Peak 35: Mt Somers (Completed!)
After Mt Murchison, and a weekend of rain throughout the whole of New Zealand, I felt the need to get back into running now that the snow had apparently ceased falling. So there it was; yet another work-week full of rain in Christchurch and one of proper Springtime temperatures and Mt Somers seemed like a great choice after my previous failed attempt in the deepest snow Canterbury had seen in recent years.
Mt Somers lies just south of the Mt Hutt Range rising up to 1688m and it a well walked and explored peak for local Cantabrians. I decided to take the southern route from Sharpin Falls, past Hookey Knob, crossing Staveley Hill and up the summit track to the peak.
The weather was far from ideal and picturesque with rain on the drive out and cloud down to about 1000m when I started the run. Still, the temperature was great and the track was in better condition than previous months (having the same issue as Mt Richardson with heavy snow and storms felling trees and stopping access).
Anyhow, I started on my way up to Hookey Knob and into the new plantation area where you run through corridors of head high trees and bush feeling like you’re in a rabbit warren. It’s a great sense of adventure, especially when it all opens up and you see the vista behind (on this occasion I could literally see nothing in front of me due to the cloud level), but the sense of awe where the cloud hit the slopes was amazing!
So onwards to Staveley Hill at 1085m where the trail levels off for a short while before the steep climbing begins.
Here I decided to take it slower as I could see around 50m around me and didn’t want to head off in the wrong direction as the route wasn’t so clear…
…the route in the end was to run up a now flowing river (as there was lots of precipiation occuring in the clouds) and my feet were quickly soaked.
As the previous week had been warm and wet, I hadn’t contemplated there being snow on the slopes… but as I continued the snow started to appear at about 1100m… so me in my trail shoes probably wasn’t the most ideal. But I continued and it was pretty solid to stamp feet through and get a feel on the rocks and the ground beneath. I used my judgement to carry on into the cloud.
The route zig zags up the south-east face of Mt Somers and there is a lot of scrambling up rock sections, scree and tussock. I got my gloves on around half way up so I could use my hands in the snow and started on all fours to be more stable. As I got higher, the snow got deeper, which was perfect as the grip got better and I felt way more secure as I climbed above 1300m towards the summit ridge.
I got to the edge of the summit ridge and met a party of trampers, who were dressed in heavy waterproofs, gaiters and carrying ice axes and overnight packs – they probably thought I was mad, but we swapped pleasantries before I carried on into the cloud and into knee deep snow.
The ridgeline was quite thin with snow drifts along the way… after 5 or so minutes I’d made it across onto the summit plateau and saw the trig point 30-40m ahead of me. Success!! Peak 35.
I’d seen on people’s photos who had climbed Mt Somers last week that there was a momument on top – but I couldn’t see it through the thick cloud. I ran around for a while in the snow on the top like a headless chicken before I found the stone trig point – maybe that was the real summit?
So I took my obligatory peak photos before the weather got any worse, sliding and racing down the summit track. I passed the trampers around half way down the summit track and then it was all easy going back along the Southern Face of the Mt Somers Track.
The DOC signs say it’s a 5 1/2 hour trip one way (11 hour return) to the summit, so was pretty pleased to have run it in snow and poor visibility conditions in under 3 hours. Not bad for the 35th peak of the year!