Tackling Peaks Around Wanaka

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10/02/08
Hi gang. Well, here I am, about to tell you about my day off in Wanaka. Not exactly a true day off, as I decided to tackle the Skyline Track, a hike that takes you up two mountains to some great 360 degree views of the whole area, and is supposed to take 10-11 hours. Well, I don’t know what the people that take that long are doing, as it took me less than 4 and a half hours. Of course, that is moving time, as my total time was more like 5.5 to 6 hours, with my snack and picture breaks. Still, as you can imagine, I was going a bit fast on my way up. I can’t help it. My biking legs just want to climb mountains faster these days I guess. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself as usual. Feel free to check out the map, and the pictures, as well as read on to hear a bit more about my day in the hills.

For starters, the weather wasn’t what I’d call ideal summiting conditions. It was overcast when I got up, and things only got worse throughout the day. The trail start was 6km out of town one way, and 10km out of town the other way, so taking my bike to the start wasn’t really a good option, and I didn’t feel like booking a shuttle bus. So, as you might guess, I opted to hitch out to the start, and then back to the town when I was finished. As usual, I was picked up on both ends by locals. It’s always nice, since you get to chat with them for a bit, and learn a little bit more about the area. Before I knew it, I was at the trail start. Another fellow was about to start as well, a gentlemen from Ireland. I left before him, but not by much, and he was basically my shadow all the way up to the first peak, Mount Roy. I was very impressed. We passed probably 10 other climbers on our way up. Every time I looked back, I could see him working his way up, even jogging a few sections. Of course it’s not a race, but I felt like I had to get up first, so I did. I waited for him at the peak, and we chatted for a bit.

Apparently, he always does things pretty fast and hard, as all his friends back home said. He likes to work up a sweat, and I’m sure he did, because I was soaked. Of course, by now, the rain had started as well, and we both had to break out our jackets. His plan was actually just to do the first summit, and then descend and walk back to town, which is the Mount Roy track. Mine was to carry on to the more challenging sections of the Skyline Track, and finish it. I was a little worried, as the weather was deteriorating, with heavy cloud cover and rain, and the signs warned the next section was an exposed alpine section. However, I decided to press on an turn back if needed. This next part was by far my favourite, and I actually think it was more thrilling in this weather. I was walking the knife edge of the ridgeline, with pretty substantial drops on one side or the other at any time, with nothing but clouds below. Thankfully, they have actually poled the route through this section now, so I could usually just make out the next orange marker which would help me keep my bearings.

Mount Alpha, the second peak, took me 30 minutes from Mount Roy. Sadly, there was no view afforded to me. However, I was still loving the hike, so I accepted this as the way things would be for the day. It didn’t stop me from taking pictures, as you can see. Another 20 minutes after Mount Alpha, I ran into a group of 4 hikers that were coming up from the other way. It was actually the crew that had given me a lift to the start point. They were very surprised to see me there, and with how fast I got there. They thought that I must have run. I swear I didn’t though. That only came later 🙂 We chatted for a bit, then they were off. I ventured off track here for a bit, going up another little peak, hoping the sky would clear, but no luck. Had another sandwich, and started my way back down towards the creek that would lead to the end of the track.

I gotta tell you, going downhill hurts much worse than going uphill does to me. My knees and calves were screaming as I made my way down slowly from 1600m back down to the valley below. This section was where I decided to do a little light jogging to train a bit. Any sort of flat sections I’d break into the AR jog-shuffle, since I wanted to be back by a certain time to make some phone calls and book some stuff for tomorrow. The last part of the track was all on a farmer’s land, and I saw sheep, cows, rams, and even deer! What fun. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of coming across a group of cows on my path. They’re big animals, and if they chose to take a run at me, I’m pretty sure I’d get the worse end of that encounter. Luckily, they are usually more scared of me than I them, and they run away. I’m always amazed how fast cows can run when they want to. When I come across Bulls though, I do my best to give them a very wide berth.

The end of the track was quite funny. There was a little gate built into the fence where you crawl through, and then you’re just ejected onto the highway. There’s no car park or anything. On the plus side, I was able to get hitchhiking, and in no time, was picked up by a kiwi couple on the way back from a wedding in Queenstown. They were listening to Arcade Fire, and saw my Canadian flag and picked me up. I guess it pays to be a Canuck at times. Tonight I’m off to the movies again I think. I was told it’s a must do here. The theatre is like a lounge, with old couches, sofas, recliners, etc. There’s even an old car that you can sit in if you’d like. The projector is actually a wick-burning light source thing, and there is intermission. If you pre-order food, it comes at intermission, like Curries, or fresh cookies or hand-made ice-cream. Sounds like a nice treat for my post-workout evening. Tomorrow, I’m booked for a full day of canyoning, where I get to abseil into and behind waterfalls, and do cliff jumps and slides, etc. etc. Should be fun. Till then, take care.

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