Camping in a Blizzard (Part Four) – Whiskey Trail to The Divide

“On a Mish” #305 Camping in a Blizzard (Part Four). Whiskey Trail to The Divide. Fiordland National Park. 13.10.2021. To witness Mother Nature’s full-on fury first hand is rememberable to say the least. Sideways snow driven by power wind can make you realise who’s in control out in the wild. Luckily, these days we have excellent clothing and equipment to deal with what’s thrown at us. That is why every now and then I like to head out into this than favourable weather and see the snowy show. It might not be for everyone, but I found out what camping in a blizzard on the ridge beyond Key Summit (Routeburn Track) was really like…

When I was a guide on the Routeburn Track (or any of the other tracks) we hiked with the customers no matter what the weather was doing (unless the rain made the track unusable). My goal was to get the clients as pumped as possible even if clouds obscured the view and the rain gave our wet weather gear a good run for its money. The role gave me good appreciation for Fiordland weather and showed me that a wander when the weather is doing what most people dread.

With my snow brick wall completed I could finally kick off my semi-frozen boots and get into my tent for the last time, and it was good timing as the looming black clouds to the south finally arrived. The motivation of getting a good night’s rest had given me the strength to sort out my sleeping situation. Once my work was complete my body totally shut down and I could only eat half of my dinner before I had to retreat to the warmth of my sleeping bag due to exhaustion.

My Wind-break Made of Snow

At first, I fell asleep due to a mix of my meds and being the most tired I had been for a long time. About an hour later I was shaken away by blasts of southerly winds. My windbreak was preventing my tent from collapsing however, what I did think about was the wind swirling around and sneaking into my shelter from the storm. In hindsight I should have built a wall around the entire tent and not just the side the wind was hitting. Every day we learn something new! The rest of the night the storm raged on and I had a series of short rests each time the wind eased a little.

Early-ish the next day I peered out of my tent to see any signs of my movement in the snow had been covered over. My wall had taken a beating but had successfully stood strong against its wild windy foe. I was very sore and tired but with one look around there was no where else I’d rather be than in Fiordland on a wintery mish!

I packed up my gear and began my hike back down to the Divide car park. On the way I bumped into the occupant of the lone tent on the ridge. He told me that every so often he would look up to where I was camping and see nothing by dark clouds engulfing the ridge, he was amazed to learn that someone was up there loving every minute of it. I bid my fellow ridge mate farewell and continued, eventually reaching my car with my fuel and battery life on empty.

Overall, the experience was excellent, and it showed me how awesome my Marmot Tungsten really is no matter what is going on outside. I was safe and warm even when a storm was lashing where I was attempting to camp. It might not be for everyone, but camping in a blizzard can be a way of showing yourself that when out in the wild Mother Nature calls the shots and us humans just must hope we have good enough gear to withstand her wild fury!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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