The Top of the Routeburn Track – Conical Hill(1515m)

“On a Mish” #284 Conical Hill(1515m). Routeburn Track. Fiordland / Mt Aspiring National Park. 27.2.2010. Although a life as a guide isn’t going to make you rich, it will reward you each day with the fact you’re doing something people pay good money to do. Being a wilderness addict means the need for the wild is so strong that it incorporates not only your free time but your work life as well. From day one working with Ultimate Hikes I knew I had found my calling. Getting paid and fed while strolling along some of the world’s best hiking trails is a bloody good job!

I have always thought the Grand Traverse – Greenstone track to Routeburn Track – is Ultimate Hikes best product (for both clients and guides). Slowly making your way towards the jagged snow covered peaks of Fiordland builds the enjoyment levels with each step. On the second to last day of the adventure you make your way along the Hollyford Face towards the Harris Saddle(1255m), and to the west of the saddle is the optional side-trip up Conical Hill(1255m). By this stage legs are working together in unison, and it is amazing how light you feel without a pack. Unless the weather is sideways rain / sleet / snow usually at least a couple of people will take on the additional challenge of Conical Hill(1515m). I will never forget my very first training trip where the guides crossed over a snow covered Hollyford Face to arrive at a very icy Harris Saddle(1255m).

From here we attempted to climb Conical Hill(1515m), and as we cut steps up the snow on the gut section of the route, the exposure got a little bit too much for a couple of the guides. I’m positive H&S wouldn’t let anything like that happen these days! On days when the weather is cooperating I could usually convince at least a small group to tackle the mountain with. The short, sharp climb gets the quads and calves grinding away, and at first the gut climb offers no views. This is a good thing for it keeps you pushing on further, and about halfway up the track reaches an excellent view point / rest break spot. Once we have caught our breaths it is time for the final push to the summit. For some it takes a while to get used to the gripy exposed granite rock on the last stretch, and if using your hands is what it takes to get you to the top that’s fine with me. On this mission we were in and out of clouds during the climb. For me this is what I dream about, and excuse the cliché but I do have to pinch myself sometimes to remind myself this is real and yes I am getting paid to be here! I’ll never forget sitting in the clouds with one of the clients, and we waited patiently for the cloud to clear. Unfortunately for everyone but us, the clouds cleared and we were the only ones of 28 (24 clients + 4 guides) who got to see the insanely good view from the top of Conical Hill(1515m). To anyone walking the Routeburn Track I highly recommend the side-trip up Conical Hill(1515m). Even if your legs say no, pushing through the pain to get to the top will be rewarded with some of the best of Fiordland / Mt Aspiring National Park’s you can get without being in a plane or chopper!

Lake Harris from Conical Hill(1515m)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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