Some trips are too good to be true. When I first came across images of the Owen Plateau, I put it right at the top of my wish list. The terrain looked like something from a fairy tale. Take the rolling limestone rockscape of Castle Hill, put it into Fiordland’s Valley of the Trolls, then blow it up tenfold. The result would look something like Kahurangi National Park’s Mount Owen and the surrounding open tops of the Marino Mountains.
When a tropical storm sneaks up on your tramping adventure, you better have a backup plan. It was just before Easter when cyclone Cook slowly bumbled along the east coast and right into our long anticipated trip. Instead of packing, our evenings were spent with weather forecasts. Plans were amended, and nails were bit. The forecasts all seemed to agree that things were not looking quite as dire in the north-west corner of the South Island. Simultaneously however, the talking heads in the news were saying the exact opposite. Thanks to the unpredictable nature of NZ weather, we took all of the above with a grain of salt.
In war as in tramping there is one rule: No man left behind! So how did we end up on top of our little pile of rubble with one person missing? Let’s start at the beginning.
My lovely Better Half (she asked me to capitalise due to her significance) and I enjoy open tops tramping. The biggest commitment to staying on tracks usually involves getting through a stretch of otherwise impenetrable New Zealand bush. Once above tree-line we tend to find our own way to a scenic location to spend the night. The extra effort of going uphill is rewarded with amazing views. Obviously we are both very appreciative of instant gratification!
Dear summer, where are you?
I’m the first to admit that performing under pressure can be hard. But then I look at the calendar and can’t help but wonder where you are and what you are doing. Are you even thinking of us lately? Sure, you teased us for a few days. But by the time I had dug out my shorts, I needed to turn on the heater once again. The heater. In January!
New Zealand is not exactly known as prime snowshoeing terrain. Our winter landscapes are mostly dominated by snowless valleys and ragged, imposing peaks. So it is either no snow or outright mountaineering terrain, right?
Luckily there are a few exceptions. Thanks to its high altitude, reliable snow cover and gentle terrain, the Two Thumbs range near Lake Tekapo is a good starting point for a snowshoe adventure.
Coming back to a favourite tramping destination can be like watching the nth re-run of a favourite movie. There is comfort in knowing what you get. At the same time the story lacks suspense and you soon find yourself bored. Luckily winter can help put a new spin on a familiar trip.
The Lewis Tops are a quick drive from Christchurch and easily reached from Lewis Pass. After a short push through the forest of despair you find yourself cruising along a grassy ridge with stunning views in all directions. Brennan and I have visited the Tops a few times. They are a convenient antidote to civilization but the novelty had started to wear off. Luckily heavy snowfalls had helped to change the terrain almost beyond recognition on our last trip there. As soon as we stepped on solid ice we felt like on an expedition into unknown lands. Never mind that we were still on a track at a meagre 1500m in elevation.