Some people are very well prepared, when they go trips into the back country. Some others are not and Lara and I just can’t be bothered to get up early despite our ambitious plans to conquer that valley in a flick. So yeah, let’s face it, we got up way too late and left the hut around 10am when everybody was already on his way to new frontiers. But hey who cares. We got plenty of time and can travel light, since we can leave our heavy gear at the hut. Something we will appreciate very much later on this day.
When you follow Mount Aspiring Valley further down you come to a point where you have to decide which side of the valley you want to ascent. You can take the left path up to Liverpool Hut, which is a fairly steep climb but not a too long one, or you go up on the eastern side to reach for French Ridge hut, that lies a substantial bit higher than Liverpool Hut and the climb is a really steep one. No question, what two fearless explorers would change, especially when they are running late. So French Ridge hut, prepare for us.
The first part of the todays route leads you through very easy grassland, called the Aspiring Flats which is a good opportunity to wake up a little bit and get accustomed to your todays efforts. A beautiful landscape nevertheless:
After 1.5 hours we finally came to the junction to choose between French Ridge and Liverpool Hut. Of course we opted for French Ridge, a decision that lead us immediately to the fact that we will have to cross a little stream. Nothing dangerous, but big enough to do it barefoot. No big deal you might think. But mountain streams can be very very chilly, as you know.
Lara went first and I had a really good laugh at her, that she should stop whining like a chicken. But after a few steps wading through that icy water, I exactly knew what she was trying to say. Dammit! At least we were more than awake afterwards. Weary enough to realize, that we have to go through there again on our way back tonight. A well, screw it and let’s move on, that hardest bit is still to come yet.
Oh dear, and how it came. The next thing after the river was the climb up to the top of that ridge. In fact, I was not overly aware of the steepness before we started our trip, although I read the chart. We had to deal with a difference in altitude of over 800 meters, on a track that is merely 5km long. Said that you can imagine that the most of the time you are really climbing. Fortunately there was still a fairly good path which made it quite doable without any special gear. But it was quite tiring and you couldn’t see an end, so we just kept climbing and climbing till we reach the high plateau that will lead to French Ridge Hut eventually. Once you got up there you have basically made it.
And yes we got there. It might have taken some time (and some swearing) but we got up there eventually. And boy, it was worth the pain.
Fair views over the whole valley and a hardly imaginable silence that made you feel like the king of the world. All of a sudden, I remembered what it is that makes the mountains so special. What it makes so special to be up there, on the top or at least close to it.
Thanks to the weather, this didn’t feel real. We have been so close to the high ridge of the snowy glacier mountains caressed by clouds that they seemed like soft pillows prepared to bed you.
Unfortunately we couldn’t linger all day just up there to enjoy this sensation. No, we had to go back at some point, to avoid to run into the darkness too early, since the way back consisted of some parts through the forest and we weren’t really prepared for that, which might have been disregardful, I know.
So we finished that trip off with some more mountain pictures and posing:
Our way back was nearly as exhaustive as our ascent which was really due to the sheer fact that it doesn’t matter if you climb up or down a wall. It still remains a climb. In fact a decent bears some perils that you don’t have to keep in mind so much while you are going up. It is simply gravity that makes your life much harder, cause it might accelerate you in moments when you have never asked for it. So occurred it to Lara that she was trying to jump of a ledge, but instead she slid of it like on ice. Fortunately, I’ve passed that point before, being able to soften her unexpected quick progress.
Anyway, apart from that we made a good run down that mountain, just to get over that little river again, shortly before the sun started to set. I really wanted to avoid that we had to cross after dark. No need to put ourselves into such avoidable danger. But with a little bit of pressure we reached that point easily.
The last part of our way back towards Mt. Aspiring hut we advanced while it got darker and darker. Due to the lack of a torch, which I have shamefully left at the hut, we had to work our way through that forest by mere dead reckoning, which wasn’t too bad after all, as I amused Lara by telling her lovely stories about chainsaw bearing psychopaths running around in the forests. For some strange reasons she didn’t share my excitement about such stories in a gloomy environment like a forgotten forest.
But there you go. After 9 hours we finally arrived at the hut. Tired but happy we got inside, looking forward to warm soup and hot tea. After all it was an amazing journey today, despite some difficulties.
Before Lara and I headed out towards Mt. Aspiring national park, she said to me: “I want to have a little bit of adventure!”
Today, after we were back at the hut I told her: “We passed bridges and fair lands, crossed a river, climbed a mountain and eventually made a night hike – You wanted some adventure, didn’t you?”. I think she smiled back at me.
Tomorrow we are going to leave Mt. Aspiring National Park, heading back to Wanaka. A pity really. That trip was a big bucket of fun.
Let’s have some more pictures: