This post continues from the previous entry: Fiordland: Track Clearing & Gertrude Saddle.
The following morning on Gertrude Saddle rewarded us with sun and clear views down to Milford Sound and back into Black Lake.
Breakfast consisted of muesli (granola) in milk, and a few cups of tea. As breakfast was finishing up, a few Kea soared by camp and graced us with a few “keeeeaaaaww” to make sure we knew they wanted to raid our camp. Kea are the world’s only alpine parrot, and are endemic to New Zealand (native nowhere else). They are reportedly very intelligent, but notorious for ripping through tents, backpacks, and unguarded equipment. Taking this as our cue that it was time to go, we started to pack up.
Rowan packed up first and started up the ridge to Barrier Knob on his own. Calling back “it’s a quick hike” and “no need to bring any gear”, Rowan made it sound like a quick jaunt to the top, which was still shrouded in cloud. Aiden and I packed up the tent, then ran up after Rowan, Max, and Cameron who had by then made some progress into the clouds.
After an hour and a half hike through an alpine meadow, shimmying up giant fissures, across a boulder slope filled with deep chasms, slipping along an alpine ice field, and scrambling up a scree slope, we reached the top of Barrier Knob.
The view was completely obscured by clouds but I took some photos anyway and enjoyed a hot cup of tea. Another Tramping Club group had ascended Barrier Knob from a fiord on the other side, and had brought full climbing gear, tea, and warm coats.
The route down was even more treacherous than the climb because of rockfall (we had no helmets), slipping while descending, and disorientation in the mist. Our group pushed on through the clouds, inadvertently approaching a sheer 600m drop into the fiord we had ascended yesterday.
Eventually we made our way safely down and loaded onto the bus for a long drive back to Dunedin. My knees (and legs in general) are completely worn out, just walking down stairs makes me sore, but I’ll rest up and hopefully be in tip-top shape for my geology trip next week. We’ll be returning to Fiordland, this time staying cozy at Borland Lodge. The following week is fall break at Uni, so I’ll be travelling with Danni and Claire to the west coast to visit Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers, and up into the sunny beaches of Abel Tasman National Park. The Tramping Club has loaned me a hiking pack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad all for free during these travels.
On a completely separate note I’ve had my first test in Maori pronouncing nearby place names of which I am very confident, and several Quantum Physics workshops which I continue to struggle through, but that is to be expected with quantum. So far my experience at the University of Otago has provided me a mix of phenomenal outdoor activity, engaging academics, and countless encounters with interesting people.