Saddles and Scree Slopes
On a calm day the New Zealand mountains are magical. It is inspiring sitting on a saddle in the sunshine eating a good lunch, enjoying panoramic views of mountain ranges, ridges, valleys, and rivers. What a wonderful country!
Looking Back to the Torlesse Range
Above the New Zealand bush line 'the tops' on a clear day are so beautiful - and they really feel benign. What could possibly go wrong? There's plenty of time for hot chocolate and deep philosophical thoughts about life's rich tapestry - with maybe a few gardening threads thrown in!
Track Up To Camp Saddle
For example, how silly ones own native garden looks compared to Mother Nature's wonderful design. She knows how to get the proportions and the angles right! And it never seems to matter if her Hebes get scruffy, or her Astelias and Phormiums get flattened. Hmm...
We are so lucky to be able to reach such isolated, majestic places, in relative ease. Take Camp Saddle, in the Craigeburns, near Arthurs pass. The track up through the beech forest is wide and soft, easy for friends to walk side by side and chat. Then above the bush line the track sidles across tussock and scree. Again it's easy - the snow poles stick out with their bright orange markers, the grasses shine in the autumn sun.
Cairn on Camp Saddle
Avalanche warning? Not needed at this time of year - there's no snow, and there's no wind, either, to blow anyone off the rocky track. Two hours of easy plodding and the saddle is reached, with its sturdy stone cairn.
Down the Scree
Bouncing down the scree on the other side is fun, too. The only way is down the gut of the tiny valley - there's no possible way to get lost or fall. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe overbalancing and grabbing a handful of spiky Aciphylla, which in a rather un-PC way we call Spaniard - ouch! Or inelegantly descending onto ones bottom. Hmm...
Down the Scree Slope
The last part of the trip is sheltered and soft underfoot, as the track sidles through beech forest to the Lyndon Saddle and then down to the access road. There might be some mountain bikers, and maybe a few other hikers, to share the forest with. These trees are filled with the chortling and chiming of native bellbirds.
Sadly from time to time a visiting hiker underestimates the power of the New Zealand bush and mountains, going off on a track alone. And some don't make it back. Being at one with nature is a delightful experience - as long as friends are clearly visible in the middle distance! And as long as Gore-Tex, thermals, food and water are carried - just in case.
Moosey et al in the Mountains
Over cautious? No way! Being in the bush is a serious experience, and being above the bush line can be deadly. New Zealand weather is changeable - in a half an hour clear visibility can turn into thick cloud. Now where are those track markers? Benign moments can be rare - there's more usually driving wind, or banks of threatening cloud as a new weather system rumbles in.
I loved going up and over Camp Saddle so much that I've already made two trips. And I'm planning to be more adventurous and follow the ridgeline to an even bigger, proper scree slope. Wheeee!