Walking off the Map – Lost (Part 2)

“A Mish a Day” #43 (Part 2) Lost. Hakatere Conservation Area. 26.6.2012. I was asked to help my Sister and Nephew get ready for their hike on the Able Tasman Track, and with experience in the wilderness I made sure they were ready for anything. After 124 guided walks on the Routeburn Track, and plenty more on other tracks in the South Island I have seen many people tackling our mountain environment with no idea of the risk they were putting themselves in. I worried that I might end up reading about some of them in the paper. It didn’t bother me that my sister told me they carried items they never used, better than a hypothermic story about wishing you had more gear! Along with its stunning beauty, our alpine environment can turn a warm summer day into a snow-laced blizzard very quickly. There is a reason why the majority of New Zealand’s populated areas are on our coasts. But back to my trip…

I now found myself under the shelter of a snow-covered matagouri, and not in the cosy confinement of a hut. I now always carry a bivvy bag, so I’m always prepared for an unexpected overnight stop anywhere. But back in 2012 I wasn’t as prepared, and now I had to work out how I was going to get some sleep in my interesting predicament. I had to improvise a bivvy bag by sleeping with my sleeping bag in my plastic pack-liner, and lying on top of my pack. It was surprisingly warm under the Matagouri, and somehow I managed to get some sleep.

First light on the twin peaks of Mt Potts(2184m)

Very early-ish the next day I opened my semi frozen eyes to the sight of Mt Potts’ snow-covered twin peaks lit up by a very bright moon. I was up at 5am to see the first light on all the other impressive peaks in the area, then packed up my “camp” under the matagouri bush. The plan was to retrace my footsteps in the snow from the day before, and get back to my car at Paddle Hill car park. The snow made it easy to retrace my steps and I discovered I had walked just over 23km to get to my matagouri shelter. The unexpected journey was much further than I had planned to travel so the total round trip was 46km of plugging through snow. This meant I was late returning to my car so past the panic time I had left with my parents. After driving back into reception I was bombarded with text messages and missed calls and notifications and learnt that Jeremy had a helicopter on standby if needed for a rescue / recovery mission! Whoops! The mission taught me many things, and I am happy to have had the experience to teach me to be more prepared in the future. I have been back to the area many times after getting lost, and even spent a few nights at Boundary Creek Hut, the hut I never got to on the first attempt. Things could have been a lot worse if the weather had changed, so I was very lucky. Looking back now on many occasions I have laughed at what happened, and will never forget my unplanned night under a matagouri bush! 

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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