Peak 24 (Attempt): Mt Richardson

After last week’s rest and gap due to terrible weather in the mountains, I decided to get an easier peak, hopefully managing to run the whole thing too instead of wallowing in deep snow.

A Chilly Start
A Chilly Start

So the peak chosen was Mt Robertson (1047m), part of the Oxford range of hills near the Ashley River north of Oxford itself.

The morning was rainy on the coast, but the further inland I ventured, the blue skie appeared. I started from the river and it was a chilly yet looked to be a stonking day in the hills.

I was running today with my new ‘lightweight’ pack – my old Salomon XA10+3… with my alterations to remove all unnecessary webbing, strapping, zips, stitching – to make it the lightest it could be… but more on that later this week.

The beginning was relitively tame compared to previous weeks, the track through the forest was wide and winding, like that of Mt Bovis on the West Coast and Kapakapanui in the Tararuas. I was unaware of what lay ahead and missed the sign at the bottom of the trail that indicated that there was a lot of windblown trees after the recent snowstorms which made the tracks “difficult” to access.

The view from Mt Thomas to Mt Richardson
The view from Mt Thomas to Mt Richardson

I pushed hard along the bottom of the valley and up towards the first climb, muddy but totally runnable, reminiscent of the Peak District and Lake District in the UK (but with the Tui singing it’s song in the background).

I had noticed on the first section of trail that DOC had been working hard on chopping holes through trees so that people could walk the path and assumed that this would be the case all the way to the summit. Unfortunately, the first hill was where I hit my first obstacle. A huge fallen tree.

The warning sign...
The warning sign…

No bother, I clambered over it, the black branch ‘soot’ all over me but I carried on with the adventure. About 200m further I met my second tree – this time, tonnes of spindly branches, too thin to climb on and gaps too narrow to fit through…

I decided to drop off the trail and venture slopestyle across the bush. Not too hard, but the bush was pretty dense. Rejoined the track and got back into a rhythm. Past the first patches of snow… awesome!

I managed a good and fast km, into a steep climb and round a few more trees before I hit the big one. A vast section of windblown trees. I scrambled over the first lot, through the second, stumbled across a variety of logs, inbetween branches, roots and mud, caked to the eyeballs in black tree soot (the sap of an insect I believe, which the wasps love in the Summer time). I looked to cut through the bushline, but couldn’t see any exit. The only way was up, but I just couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

I had reached the end of the line… around 20 minutes of swimming, swinging, swearing through branch after branch – I still couldn’t see the end of the fallen section. Not many times has this happened, but I gave in… I cut my losses and turned back, a mere 600m from the summit itself.

Bugger. And this was supposed to be an easy peak!

Never mind, I thought to myself… knowing fairly well that the weather looked terrible the next day in the mountains (grr!). I turned round and headed back down…

The mass of windblown trees
The mass of windblown trees

The descent was lovely, smooth, fast and enjoyable (apart from the tree climbing) – such a shame I couldn’t get to the top – I even attempted the Blowhart track, and the same fate occurred – trees, trees and more trees.

Still, back to the river, I pushed the pace and was considerably faster than I had thought… content but no peak today.

It’s still on the list and hopefully come Spring, I’ll conquer Mt Richardson.


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