The Weather Says When (Part Three) – Mt Barber(1364m)

“On a Mish” #32 The Weather Says When (Part Three). Mt Barber(1364m). Fiordland National Park. 11.2.2018. To arrive at a summit is a feeling like no other. Going from tired to elated the moment you top out is a strange sensation that I love to repeat. Although you are only halfway through the mish, the feeling when standing on a summit is one of achievement and joy. My favourite parts of this planet are the bits that stand tall above the flat ground below. In Fiordland there are many remote places like this and most are a challenge to get to. Also most bear the scars of being battered by the weather constantly. The wind torn exposed rock of the Fiordland tops is a real reminder that the weather is in change and the weather says when it is time to leave…

Standing on the top of Mt Barber(1364m) was right up there with the best as far as summit views go. It isn’t the biggest mountain in Fiordland, far from it. But the unique location means incredible views of mountains usually only seen from aircraft. The elation of elevation was flowing through me like the rivers that run fall below me.

By the time I began my journey back to camp it was late afternoon and I could see the sun was on its final downward journey towards the Tasman Sea. I made my way over the undulating terrain and heard the mischievous call of the New Zealand mountain hooligan, the Kea. I was immediately nervous and feared for my tent and gear. I have had a couple of ‘interesting encounters’ with these very inquisitive birds so I was forced to reluctantly run up the last section of Peak 1248m back to my camp. When I got there I was greeted home by two sneaky Kea chilling out on the roof of my tent! Thankfully no damage as yet, and I managed to make the most of the meeting with alpine wildlife photos.

As I cooked dinner I saw the last of the day’s light on the Patea / Doubtful Sound. I knew that I would have many different memories now when looking up at Wilmot Pass. I would finally have a peak in the Deep Cove area that I could say that I had climbed.

A good sleep was exactly what my weary body needed so it didn’t take long for me to drift off to sleepytown and begin dreaming about the next adventure.

I was up early-ish the next morning to the sound of tent fabric flapping in the wind. The sky was dark apart from an evil red glow in the east. The weather / sunrise was telling me it was time to leave. As the area around me began to light up I knew it was only a matter of time before Mother Nature unleashed her fury on Fiordland.

I was in an almost excited panic, as I could see the clouds rolling up the fiord from the Fiordland Coast. This looked awesome but was also an intimidating sign of what was heading my way. After one of my fastest packdowns ever I threw everything into my pack and as I was zipping it up I felt the first spits of rain. Light drizzle very quickly turned into heavy rain and I was in the worst location to be in when the rain rolled in for a visit. It was time to descend and descend as quickly as possible.

As I began to make my way down the rain stepped up its tempo and within about half an hour the water was starting to run over top of the land below my feet. By the time I got to the bluffed sections (steepest parts) of the route there were small creeks and waterfalls starting to flow in the grooves carved into the mountainside. Now the route itself was a fast flowing creek and I had no way of avoiding the water. Things were getting ‘interesting’ very quickly.

Although the route is marked it is much easier to see when going up and now along with the rain I had to deal with a lack of visibility. I lost the track at one point due to avoiding some of the fast flowing water but instead of getting my bearings and relocating it I decided to down-climb a very vertical section of scrub and rock. I could see a spot that looked familiar from the day before, so I began to carefully clamber downward towards the track. At one point a branch I was standing on broke which sent me toppling backwards. I think I might have done a backwards roll as I tumbled through the foliage. Eventually I shuddered to a hold as my pack thankfully got tangled in the bushes. I am so thankful that the bushes stopped me and not the hard ground that was below the bluff. I untangled myself from the mess of Mountain Holly and moss, and then took a few moments to recollect what had just happened. Another near miss in the mountains and to talk about some day!

With hopefully the last of the unwanted excitement out of the way, I spotted a track marker and got back onto the proper route down to Wilmot Pass. Finally I got back to the road, and managed to wave down an empty coach. The driver was a lady I had worked with many times but in my bush covered, hood-up soaking wet state I knew she couldn’t tell who I was! Eventually I convinced her to pull over and it was then I knew my mish was over.

My adventure was as challenging as expected, but like on so many missions in the mountains of Fiordland, there were factors that I had no control over. Even though I was only a stone’s throw away from the busy road it still felt like I was in a super remote place, and this feeling was turned up greatly once the rain arrived. The weather definitely is boss in Fiordland and the weather says when it is time to leave or face the wrath of some of the world’s wildest weather!!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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