Winter and Somers – Mt Somers Camp

“A Mish a Day” #103 Mt Somers Camp. Hakatere Conservation Area.10.7.2017. When flying into Christchurch from the west it is always fascinating seeing the abrupt stoppage of mountains as they reach the vast stretches of the Canterbury Plains. One of the dominate mountain castles standing on the west edge of the Plains is the famous pyramid-shaped peak of Mt Somers(1688m). I have had many adventures up and around here, and one chilly morning I found myself driving in the direction of Staveley, with the plan of camping high up on the South Face of Mt Somers(1688m)…

The forest and aspects of the Sharplin Falls car park mean the area is in a state of permafrost during the dark months of winter, and a chill came over the car as I drove in and parked up. I warmed up quickly with the climb on the frosty ground up and over Hookey Knob(731m), and from here finding the motivation to climb higher with all my camping gear was easy as I started to get awesome views across the Canterbury Plains. The track was snow covered from Staveley Hill(1085m), and from here I turned off the South Face Track and onto the Mt Somers Summit Track. I had some interesting moments climbing up a frozen section of creek, which still had water running underneath the ice, before finding what I would imagine to be the last area of flat ground until reaching the summit ridge. I had to clear away snow to make a good spot and the effort was worth it. From my elevated perch I enjoyed a warm meal, and took in the view of Canterbury far below me. The magnificent blood orange sunset was bettered by the incredible fire and the red with hints of dark purple sunrise the next morning.

Afternoon Shade Chilling my Campsite on Mt Somers

In the brilliant light early-ish in the morning, I could see that the sunrise was a very clear message that the calm patch of weather was over. And it looked like an angry winter storm system was going to return to repaint the mountains an icy white. There was no time for coffee as I wrestled with my tent in the increasing wind. My packing wasn’t pretty, but all my gear was (mostly) in my pack and I was ready to get off the mountain. The first and most challenging part of the mission was to down climb the frozen creek, and as I repetitively slipped onto my backside, I cursed the fact I hadn’t brought my crampons. After this I used the steps through the snow I had made the day before, and after Staveley Hill(1085m) it was a simple but very windy stroll back down to Sharplin Falls car park. As if waving me goodbye, the forest swung back and forth with each strong gust of wind, and the car park was a relieving sight. Even though I didn’t get to the top of Mt Somers(1688m) I still had a blast, and most importantly I got some amazing sunset / sunrise pictures!

An ominous sunrise from camp on Mt Somers

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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