Camping in a Blizzard (Part One) – Te Anau to Routeburn / Key Summit Track

“On a Mish” #305 Camping in a Blizzard (Part One). Te Anau to Routeburn / Key Summit Track. Fiordland National Park. 12.10.2021. I find a type of bliss when camping, and nothing else seems to match the feeling. Being out on a mish in the wilderness with all your camping gear on your back is as good as it gets for me, and every time I finish a mish, I start thinking about the next one. I thought I had lost it all when I hurt my hip. However, when you really love doing something you do everything you can to keep going, even if there is a blizzard in the forecast…

It is ironic now to think of what I did with two slipped disks and a pinched nerve in my spine. When I briefly returned to work, I was unaware of how badly I had hurt my back. All the focus was on my hip initially, and thanks to the fact that my injury occurred just before the Covid-19 Lockdowns my recovery was all over the show. So my spinal injury wasn’t picked up until I had to stand down from work again after slipping over and giving my body a good bang when it hit the ground. Thinking back (pun intended), It was no wonder it hurt so much after each mish!

My job guiding at the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves, along with some other guiding work in Patea Doubtful Sound, wasn’t overly taxing. But I wasn’t loving the soreness after even a short day at work. Constant pain which can be easily aggravated by the smallest thing isn’t the best to live with, and every now and then I needed an escape from work, life, and populated places. My normal mode was to be grumpy and the only way to wipe the grimace off my face was to head into the outdoors. With work of course comes limited free-time and when a couple of days off rolled around, I wasn’t going to let the fact that there was a blizzard on its way deter me.

After gathering my gear, I began to drive towards a place that will make me feel happy no matter what, Fiordland National Park. My goal was to camp somewhere above the Key Summit Track and all I had to do was get there and get sheltered before the weather re-entered the game. I knew it was going to be a little bit snowy, but in this case a little became a lot.

Pre-Covid the Divide (Routeburn Track) car park used to be so full it would take some time to find a space. After Covid, finding a parking spot wasn’t an issue! Years of working on the Routeburn Track had got my senses used to the mayhem of the car park but on this mish, there was only one other car in the entire area. There weren’t many positives about the Covid virus, but an empty Routeburn Track was a real treat to encounter, and I knew that once the world went back to normal, Key Summit / Routeburn Track would return to its normal busy self.

I began to hike up the track and immediately I felt the discomfort of my broken bits. Luckily the start of the track is through a very eye-pleasing section of forest and this was enough to spark the mountain motivation. Once I got my first glimpse of a snow-covered Darran Mountain Range I stopped thinking about my aches and pains…

The Hollyford Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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