That’s a wrap! The tents are rolled up and sleeping bags hung out to dry as we have reached the end of the 2018 hiking season. You would think the guides would have run out of steam after a busy summer of guiding around New Zealand, but there is always energy for one last hurrah!
An army of outdoor enthusiasts pile into the snug mountain lodge nestled under Mt Cheeseman ski field. The fire is on and friendly faces of the lodge hosts welcome us in for a weekend of adventures.
We all set to work unpacking an abundance of delicious food from the trailers. I take on the most important job of loading wine and beer into the cold fridge. It’s not long before I change my priorities of what's most important when an 8 week old puppy comes bounding into the kitchen to greet us. A PUPPY...this weekend has just got even better!
Curry is on the menu tonight and we are all pretty excited about it (after getting over the initial excitement of the puppy - Forest is her name). We sit down with a cold drink and discuss how epic the hike was that we completed earlier in the day. It’s not often we get to meet up as one big Hiking New Zealand family and do what we all love most. Hike!
Today's hike was in the Craigieburn Valley, up to Lyndon Saddle. We traversed through the lush forest and past fresh mountain streams before sidling above the treeline following a goat track to the saddle. We gathered to look out over the vast mountain range; it’s easy to see why we all dedicate our careers to showcasing this magical country to visitors.
It’s just about time for dinner when we notice that the bikers haven’t made it back yet. Some keen beans decided the hike wasn’t enough and jumped on their bikes for a mission back to the lodge via a forest track. I did wonder why headlamps were handed out for a quick 5km ride in the late afternoon; turns out I’m not familiar with Dan’s famous ‘day trips’ that often turn into moonlight missions. The search party is called off when we receive a message “took wrong turn-oops”.
Tomorrow is a big day so it’s dinner and lights out.
There’s no time for sleep-ins around here! After a cooked breakfast to charge the batteries, we all split up for a day of adventure. I’m impressed by how many hardcore mountain bikers we have within this hiking company. I’m more prone to flying over the handlebars rather than staying on the bike seat so I opt out of their rather advanced and daunting looking mountain trail today.
I join the hikers and set off to conquer 6 peaks along the snowy ridge beginning at Mt Cockayne. We have blue skies and perfect clear views over the Craigieburn Range, this time of year is beautiful with the snow-covered mountain peaks. We get to the 4th peak before making a unanimous decision that the wind is far too strong to keep traversing the ridge. We exit down Waterfall Creek into a valley of snow, squeeze in a quick snowball fight, slide down a scree slope, get a bit lost, find a goat track, put our trust in the goat and follow it’s trail back to civilisation.
There are some epic stories being shared around the dinner table for our last night at the lodge - everyone is buzzing from their day of adrenaline activities. This weekend has been a perfect way to top off another fun-filled season. Being part of the office crew, it’s not often we get out into the wilderness with the guides. It’s a real privilege to join forces and experience what our clients get to enjoy every day on tour with these passionate and entertaining leaders.
It’s all hugs and farewells as we say goodbye to the crew until the next season begins. On the drive home I reflect on the incredible weekend that was, Hiking New Zealand is made up of the most positive, passionate, friendly and exciting people. This is a family I’m proud to be a part of.