A quick trip to the snowy south – Queenstown ‘tramping’

This trip of four adventurous days with Matt was a blast and so good to catch up again. The first time in person since Christmas. We tramped 25 odd km around Ben Lomond for three days and had a day chilling out in Queenstown. We spent two nights camping, one up near Ben Lomond saddle in the snow and the other near the tranquil Moke Lake.

 

Map of where we went

Both having jobs now we didn’t think twice about catching the steepest chairlift in the southern hemisphere up the first 450m of elevation gain. BUT we stupidly forgot to buy gas for the camping stove before catching the chairlift!

 

We arrived at the top station, huddled in the cafe for an hour while the rain came down, then started our charge through the lightly falling rain. 20 minutes in, and like a light bulb going off in my head, I realise we forgot the gas. Matt instantly said, “oh well we’ll go without it. You can probably eat those freeze dried meals by adding cold water.”

 

I was like, “Woah, hold up. Let’s take more than 2 seconds to think about this!” The idea of no hot water for a couple of days camping in the snow didn’t sound appealing to me.

 

One of the problems we had was there was no gas available at the top chairlift station. And the other being we had return chairlift tickets so if we went down, then we’d have to pay another $39 for a ticket back up.

 

I thought it worth a shot though, so I called the chairlift reservations and plead my case for a free ride back up. Thankfully, after a decent think about it, and saying “this isn’t what we normally do”, she gave one of us a free pass.

We had gas.

 

So an hour and a half later we were back at the same point on the trail and on our way up the slippery, icy trail.

Matt on the climb up the slippery trail to the saddle which is visible in the background
Camping 1000m above the lights of Queenstown

The night was chilly, hard to say how cold but I think the forecast read -5. We spent many an hour that night huddled in our sleeping bags and talking away.

One of the things when you’re camping in cold weather is you’re in bed as soon as the sun goes down and you stay there until it comes up again. At this time of year the sun went down at 5:30 so we were horizontal for a good 15 hours. Needless to say we were pretty stiff in the morning and ready to bust out of the tent and stretch the legs.

 

We’d planned on climbing Ben Lomond (1710m) the next morning, but that wasn’t to be. Snow conditions were too hard, the ridgeline too steep and without crampons, neither of us fancied on giving it a crack. As Matt said “I’m not an alpinist and never will be”. His energy levels were down that morning. Probably something to do with those 15 hours horizontal I’d say.

Soaking up the morning rays – a great day when the sun arrived.
Matt’s comment about this picture – “Look at those wrinkles around my eyes. That’s not me. I’ll have to edit those out or something”

The morning did bring a lovely “bluebird” day though and we enjoyed roaming around the snowy plateau and getting a higher vantage point on the slopes of Bowen Peak. A few people passed our tent and one guy in particular was stoked with our effort of camping up there.

 

Over the next couple of days we finished off the tramp, descending north down to the valley floor along the Moonlight Track, and following the dirt road south west around to Moke Lake. It was very scenic being in the valley surrounded by mountains, and peaceful too. We only saw a handful of other people.

The night at camp 2 was so much warmer in comparison to the night camped in the snow
Not celebrating the summit – just posing for the hell of it

After a second night camping, Matt and I eventually limped down to Glenorchy Rd, he with his blistered heel and me with my tender achilles. We’d dashed into this tramp with next to no recent walks and, kind of surprisingly, were paying the price. We must be getting on at the mature ages of 23 and 27!

 

I stuck my thumb out waiting to hitch a lift for about 10 minutes while Matt changed and freshened up. After a couple of days without a shower we probably didn’t smell the best, let’s be honest. But literally, as soon as Matt is ready a car pulls over and whisks us back to Queenstown. Hitch hiking has never been so easy.

 

The following and final day of my quick trip, Matt proceeded to dissect me in a game of Frisbee golf. This was round two after we’d played the same course with fellow traveller/cyclist Lari 3.5 years earlier. He beat me then and he beat me again. This time by about 14 shots. Matt finished 4 under, a damn good effort that.

 

It was a bit sad leaving to head back to sunny Tauranga. Good quality time is much harder to come across now I’m living across the ditch. No doubt they’ll be another adventure around the corner sometime soon though. I have no idea where in the world it’ll be but it’ll happen.

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