"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you" - Isaiah 55:12

3 May 2020

Foggy Peak, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park - 27 August 2019

Keen to get out and stretch my legs again, I headed for a familiar spot - Foggy Peak. I've been up Foggy a couple of times before, once before dawn to catch the sunrise, and again en route to Castle Hill Peak further along the ridge. Neither of those trips were in winter however so this trip held the appeal of a new experience of climbing the peak and enjoying the surrounds while blanketed by an attractive winter coat of snow.

Access is simple - take SH73 to Porters Pass, stop at the top of the pass, get out, and start heading uphill. It's a steep slog, with little respite, but by driving to the top of the pass you reap the benefit of having gained much of the altitude by car, although there's still 800m of height gain needed to reach the summit. Not a mountain to be underestimated, especially in winter when the ridge (being on the southern aspect) can be very icy, Foggy Peak presents an achievable challenge for those willing to slow down, stop the car, and explore.

Fresh snow on the pass greeted me as I left the car, a sign that caused me to glance up at the upper slopes, trying to determine how much may have fallen up there. Not easily put off, especially having made the effort to drive there, I shouldered my pack and set out. Conditions were idyllic - sun shining, and a very light breeze, all in all an absolutely stunning winter day...for now!!
It was easy going through the alpine scrub on the lower slopes, with around 6 inches of fresh powder snow underfoot, and I snaked my way ever upwards, at times following the prominent foot trail that led from pole to pole, and at others taking a more direct line.
Things changed about halfway up the mountain, somewhere around the 1300m contour, when a strong nor'west wind blew up unannounced (and un-forecast!). Powder snow was being blasted across the broad ridge which while not quite blizzard-like certainly made for a far more wintry feel. The wind-driven powder pelted my legs, arms, and, at times, face with such force that it felt a little like being blasted by tiny hailstones. Despite this, it did make a rather beautiful scene, with the fine particles of snow streaking across the snow slopes on the wind. My attempts to capture this effect on camera don't really convey how I saw it in person, but you may get the idea anyway when you see them.

Continuing on, after taking a moment to decide whether it was prudent to continue, soft, deep snow drifts between around 1300m-1550m slowed me down as I sank in to my thighs most steps. Yes it was tiring but was it fun...oh YES!!!
As I climbed higher, gaining the more exposed upper slopes, evidence of the regular winds that pummel the area came in the form of a stripped back, consolidated snow pack, the freshly fallen powder having been blown well off the ridge. Although a little icy in places, the firm snow offered quick, easy travel up the final 200m of altitude, the only obstacle now being the ferocious wind that was strengthening seemingly with each step.
I quickened my pace, keen to reach the summit and hopefully find a sheltered spot for a quick bite and to take in the all encompassing views. For those visiting Foggy Peak for the first time be warned that there are a couple of false summits, but the true one is definitely worth the toil required to reach it as the views are superb! On a good day, Aoraki/Mt Cook can be seen in the distance. This, however, was not a good day, and despite my efforts to hastily build a snow wall for a bit of shelter, the wind made the summit a rather unpleasant place to linger. With cold setting in as soon as I stopped moving, a few quick photos were snapped before I beat a humble retreat.

In order to escape the weather as quickly as possible, I took a more direct line down the ridge, taking care on the upper slopes to avoid a slip on the icy patches, before plunging into the softer snow lower down. Good fun!
Interestingly, conditions were still perfect down at the car - sunny and almost dead calm - and the numerous sightseers on the pass were blissfully unaware of the wind that raged several hundred metres above them. A good reminder to always travel prepared!

Wind sculpted snow on the lower slopes of Foggy Peak

Wind sculpted snow on the lower slopes of Foggy Peak

Lake Lyndon from about halfway up Foggy Peak, with an indication of the steepness of the climb

Southern end of the Craigieburn Range - Porters Ski Area to the left, Mt Enys (2194m) rear right

Snow being swept across the upper slopes created an interesting visual effect

An attempt to capture the wind blown snow

Spindrift blowing off the summit ridge of Foggy Peak

Just below the summit in a calm moment with peaks of the Torlesse Range all on show, from Castle Hill Peak (1998m) round to Mt Torlesse (1961m), with Red and Back Peaks in between

Lake Lyndon from near Foggy Peak summit, with Mt Hutt and the Rakaia valley behind

This photo doesn't convey how cold it was on the summit, with snow and wind blasting me

Access: Take SH73 towards Arthur's Pass and park at the top of Porters Pass. 

Time: Porters Pass to summit 1hr 45mins, return 50mins

Map: BW21 Springfield

Hut: None

No comments:

Post a Comment