Up Avalanche Peak

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 15, 2005

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, November 11, 2005

The weather is beautiful this morning. Hoping it stays so for just a few more hours, I rush to get ready and head up Avalanche Peak. Around 9:30 I leave the visitors center and turn up the small path near the sign. The path is fairly obvious while in the trees. Every so often there's an orange triangle nailed to a tree to assure you don't walk off a cliff into the creek. The occasional Kea (hawk-like bird) are the only signs of animal life during the entire trek. About halfway up, I come out of the trees and into the open (and windy) scrub brush area. I meet a couple of Irish guys who camped the night in one of the nearby valleys. The walk continued upwards and the trail is becoming more rocky, and less obvious. Eventually it becomes getting from to the next post by the easiest way I can see. About 130m from the top, I had to start walking across some snowdrifts. The easiest way seemed to be following other people's footprints that were still in the snow. Despite this, I sunk down to my knee in snow a couple of times. Finally, near the peak, the snow gave way to the persistently strong winds. It's rather scary walking on the "death on both sides" ridges with the wind trying to send you and your wind breaker over the edge. Often I pause behind the rocks during breaks in the wind. The option to fall on the ground is always available but the rocks are sharp shale that sticks up at a 65 degree angle to the horizon.

The view in all directions is movie set type of mountains. In one direction is a group of snow covered mountains, in another are shrub covered mountains. To the west is the ridge trailing off into the distance. I can see a couple about a kilometer away walking towards me on the ridge ever so slowly. The wind is bitterly cold on my hands and eyes, but I manage to take a few short videos of the intensity before heading down a few meters to eat my sandwiches. As I'm eating I notice small lichens growing in the cracks of the rocks on the leeward side (the side I climbed). It's hard to imagine anything living at the very peak of a mountain like this, but clearly it happens.

The path down is never quite so fun as going up. It's always colder because my body doesn't produce as much heat when descending as when climbing. The path down followed a more shallow descent and went along a rocky ridge line (windy) for quite a ways. It was a blessing when the tree line finally arrived signaling the halfway point. The rest of the way was peaceful and lengthy. The views of the punchbowl waterfalls were fairly spectacular from a distance. Once at the bottom, I quickly made my way back to the hostel about 500m away. After cleaning up, I spent a relaxing evening talking to my British and Canadian friends again. In the end, it seems we are all heading north so we decide to team up and hike the 51km Abel Tasman Coastal track. It's listed as one of New Zealand's great tracks, so it should prove to be fun. I'm glad this came up as my previous plan was to just wander up a town or two each day looking around.
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