I was heading for the Korowai-Torlesse Tussocklands, a conservation park in the eastern foothills of Canterbury bisected by SH73 which takes you from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass. South of the highway lies the gentler, tussock covered Ben More and Big Ben Ranges, while to the north sits the rock and scree slopes of the Torlesse Range.
My goal on this morning was a pre-dawn climb of Foggy Peak, a 1741m summit on the Torlesse Range. At 3:30am I was parked at the top of Porters Pass, ready to go and, to my relief, above the fog. At 942m, Porters Pass provides the ideal launching pad for the climb, but I still had 800 vertical metres to the summit and I figured about 90 minutes until sunrise - time to get moving. There was just one more obstacle to overcome - darkness. The full moon had cleverly hidden itself behind the very mountain I was about to climb.
The climb itself was straightforward, the ridge is broad and a well-worn foot trail winds its' way steadily upwards - not that I could see it until my descent! I also discovered (in daylight on the way down) that numerous cairns mark the trail, which would be useful if caught returning in poor conditions.
The route is steep, with little respite, but this worked to my advantage, enabling me to gain height quickly in my race against the sun.
At 5am I had reached around 1650m and the glow of dawn was upon me. I set up camera and tripod, stunned by the beauty that was slowly being revealed below.
The Canterbury Plains lay blanketed in fog. Hills and peaks rose above it, like islands in a white ocean. To the south, Lake Lyndon shimmered in the early light while beyond, the Coleridge basin and Rakaia valley were filled with fog also.
Although wanting to linger, and revel in the majestic surrounds, I needed to make a hasty return home to make the Sunday morning church service and so, with a promise to return another day, I made my descent.
Foggy Peak is aptly named, for the ridge is often cloud covered by afternoon, but fortunately for me the fog resided far below on the flats on this morning.
|First light illuminates the fog below|
|Lake Lyndon, with Rakaia valley & Hutt range beyond|
|Lake Lyndon shimmers in the morning light|
|Sunrise from 1650m on Foggy Peak|
|The scene is slowly revealed|
|Canterbury Plains blanketed in fog|
|Another pre-dawn shot|
|One of many cairns marking the route|
|Kowai River & road snaking up towards Porters Pass|
|Looking up from Porters Pass after the descent|
|Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ|
Access: Start from the top of Porters Pass on SH73 from Christchurch to Arthurs Pass.
Time: 2hrs to the summit
Map: BW21 Springfield
Other notes: In winter the ridge can be extremely icy, ice axe and crampons required.