The Familiar Unknown (Part Three). Turret Peak(1346m)

“On a Mish” #183 The Familiar Unknown (Part Three). Turret Range / West Arm. Fiordland National Park. 27.11.2017. The benefits of travel are helpful for mind, soul and fitness. And if all are combined then having an unenjoyable time is near to impossible. For me waking up in a tent is an excellent way to start your day. And waking up in a tent in Fiordland is even better, almost too good!

As was the plan before leaving the comforts of home, the weather had settled down during the night, and this meant I could get a good sleep and be ready for the ‘real mission’ in the morning.

An early-ish start was rewarded with perfect climbing weather conditions and a crispy frost on the ground. My new Kea friend was up enjoying the pristine morning with me and I was very happy with the situation I had put myself in.

My plan was to climb up and over Peak 1293m, then continue on to the larger Peak 1405, which stood a couple hundred metres beyond. On the topo map everything looked fairly straight forward, I thought it would be just hiking with a small amount of actual climbing.

This would probably be the case in summer however the weather from the day / night before had coated the mountains in the area with a good thick layer of snow, and this would become an icy issue in the not too distant future.

After getting going I wandered across the large plateau of Percy Saddle to the base of the ridge I was going to follow. Once on the ridge it was a case of one step forward, then sliding three steps back, as the fresh snow would build up under my boots and I would slide backwards as I made my way through the rocks of the bluffs at the base of the ridge.

I had my ice axe but no crampons as I felt like I would need them on a peak this elevated, silly mistake.

After getting to the summit of Peak 1298m, I looked along the ridge at the higher snow covered dome of Peak 1405m. I was already slipping and sliding around as it was, but the lure of a mountain’s summit can be so strong that it clouds your judgement. Summit fever is a terrible illness that has taken many lives.

So with temptation getting the better of me, I began to traverse the snow covered ridge towards my target.

I got to a cleft (gap in the ridge) which had to be sidled if I was going to continue on to Peak 1405m. I looked at the steep face I had to cross, then I looked at the massive drop of over 300m which finished with a plunge into an alpine lake. Almost immediately I saw the potential for disaster was off the scale, and the consequences of a slip would be fatal, guaranteed!

So after a brief battle with my stubborn mind I wisely chose life over death, and I turned around and headed back down to camp.

On my way back to camp I heard my new friend Mr Kea squawking away, and I really hoped he wasn’t helping himself to my tent and the goodies inside! It turned out the little fella was more curious about me and what I was up to in his mountains. A couple of times he would circle around me and then sit on a rock only a few metres away from me. It was amazing how tame he was, and he didn’t seem bothered about my presence, he was just happy to watch me hiking. I had the thought that maybe someone fed him at some stage, and now he looked at humans as walking food dispensaries! Unfortunately this has led to many Kea deaths over the time that humans have interacted with them. Even though the Kea is my favourite animal, he definitely wasn’t getting any food from me, no matter how long he hung around me.

I got back to my camp and was stoked to see everything in order, and more importantly no sign of Kea damage.

After packing up camp I headed back down the road to West Arm, and the return journey along the lone road through the mountains is a real highlight of the Percy Saddle experience. Hiking towards Leaning Peak(1477m), with Lake Manapouri far below is a real treat for your eyes and a view I will never tire of.

The area had made its way into the ‘mission-to-do’ section of my mind, and the whole time I was hiking back to the wharf I was planning future adventures to the now ‘familiar’ Percy Saddle and its magnificent surrounding mountains!

The Summit of Peak 1346m

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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