The Middle of the Field (Part Two) – Central Peak(1912m)

“On a Mish” #37 The Middle of the Field (Part Two). Central Peak(1912m). Hakatere Conservation Area. 18.6.2016. I’m sure many climbers have found themselves returning to the same area time and time again, and each time they have ticked off another peak. This was the case for me in the magnificent mountains that stand above the old Erewhon Park Ski Area. By the winter of 2016 I had climbed to the left, right, back and front of the area and now I was back to climb the peak that stood proudly in the middle of the field…

Standing at only 1912m, the mountain is a couple hundred metres shorter than its lofty neighbours, however it doesn’t look very small when standing at its base – spike of rock and ice waiting to be climbed.

I had a good challenge in front of me and I was excited to put tools into ice. The first bite of my crampons into ice makes me feel like I could overcome anything put in my way.

After a simple snow slope I began to climb small gullies which steepened the higher I got. At points I had to stash my ice axes and use my hands. Eventually I could see that I wasn’t far from the top, and a glance back at the large drop underfoot helped me find the strength to drag myself up to easier ground.

After getting off the south face I had a short walk to the summit. What looked like an easy wander turned into a desperate struggle with a very deep snow drift. In hindsight I should have stuck to the rocks that surrounded the drift, but in my defence it looked so easy before I plunged into it. After using up most of my energy ploughing a trail through the deep snow I finally stood on the rocky summit of Erewhon Park’s Central Peak.

Looking at Mt Potts from Central Peak

The view looking down the hanging valley was outstanding and was of a place I knew very well. The numerous braids of the Rangitata River quickly took my mind off my aching calf and quad muscles, and also reminded me about the wind. Plumes of dust were getting wiped up and blasted down the valley. Climbing on the eastern aspects of the mountain meant I had spent the morning out of the wind, and after topping out I was exposed, very exposed.

I descended via the backside of the mountain, and as I plugged steps in the fresh snow I really wished I had brought my snowboard. Apart from the wind the snow was excellent, with light fluffy powder sitting on top of a solid base.

Below Central Peak(1912m) is the former site of the main ski area, and wandering through the remains of the rope tows gives the place an eerie feeling of abandonment. It was as close to a ghost ski field as you could get, and with the wind blasting the area I could almost hear the voices of the past as they enjoyed ripping around on their skis.

I had to keep my crampons on until the lower reaches of the bulldozed track down the mountain. The wind and shade had turned parts of the track into solid ice and a slip wouldn’t be recommended.

Once off the snow I could jog the rest of the track back down to my car. With increasingly darkening skies I was happy to be done. The first spots of rain were falling as I made my way along the dirt road back into the real world. It had been less than 24 hours and I had had an excellent night at Lake Clearwater Village and also climbed a mountain. In my eyes I had used my spare time well and now, along with many of the other mountains, I had climbed the peak that stands right in the middle of the field…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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