Peaks 40 & 41: Huatekerekere & Mt Peel
What a day! Canterbury doesn’t disappoint with weather like this. A previous night of rain followed by no cloud, blue skies and warm temperatures – what more could you ask for?
Huatekerekere (1311m) is otherwise known as Little Mt Peel (not actually that little!), rising up next to the Rangitata River, flowing from the heart of the Southern Alps. It towers above the villages of Blandswood and Mt Peel (named after the forest area) and at the summit it has a small hut and the standard wooden trig point. The mountain looks daunting from the drive in, pretty much a perfect triangle with a angular top. Thankfully, I met a seasoned tramper at the bottom of the route who gave me some tips.
He’d actually seen my article in Wilderness/NZ Trail Runner Magazine – so knew I wanted some beta for the trails… he nicely suggested that I take the Deer Track on the way up as it was the less severe of the two climbs – he had some good info, as he’d been walking this route since the late 1970s – so I took his advice.
He also mentioned how the shortened perspective of the hills made Mt Peel (1743m), the second peak of the day, seem much closer, when it was actually a 10km run one way to the summit from Huatekerekere. I prepared mentally for this, but didn’t know what it would look like until it appeared at the top of my first climb.
So, the Deer Track climbed steadily up the eastern ridge. Then there was a pretty steep section but nothing I wasn’t used to – onto the semi-scrubland from the forest. After a while, I encountered board walks across the marshy areas of the scientific interest which signified half way up the 6km climb. It seemed like it kept going forever, I was running hard, but the summit hut didn’t seem to be getting any closer!
The final few climbs were tough but the trig was in sight and I had summitted Peak 40 in around 1 hour.
Catching my breath from the stunning views (and the climb) I looked at what was to be the crux of the day – “Big” Mt Peel. To get there I had to get there I had to descend a long way and then climb back up to Middle Mt Peel – descend again then go up for the final climb of Mt Peel, which from the looks of it was covered in snow.
My mind fought off the idea of just ticking off one peak for the day and I started the long descent from the trig.
The route from here had a lack of trail – in some places it was great, in others – not so much, weaving my way through sharp grasses and spaniard plants. Still, mapping it out in my head, I calculated that it would take about 90minutes to reach the summit from my position.
There was a nice breeze as I descended of pt.1298m to the col before the climb up to Middle Mt Peel (1583m). This slog reminded me of Dale Head in the Lake District (UK), runnable but the wind made you crouch bent over double (especially in mountain marathons!).
On the top, the wind dropped and I got my next look at “Big” Mt Peel (I hadn’t seen it for 45mins). It looked daunting with thin snow cover – and still around 2km away and the running got a tad slippy with the patches of white.
The rock traverse was fun all the way to the final ascent – up onto the eastern peak, before traversing onto the actual summit of Mt Peel. A slip here would have meant a 1000m drop into the valley below, so I took it steady.
A photo stop and a glance at my watch (3 hours) and back at Huatekerekere – I knew it was going to be a hard slog back to the car. On the way back I met a lady on the descent from Middle Mt Peel – she was interested into WHY I was running these peaks. We chatted for a while about the local area, peaks and was impressed at the effort!
This kept me buzzing all the way to Huatekerekere and my first error of the day…
I decided not to descend back to the car on the Deer Track, but wanted to mix it up with a different route down. I chose the South Ridge Track – and it nearly broke me! It was super steep (with tired legs and 4 hours of running under my belt) – similar to that of Avalanche Peak – which is still on the 52 Peaks list after missing the race earlier in the year… I felt gutted as I stumbled and staggered down – it felt like a mistake in an adventure race, where you make one tiny error and it adds half an hour to your time.
I persevered… but got my legs completely trashed by the undergrowth, making me feel a little bit sick! Hitting the tree line was a blessing but still 2km to go – hobbling…
Crossing the river and taking my final gel, I was almost back… 6 hours of running in total and next time I need to take more water too! Peak 40 and 41 – COMPLETE!