Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tramping Mount Fyfe in the Seaward Kaikoura Range

Hiking north from the summit of Mount Fyfe
We have been enjoying a couple of camping-free days visiting with our new friends, Ralph and Ali, who emigrated from the US to New Zealand and now live in the little coastal town of Kaikoura. We were introduced to this couple by Kurt and Nancy from S/V Raven whom we sailed with in Mexico and Canada. Ralph reminded us immediately of Kurt - both men are social and environmental activists and an evening in the company of either man is invigorating because they both challenge one's views on so many issues. Rani and Ali hit it off immediately and both our hosts made us feel completely welcome. They have a lovely home on a knoll looking out over the mountains and sea. The back yard has been transformed into a richly productive garden and we had the most diverse meal last night almost entirely from their own vegetables.

Our hosts in Kaikoura - this view is from a lookout a few minutes walk from their house.

Yesterday we left our comfortable base to climb Mount Fyfe. A inversion layer had formed over the town and surrounding valley and a bank of fluffy white low-hanging cloud was scudding across the base of the Kaikoura mountains. We decided to go for the hike anyway, despite the risk of zero visibility at the top, and were rewarded by spectacular views when we climbed out of the cloud about half an hour up the trail.

Rani hiking up out of the clouds

The trail soon gave us stunning views on either side.

The hike runs up a well maintained 4WD road and is a bit of a grind for the first half hour, but then opens up onto a series of ridges. To the east, the low clouds gave the illusion that we were flying far above the earth, but to the west the land dropped away and rose and fell in a series of ridges leading to the 2000 meter peaks of the Seaward Kaikoura Range.

Rani re-adjusting the fit of her brand new hiking boots.
Rani had decided to break in a pair of new leather boots on this walk, but had left her good hiking socks in the UK. The pair of socks borrowed from me were too slippery and she was soon suffering from chafe. I gave her my socks so she could create more padding and with two layers and some tissue paper, she was able to make things comfortable enough to continue to the hut.

Ryan snapped this shot for us at the hut.

We met Ryan - a Newfoundlander from the Corner Brook area - at the hut and we all decided to push on for the summit after a rest to eat lunch and refill water bottles at the hut's cistern. Ryan proved to be an enjoyable companion and we had a good chat en route to the summit (still following an increasingly rough 4WD track) and then beyond along a series of ridges that gave stunning views down into a valley of clouds on one side and across to the main Seaward Range on the other. Ryan is working and travelling in NZ for 7 months and has a well written blog that you can read here.

Ryan and Rani with a backdrop of the Seaward Kaikouras

Perched like two seals on a rock high above the Kaikouras

View looking north toward the trail that continues along this ridge and then drops back to the south and down to the next hut (part of a 3 day traverse)

Rani points out the route, which is marked by poles and cairns.

A bouquet-like cluster of blossoms near the summit plateau.

The descent was easy and we returned in time for a late supper with our hosts. I would rate this tramp as a real bargain in terms of views for effort, at least on a nice sunny, windless day like the one we enjoyed. Return time was 7 hours including dealing with hiking boot issues, a generous lunch stop, and about an hour spent exploring beyond the summit.

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