After summiting the previous day, on the way down to Tekapo (Mt John), we continued our travels to Wanaka in the heart of Otago. Horrendous weather on the drive across the Lindis Pass left us worried about the conditions for the next couple of days – but thankfully as we awoke the next morning, blue skies and sunshine were above.
Lake Hawea lies about 20km north east of Wanaka and that was my direction for Breast Hill, part of the Te Araroa trail (which runs all the way through New Zealand). Parking just after the settlement of Gladstone, the trail steeply climbs up a vertically sided valley before heading up the ridgeline to join the Te Araroa.
The first section was brutal. Numerous switchbacks for 300m of climb in only 250m of horizontal distance… the legs were certainly burning! Still, at the top of this section, the views were stunning along Lake Hawea with the aquamarine blue colour contrasting against the luscious green slopes.
The next section was covered in sheep and matagouri bushes (not that these usually go together, probably more like chalk and cheese, but I digress…). I took the wrong route here, getting a little bit confused in the rock sections and ended up sidling around the ridge rather than straight up – ending up i the correct place, but from the wrong direction. Never mind, as long as I was heading upwards, it didn’t really matter.
The wind, however, had other ideas – it was howling up on the ridge and you could feel the chill almost instantly. Thankfully I had prepared myself with my waterproof (and of course windproof) jacket – covering my arms, face and head with anything that wouldn’t let the wind in. I may have looked stupid on a sunny day, but at least I wasn’t cold! It’s moments in the wind, when your instinct kicks in and go into a self preservation mode, protecting yourself before the moment occurs – a bit like hydration and the taking on of water… if you get too cold, it’s probably a little too late. This winter has definitely taught me to plan ahead rather than pick up the pieces afterwards.
After the pasture land, the track turned into a bit of a scree scramble for a few undulations. Not too hard, and the sides were not steep sided (definitely not like Arthur’s Pass!). Anyway, onwards towards the top ridge and into tussock grass where the track split off, one way towards Pakituhi Hut and the other (my direction, still climbing) up to Breast Hill Peak.
The last 200m climb was pretty steady but still in the strong winds – along an averagely formed sheep trod across the tussocks, not right next to the edge (wind protection) but close enough to take in the view. From here you could see Mt Iron in Wanaka, Isthmus Peak, Treble Cone ski area, the Crown & Pisa Ranges… pretty much all the way to Cromwell to the south-west, and in the other direction – the Lindis Pass and rolling hills to the east.
The peak itself at the top of Breast Hill was marked with a trig point and at 1578m, not a bad morning effort! All that was left was to take some photos and footage and return back down to the car parked in Gladstone.
The downward route was so much more fun than the climb. Quickly descending to the trail split, turn right and off the edge of the ridge, zooming down the hill as fast as I could (even with the wind now changing direction and pushing me back up the hill).
Back down to the top of the switchbacks, I could finally relax as the valley was sheltered and the wind had disappeared. Sweltering heat in the valley towards the end made the water back at the car taste even sweeter and the cool air o the drive back a godsend.
Another incredible adventure in probably one of my favourite areas in New Zealand.
The next day we met up with our friends down in Wanaka for a training camp and rode the Crown Range from Wanaka to Arrowtown – well I got to the summit of the Crown Range – a tough and long 40km climb from 300m to 1076m past the historic Cardrona Hotel. It was another stunner of a day and my legs were completely stuffed on the climb but the return route descendig was VERY fast – although I totally ran out of energy on the way back, to be passed by Nicky Samuels on one of her training rides… so I rode straight to Subway to get some energy! Yum. Watch a Red Bull video of the Crown Range from a different perspective here.
Thankfully the next day was a rest (after the 6 hour drive back to Christchurch)… and onwards to Peak 47!