed up the Milford Road.

The Sun Disappearing Behind the Earl Mountains

Along with the clear skies, the forecast mentioned very cold temperatures for the area. Knowing I had the gear for the cold, this didn’t bother me, and as I pulled into the Upper Eglington Valley Campsite I knew I had made the right choice.

I only had a short-ish hike to get to what I thought looked like an excellent camping spot out in the middle of the large Southland Valley. I started by hiking straight into the open beech forest, which was easy ground to hike over, and the further I went the quieter the noise of the Milford Road got. After about 20 minutes walking I saw a small gap in the trees which led to the grassy open flats of the Upper Eglington Valley.

It was well into the afternoon and some of the flats were still thick with frost from that morning. This was an icy sign of the coldness I would have to deal with later – cool!

I wandered across the open flats and at one stage my foot didn’t push down on firm ground like I thought, instead my boot dropped into an icy pool of water. Without realising it I had walked out onto a boggy area, which had a frozen layer acting like a trap for unsuspecting visitors.

Now with a cold wet foot, I cautiously continued on, watching where every step went as I carefully continued further up the valley. The wilderness has a wicked sense of humour!

Many times I have gone on a camping mission and found the perfect camping spot, but it always seems to be on the other side of a river or lake or bog. This time it was a braid of the Eglington River acting as the last barrier. The perfect spot was on an island with the river flowing either side, so it was time to get the other boot wet…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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