Woolshed Hill(1429m) – A Classic Kiwi Climb

“On a Mish” #41 The Wilderness Above the Waimakariri. Woolshed Hill(1429m). Arthurs Pass National Park. 29.6.2016. Arthurs Pass National Park is relatively small compared to other National Parks in Aotearoa, but it has so much to offer explorers and a huge variety of landscapes for those who love a good view. Many times I have ventured into the park, and many times I have returned after another successful mish…

This was a quick mountain fix mission during a strangely warm and snowless winter 2016, and was less than 24 hours from start to finish (including driving). The start of this ‘Classic Kiwi Tramping Track’ is located at the Hawdon Valley Campsite and my plan was an afternoon climb of Woolshed Hill(1429m), then spend the night camping at the Hawdon Valley Campsite.

As I crossed Mt White Bridge over the Waimakariri River I only had 10 meters visibility due to a thick blanket of fog covering the Waimakariri Valley. A normal occurrence during the winter in the large valley, I hoped for the best and continued on towards the start of the track.

I got to the campsite / start of the track, and the fog hanging in the air gave the forest a creepy haunted feeling. I headed off from the campsite quickly, and as I made my way up through the beech forest the fog began to clear, and once above the treeline I had excellent views which was an instant shot of motivation.

From my elevated position I could see most of the way up Hawdon Valley where shaded areas still glimmered with permi-frost. There wasn’t much snow on the tops but the temperature and wind chill reminded me it was still winter in the New Zealand mountains, but luckily the climb and my gear had kept me warm throughout the adventure.

I hiked the last section of the ridge up to the summit and could now see all the way up towards the Main Divide, and in the east the mighty Waimakariri making its way through the foot-hills to the Canterbury Plains. The cloud in the lower valley was now just an afterthought, and I enjoyed the view from the top of the hill. As the sun disappeared behind the mountains in the west the temperature plummeted and this made me quicken my pace to stay warm.

I made my way back down the track towards Hawdon Valley Campsite, and to speed things up I took what I thought would be an excellent short cut. As the track had zigzagged it’s way up through the forest I thought if I just made a beeline straight down the hill I should get back to the campsite much quicker, I was very wrong. I had cut down off the track too early, and I spent the next 45 mintues or so stumbling around in the forest looking for the track. As soon as I got back to my car I got my tent out and up, then quickly collected firewood as a light frost began to form in exposed places.

I spent the night huddled by the fire in the cold air before retreating to the warmth of my sleeping bag.

A clear night meant a heavy frost the next morning and the inside of the tent was as frozen as the outside! Quick, cool, cold and keeping me outta trouble, this was a good idea!

An early-ish start the next morning had me packing up the frozen tent (shaking off as much ice as possible), and then I drove carefully back to Christchurch very aware of the possibility of black ice on the frosty roads. Coldness definitely slows everything down, but it does give you a chance to check out the scenery.

I Left Christchurch at 1pm and returned back home by 10.30am the next day. Another perfect ‘Quick Fix Mish‘. This one was extra awesome as the view from the top gave me a chance to see other peaks I had climbed over my time in the area. It is just the type of adventure that makes you want to return for more…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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