Around Mount Bradley
Ha! I'm back! Back from what, you might ask? OK, I'll tell you, modestly, with due respect for my great legs, sturdy heart, and my brilliant hiking boots - not to mention my wonderful foot-hugging socks, which lovingly supported my every step. I'm back from Mount Bradley.
With two gnarly old friends I've just hiked anti-clockwise around Mount Bradley, in an epic near-nine hour day. I've struggled through aggressive chin-high gorse, swished through deceptively long grass, cantered up vertical fence-lines and across precipitous sidles, carefully slithered backwards down slippery rocks, munched food on windswept saddles...
Seriously, it has been a long day (about 15 kilometres). Mount Bradley is a bulky chap, as well as being 885 metres high. His gentle slopes of grass and tussock overlooking Lyttleton Harbour contrast with the high bluffs and sharp gullies on his 'backside'. And long stretches of that backside are covered with gorse. Gorse! Aargh! Not a scattering of tiny knee-high bushes that give your lower legs a tickle-up, either. These are thick infestations of seemingly impenetrable, all-over prickly gorse, on his steepest slopes.
Trail Marker on Mount Bradley
The official word on the backside track is 'a little overgrown'. I did wonder when 'a little overgrown' might become 'too overgrown to carry on'. OK, the prickly branches could save a wobbly hiker who slipped and fell. And one of our party did just this, taking a Winnie-the-Pooh-like tumble off the track into a large gorse bush, metres below. Luckily he was not injured, and not too badly scratched, though he took ages to extricate himself from the thorny embrace of Ulex europaeus. Phew?
Battling that gorse was challenging, even a bit debilitating. When would it stop? Head down, concentrating, not wanting to lose footing, definitely not prepared to stop for photographs (sorry about that). Ghastly gorse - you nasty nuisance, prickly pest-plant, bothersome bush, loathsome legume, repugnant, horrible shrub - I'm getting the message across? Pretty yellow flowers, just quietly.
Why such a long day? It's over an hour's climb to get to the Kaituna Saddle, for a start. The circuit itself took us more than five hours, because of gorse issues. Gorse! Did I mention the gorse? Aargh!
Kaituna Saddle and Mount Bradley
But there's much more to Mount Bradley than just gorse. The route includes relaxing benched farm tracks, easy rocky paths through Phormiums and other native shrubs, dark watery gullies filled with native bush and noisy bellbirds... Mount Bradley may only be a peninsula mountain - he's not part of the majestic Southern Alps - but this in no way diminishes his impact. Mount Bradley, you're special - so special. You're simply the best!
Why So Special?
Hmm... Mount Bradley and I have some 'history'. Here's a letter I wrote to him in March, 2010, after my first succeasful circumnavigation. What sort of person writes a letter of thanks to a mountain? Best not answer that!
Dear Mount Bradley, almost a Munroe mountain at 855m,
My friend and I have made two past attempts to circumnavigate your beautiful bulkiness. The first time we turned off the circuit track too early and by mistake climbed to your summit (which, I am sorry to say, was referred to as 'that knobby bit'). The second time we circled your girth clockwise and again left the track prematurely. But we felt quite safe sitting up there, underneath your craggy escarpment, and we had a wonderful view.
The third time we took trip notes from an experienced fellow hiker and not one but two maps. I'd packed a 'friendship lunch-box', with tasty surprises to share with my friend - two pieces of sushi, two fillet steaks, two halves of banana, and two toffee pops. My friend added two venison sausages, two apples, and two pieces of yummy fruit cake. You can see that this was a serious trip, and that finally we were fully prepared for you.
And yes! We, two gentle women hikers, did get round you this time (it took nearly five hours). We were quiet and appreciative in our success - a rude male might have called you 'a bastard' and 'knocked you off'. Not us.
We enjoyed your farm tracks and bush gullies, your lovely open saddles, and your rocky cliffs and spurs. Thank you for the tremendous tree Fuchsia forest, the Lancewoods, the precipitous bits where the track just fitted, and the soft grassy bits. Even the gorse was OK. We're not too badly scratched.
Thanks for a wonderful day,
Mary and Biddy.
A Very Important Footnote - April 2016
Track maintenance has been carried out on the southern part of Mount Bradley. The gorse has been cleared, there's nothing within arm's reach to scratch or prickle. And the track itself has been levelled and widened. Brilliant work, DOC, thanks so much!>