The Creations of the Mountain Gods (Part Four) – Phil’s Bivvy (Bivvy to Hollyford Road)

“On a Mish” #400 The Creations of the Mountain Gods (Part Four). Phil’s Bivvy (Bivvy to Hollyford Road). 22.4.2016. Not all mountains are created equal, some are big, some are really just hills. While many believe that biggest is best, I am a fan of a range that might not be biggest, but definitely holds the title of steepest. The Darran Mountains aren’t the largest peaks in Aotearoa but they certainly do make you feel small, and they also appear as if the Mountain Gods took a little bit more time and care when carving out this magnificent masterpiece standing tall in the North-East corner of Fiordland National Park…

It’s not often that you see the roof reflected on the floor. During the night heavy rain had soaked the area and also created a little lake inside one side of the bivvy. We quickly realised why there is more effort put into the other side of the bivvy. It seemed more open and exposed to us (we only had a quick glance at it after our late arrival to the bivouac), but it is the place you want to be when rain visits the Lake Adelaide Basin. Before we had breakfast we relocated, and were very thankful that the water hadn’t got to where we were sleeping.

Hats off to the weather forecast as we did expect rain, but it was only supposed to last a day or so. We had plenty of food (and water was no issue!) so we spent the day exploring the area and taking in the views from above the bivvy. You realise how bold and brave the first climbers were when taking on the challenge of one of the many cliffs in the area. And the area’s pinnacle, Mt Sabre, seems to go up forever when you’re standing at its base.

As the day drifted on the rain slowly eased, and by evening the sky was beginning to clear. So far, we hadn’t done much climbing, so we were looking forward to the clear spell coming our way as we retreated to our sleeping bags, which were now located on the other side of the bivvy. We didn’t even need the tent and from the bivouac we gazed at the many stars shining above Fiordland.

Our last sunset from Phils Bivvy

Early-ish the next day we were up boiling water for a freeze-dry breakfast meal. The gas went out half-way through and it was time to break out our last gas bottle. It would seem we couldn’t escape the drama, even at this point of the mish. I started to screw the burner onto the gas bottle, and it just kept spinning. The gas bottle had a faulty thread and was of no use to us, this was a big issue as we only had freeze-dried meals left!

The decision was made (we really had no choice) to hike all the way out to the Hollyford Road and then spend the night at Gunns Camp. We had some ground to cover and the majority of it was tough trekking. Fuelled by a muesli bar we began what was going to be a big day.

A positive factor about retracing your steps is it how much faster you can travel. We were now familiar with the route and, with very little trouble, we were soon at the bottom end of Lake. We foolishly tried to find a route through the mounds of moraine, and after a lot of up and down we realsied why the route to the upper valley sticks to the bases of the cliffs on the west side of the lake.

With light beginning to fade we crossed the Hollyford River, and our mish was nearly over. The final part was the short drive up the road to Gunns Camp, and the cabin we hired became a haven for sleeping. The next day we finally had time to digest what we had just been through, and even with all of the drama the mish has gone down as one of my most favourite. We might have had the odd thing not go to plan, but that’s life in the mountains and being able to adapt is key. I will never forget the time I hiked to Phils Bivvy with my girlfriend, it was the time when I saw the creations of the Mountain Gods and I made my favourite pages of the Darran Mountain Guidebook come to life!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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