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After a stormy Saturday forecast for the mountains, Warwick sensibly moved his ambitious Mons Sex Millia trip to Sunday, expecting the fine weather window to actually happen. As ambitious trips need an ambitious start, we all gathered 6.30am at Shell Papanui, and the five of us embarked on the journey to the winter wonderland of Lewis Pass.
The skies looked promising with big blue patches everywhere when we stopped at Boyle village. We quickly jumped out of the car to gear up -and kept jumping to get some warmth into our sleepy bodies. Soon on the way, breathing moist and fresh forest air, we briskly started up the road.
One could say that losing our leader 10 minutes into the trip could indicate mild group confusion about the direction. But with the help of map, compass, GPS and a good old tramper instinct we tackled the Poplars Range and started heading up towards the first peak. Progressively we started shedding layers of clothing, realizing that even winter tramp can be very warm. Half way up the first hill it began to snow gently and later on in the forest with snowcapped trees we could fully appreciate the beauty of winter.
And winter had more in the sleeve for us to experience. Despite the early views and blue patches all around us, our mountain range decided to gather up all the clouds available in the neighbourhood. The depth of snow rose steady under our feet as we went up, increased by the constant snowfall from the sky. The snow cover was of good dry quality, slightly frozen, but not enough to budge our crampons out of their warm nest in our packs.
Clouds were determinably keeping us company and the higher we went the thicker they got, bringing also bitterly cold wind along to chase them around. Soon our expedition resembled one trying to attempt the South Pole. Wrapped up in everything we could, we were bravely marching one by one in a complete white-out. The snow was so white and the clouds were so white, that we had to use GPS to identify a hill while standing right in front of it. And this is how we reached Garnet Peak (1776m), the highest point on the western side of the range and from where we would start our traverse to Mons Sex Millia.
Standing on the peak at 2pm, seeing nothing but each other and a lot of white stuff, gloves and gaiters frozen into bizarre shapes, we decided that we all had our dose of winter for today. Doing the whole loop just wasn't realistic in the conditions. The way back was much quicker, partly because the freezing wind up there now blowing into our faces encouraged a faster descent. Back in the bush we began to thaw and could finally sit down for a well deserved break. Chewing on snacks we enviously watched the nearby Faust fully basking in the late sunshine.
Some endless bush bashing later and we made it all safely back to the car finishing the trip about 5:30pm. Sitting around cozy fire in Culverden pub we all felt very satisfied, well walked and well broken into winter tramping. Tramping in winter is amazing!
The team: Warwick Dowling (leader), Lisa McArthur, Murray Gifford, Lovisa Eriksson, Silvia Horniakova (scribe). Pictures: Murray, Warwick and Silvia.
-- Uploaded by Silvia Horniakova on 28 June 2012.