The Coolest Coldness (Part Three) – Upper Eglington Camping

“On a Mish” #292 The Coolest Coldness – Part Three. Upper Eglington Valley. Fiordland National Park. 12.7.2021. I’d much rather tackle the challenges of a cold winter day over a scorching hot summer day. Chucking another layer of clothing on is much easier than dealing with the heat in the mountains. Another thing I love about the cold is the way it can transform an environment into a completely different place. Snow and ice always make for awesome photos, so to get those photos you’ll have to deal with the cold. Coldness is the coolest!

My night was certainly a cold one. My breath was thick in the air, and the rocks on the outer circle of my fire were starting to ice up even with the fire burning only inches away! Eventually my body craved warmth so I headed back to my tent to retreat to my sleeping bag. I could see the tent’s fly already had a solid layer of frost on it and the ice dust shimmered in the air as I broke through the frozen layer.

When I go camping during the winter I prepare myself for very cold temperatures, and this way I know I’ll be warm and toasty during my time out and about, and most importantly when I get into bed to sleep. My winter sleeping set up is a sleep sheet, 600 loft down inner sleeping bag, 4 seasons Mountain Designs outer sleeping bag and I wrap it all up in a gore-tex bivvy bag. With this collection of sleeping warmth I am able to tackle temperatures well below zero.

Before I dove into bed I took one last look at the creamy clusters of constellations that covered the entire night sky. The stars are amazing above Fiordland, however on this night I was after warmth over twinkling balls of light billions of miles away.

Now satisfied with how I spent the afternoon, it was time to go to sleep wondering what the sunrise was going to be like.

I woke a couple of times during the night and each time I had to completely wrap myself up in my sleeping gear, for the night was bitterly cold. Lying in my many sleeping bags I could see the cold starting to cover everything, it was a chilly night out to say the least. In the low light I could see the glimmer of the layer of ice that coated both the inside and outside of my tent.

Early-ish the next morning I woke to the dread of any camping experience in the morning, getting out of my sleeping bag to use the bush facilities. Outside was a winter world of cold coolness.

Any moisture was frozen solid, and apart from the green of the trees everything was a glistening white. The tussock on the flats sparkled in the dim light and hung low with the weight of the thick icy layer of frost. I was stunned into uncontrollable yaahoos at the glorious morning vista.

I was up just before dawn, and as light was slowly introduced to the Upper Eglington Valley the temperature dropped even lower. I’m guessing it was around -10 or so, and as time went on a film of ice formed on my tent that looked like a layer of white fur.

The day’s forecast was for a weather change in the morning, bringing rain to the area, so I had to get packed up before it arrived unless I wanted to add rain to the frost. This forced eviction from the area meant packing up my ice covered tent at the coldest / most icy point of the morning, a real challenge for my already cold hands. I took the fly off and shook off the ice which went flying into the air as a fine powder. Cramming the tent into its bag really ensured my hands got completely covered in powder ice, luckily my gloves were up to the task.

After packing up I base farewell to my incredible temporary home, then began the hike back to my car.

I had to recross the braid of the Eglington River to get off the little island I had camped on, and luckily the river was running low due to the cold temperatures. This meant I could trot through the water and only get splashed a little bit, and more importantly my chilly feet remained dry. After the crossing it was an easy stroll back through the open beech forest to my car.

The mission was an absolute frozen visual delight, which is only possible to see during the coldest days of winter. If you think winter is just cold and miserable then why don’t you try wrapping yourself up as warm as possible and heading out to see the coolness of coldness?

A Sunrise Masterpiece in the Eglington Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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