Winter is coming. That’s what all ‘Game of Thrones’ fans are shouting at the moment – but it’s also true of New Zealand’s seasons for the 52 Peaks Challenge. This weekend we had the first dump of snow in the Torlesse and Craigieburn Ranges, not a lot but enough to sugar coat the peaks above 1200m, two of (Mt Lyndon and Cloudy Hill) which I was climbing.
The two peaks I’d chosen grew out of the back of Mt Lyndon, a lake nestled behind Porters Pass in North Canterbury, adjacent to Porters Ski Field and Mt Enys. Castle Hill Peak overshadow these two hills with it’s 1996m peak, but at 1489m and 1442m, they aren’t the smallest undulations around.
The start of the loop was steep, ascending from the A-Frame hut at the east end of the lake was tough going but thankfully the vegetation was favouritable and not too deep. Sheep trods appeared now and again but the gradient was pretty tough for the first 2km ascending over 500m in that time. Then the snow kicked in. All I could literally think of was that my feet were going to fall off… and they nearly did.
The mesh top of my new Inov-8 Trailroc‘s were saturated with snow within 30seconds and it made the last few 100ms of climb tough. I had to take off my shoes, get rid of the snow and carry on warming them up. Still I made the summit in good time within 45minutes of leaving the A-Frame. Boom; 1489m above sea level in no time and some epic views of Castle Hill Peak shining in the morning sun.
Views were quick to disappear as the cloud fell in as I started my descent down the scree and into the valley before my second ascent of the day.
Having descended a wall of ice laden scree confronted me. Do I climb straight up or contour diagonally… I chose the latter and worked my way through the mist to the second middle-summit (1345m) before continuing along the ridge to reach my second goal, Cloudy Hill top. Another foot warming issue in the middle and I reached the top within 1h30m.
What a buzz, jagged rocks along the ridge, views of Porters ski field and Castle Hill in the distance – made. my. day.
The second photo at the summit went without a hitch in the weather and I descended through the mist down east towards the West Coast Road, leading the way back to Lake Lyndon within the 2 hour mark.
So, two peaks in quick succession. Right at the start of what feels to be a crisp and fresh Winter season in the mountains. Epic- cannot wait!!
P.S. Watch the outtakes at the end of the video…