Another amazing week in Canterbury – the Summer is coming on strongly and I made the most of it by heading into the Hakatere Valley towards Lake Clearwater. The weather was cloudy over Canterbury but breaks of blue sky for the rest of mountains – ready for Mt Barossa, Mt Guy and Mt Harper – three planned for the day.
The first peak of the day was Mt Barrosa at 1364m (and spelt differently everywhere I look!). I started from the Blowing Point on Ashburton Gorge Road – a DOC car park ready and waiting for my arrival with access along the river and all the way up to the summit. The cloud was down to about 800m, but you could see the main rocky ridge disappear nicely into the white – marking out my ascent route perfectly. From then onwards, it was anyone’s guess what the weather was going to be like in the cloud.
Starting from the fields, overlooked by Sandy Knob, I felt strong and knew this was going to be enjoyable. For this run, I decided not to take any water along for the ride as I’d hydrated pretty well on the way there having to stop numerous times on the way…
The start of the climb wasn’t too bad – a track led the way up to the main ridge – which got quite steep, but manageable with only a few rocky outcrops to clamber over. These were below the cloud and route-finding wasn’t an issue. Above this, the cloud got thicker, but the gradient levelled off into something more reminiscent of the Scottish fells – with tussocks and long grass taking over from ‘spaniards’ and rocky clumps.
It was quite a lonely plod up the hill after this point, having to get my bearings every 5 minutes or so to make sure I was heading the correct direction. Though, after about 45 minutes, I’d broken the back of it and was on the final push to the summit.
The cloud also started to break up, and the blue shone through – with incredible views of the surrounding peaks – the Clent Hills, Arrowsmith Range and Mt Potts and Peel completing the panorama. The last few 100m of cllimb were stunning and a well deserved peak photo at the summit – way under an hour.
Peak 42, Mt Barossa – Done.
The descent was a little eerie… I pushed it down some parts of scree and across the tussocks towards the direction of the car – but wasn’t sure in the cloud which spur I was taking. At one point I had to take a few moments to check the altitude on my Garmin to make sure I hadn’t descended too much before the rocky outcrops and was heading in the wrong way… thankfully I was correct and hit the spur right on the money.
The rocky descent was tough on the legs, but the track was in sight along with the Hakatere valley. Down in no time and onto Peak #43.
It was only a short drive to Lake Clearwater and the sky now clear and vibrantly ocean-coloured. Not only that, but My Guy (1319m) stood out like a beacon and looked steep… little did I know.
So Mt Guy sits on the north eastern banks of Lake Clearwater, a lovely holiday village out in the plains, and rises up to a flat summit area (about the same size as the village). I started the run along the southern shoreline along the circuit track – which was a lovely route, undulating but nothing to bother the legs.
The summit track then diverges off the northern track and ascends 400m pretty much vertically along what I’m going to call Death Canyon. It was a struggle, especially in the heat – and yet again I’d opted out of taking water on the trip (but had rehydrated properly in-between runs). Anyhow, my legs took an absolute beating on the climb and it got rockier and steeper – not what I’d expected from my quick glance at the map.
About half way up I felt sick and tired. I stopped – the first time in a while from exhaustion and contemplated turning round. I had an internal screaming match…THIS IS NOT AN OPTION – especially when you’re half way up! …along with the age old battle of “Must Stop Now” and “Keep Going You Idiot” inside your head, which I’m sure most ultra runners get from time to time.
Anyway, I had a munch on an energy bar – got my wits back together and carried on running to the summit.
I made it, although jogging slowly, but still touched the trig point within the hour and was satisfied with the day – definitely NOT going to do Mt Harper – even though it looked VERY tempting in the sunshine, my body was smashed.
Still, the descent was much faster than the ascent and was back down at Lake Clearwater within minutes. Epic. Then just a run along the shore, getting dust in my face from the local fishermen driving along the track – and back for some pineapple chunks….mmmmmmmmmmmm!
Peak 43: Mt Guy. Done.
Roll On Summer!