The day was quite warm and we had already felt that with all the sweating we were doing, thankfully being Fiordland water was easy to find in streams and rivers and all safe to drink. We dropped down into our 1st valley to cross a stream where we stopped to eat some real food in the form of Absolute Wilderness meals. Peter & I had about 50 of them to last the week and great to eat whether mixed with hot of cold water.
As we left the creek we entered one of the classic adventure racing dilemmas. You have to get from point A to point B and you can choose your own route. There is usually no trails or tracks certainly no sign posts and you just have to go for it. So we picked a line up a creek slowly gaining height but loosing daylight. No worries its totally normal to push through the darkness in AR unless its moving water whereupon they enforce a Dark Zone, which usually means you can be paddling on said waterway if its moving water.
We made it to the top of the valley just as we lost daylight not after some very steep bush whacking and scrambling of trees and scrubs. By now we will in darkness with our headlamps and in the clouds with rain coming and going. We finally started our descent as the streams began to flow the other way. We were still below the tree-line but knew we needed to drop down into and through the trees to reach the valley floor and a trail running along the bottom. As we descended into the trees, mostly of mixed scrub and Manuka the travel became increasingly difficult but we are use to this and not surprised by this challenge. The travel became more and more difficult as we literally down climbed over Manuka. Still descending but ever so slowly. Then on one occasion I began to slide of the wet Manuka sliding downhill face first. I managed to break my fall but still sliding face first was quite intimidating. Soon after that we had our biggest drama when Pete lost his footing and began to slide down hill on rocks and fast, he start to scream and couldn’t seem to arrest his fall. He slid about 10meters screaming all the way down trying to grab something. He finally came to a stop a mere meter or so from a 50meter bluff down to a creek.
This paralyzed us all for a fe moments as we caught our breath and made sure Pete was ok. This didn’t solve our problem though as we couldn’t seem to get down past this parallel band of rock bluffs and cliffs that ran the length of our descent. We were quite demoralized at the thought of having to climb up another 250meters in all that scrub to traverse along some more and hopefully find another way down. We sat and had a team meeting about our options. Our maps weren’t of the scale where we could see if there was a gap to get down either. The frustrating thing was we could see the bottom of the valley when we turn our headlamps on full beam. But couldn’t get through this 50meter wide cliff. The other dilemma was that the creek we were now using for our descent of trying to get into to descend had large waterfalls to which which could or would never be able to down climb safely. Pete was convinced we were close and that if w could just get down to the creek we were low enough now that the topography had leveled out enough in the creek that we wouldn’t encounter anymore waterfalls. It was a gamble but it was try this or go back up 250meters. So group decision was lets try.
It paid off and we made it safely to the creek and didn’t encounter anymore waterfalls. Safely on the valley floor we quickly started moving again to stay warm as we moved through the swampy ground. We stopped at a hikers hut for a few minutes to re group then get underway. This travel was easy and took us on a trail all the way to our next adventure the 100+ meter abseil/rappel IN THE DARK!