Day 167: Mastering the Mountain March

Day 167, January 22nd
Four days ago we made our ascent up Mt. Sunday and Mt. Guy, two days ago we climbed up Mt. Isobel, today we add another data point to our chart as we decide to work our legs and lungs again and scale Mt. Robert. We had camped as closely as we could have the night before, so we would be able to hit the hills first thing in the morning. We drove the remainder of the route, about ten minutes up a gravel road to eat breakfast and prep for the hike. We were the beneficiaries of a unique show this morning as a group of DoC employees went about chopping up felled trees with great expertise in the art of chainsawing. A storm had made a mess of the area and had caused at least a dozen trees to fall over, the employees made short work of the fallen lumber as they cleared out the forest in only twenty minutes with a single chainsaw at work!
Mt. Robert is the first of the mountains in the last week that we’ve climbed that is actually a loop route. We take a look at the map-board to find that both routes to the top are similar times, but extremely different distances. The shorter of the two options takes the unassuming and possibly unprepared hiker up a series of steep switchbacks. The map-board at the carpark draws it out in an accurate zigzagging pattern, we opt not to kill ourselves with one steep uphill and opt into the longer, lower-grade route. This route walks along the treeline to the far side of the mountain then makes a slow uphill to the top of the ridge before walking you out on a level flat to the peak. This part of the hike boasts great views of Lake Rotoiti, which seems to constantly expand into a larger area, as well as St. Arnaud, a small township on the north side of the lake. All around we can see pastureland, but the weather is semi-bleak, clouds block out any long distance views, only allowing us to see the mountain range immediately surrounding the valley. Regardless, the views are still wonderful and we enjoy this slow uphill. As we climb we only gain better and better views of the region beneath us. The turning point on the far side of the mountain is Bush Line Hut, which is a DoC hut where backpackers can camp for the night. We stop for a snack then begin walking toward the next trail marker up the hillside. As it turned out the route we decided to take to try and reach the marker wasn’t actually the trail, it was just tussock grass in the direction we wanted. Jonathan had been in the lead with Amelia following behind him. When Jonathan realized he wasn’t on an actual path and saw where the path was located he turned toward it. Upon reaching the trail he turned around and saw that Amelia wasn’t behind him. He figured she had just continued to trudge upward through the tussock grass to the trail marker and he was right. A few minutes later he finds Amelia sitting on the ground waiting for him. She chuckles and asks “What took so long?” “How fast did you walk to beat me up here?” “My normal speed!”
We continued along the flattest part of the trail the rest of the way to the top of Mt. Robert. We reached the “peak” of the trail and stopped to admire the view.
Now came the relentless switchbacks. The downhill was easy, but it was consistently steep leaving our knees aching. We passed one fellow whom decided to go up this way and he was huffing pretty heavily as we passed him. We were thankful we hadn’t traversed this portion of this route as our uphill!
The closest holiday park was the Wairua Naturist Park. We’ll spare you the detail of our “nakation” but it was a unique experience!

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