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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Hayden

A New Year

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

For most my life I've chased each New Year like it's hard to swallow, sure there were good times but if I'm being honest the best of those memories are faint😅

What I remember are consequences, the moments of foolishness and never quite finding what I set out for.

The past year has been a period of growth and self reflection.

For every night I chased a girl, a moment or just the bottom of a bottle I seldom woke up feeling anything other than alone and out of pocket.


I've always been somewhat of a loner, team sports were never really my thing,

Maybe that's part of why hiking appealed so much to me.


Since moving to Central Otago I've explored a fair chunk of the countryside, sadly there are only so many hours in a day and when you already work a lot of them you can only go so far.


Fortunately the industry I work in takes a break over the Christmas/New Year providing an opportunity for me to see what Arthur's pass and the West Coast has to offer.


After rigorous mapping I decided the following tracks would make up my trip:

  • Mt Taylor (Ashburton lakes)

  • Avalanche peak (Arthur's pass)

  • Mt Tuhua (Westland)

  • Copland track to Welcome flat hut (Westland)


I set out for Mt Taylor the morning of December 31st, it's just over five hours driving or just under two episodes of the Joe Rogan experience.


I arrived at the carpark backing onto a picturesque Lake Heron mid afternoon.



The sheer size of this mountain is what drew me in, at 2330m above sea level it is the highest of Canterbury's foothills.

The highest point next to the Southern Alps.



There was a hut conveniently placed about two hours into the walk giving me a place to rest my head before beginning my ascent in the New Year.



It turns out I couldn't escape foolishness though, even without alcohol😅 In the early hours of that morning I woke up panicked, reacting to a bad dream in a hut with five strangers,I think I even let out a little scream🤦

As it turned out one of those strangers a Welshman was on the same path as me so we set out into the fog sorounding our valley and followed the river until we found the start of our track.


Now I should mention this track was not well marked, with the added bonus of low visibility we made our way up the steep scree slopes in hopes of a clearing.

The clearing came at about 1800m elevation, the sky opened up to show us the vast mountain range still wearing it's winter coat in the distance and the blanket of cloud separating us from the world below.



The relief that came above the clouds also brought about a new challenge, the relentless summer sun.

Before long we were sectioning the mountain to whatever shade we could find from larger rocks.



With the top in sight it seemed we were close but were ultimately bamboozled by the deceiving amount of distance between ourselves and our goal, every step of this hike had been a careful one.

Making sure the rocks under your feet were stable, often losing ground in the scree.



As we reached the summit the faintest bit of signal appeared on our cellphones, my exhausted friend was able to wish his family overseas a Happy New Year and I was able to send a status report to let my mum know I was still alive👌🏿 she worries😅


The view was incredible, seeing Mt Cook in the distance.

The clouds parting below revealing glimpses of the ground we once knew.

There's something to be said for that feeling, trouble is I can't explain it any better than...


I'm on top of the world.



The journey back to the car had a bit of contrast. After almost body surfing down a scree slope we headed downstream to the river, colour started to bloom.



We rock hopped for about 45 minutes scanning the riverside for any sign of easy walking.


The home stretch back to the car was the easy walking we were looking for, a 10km stretch of 4wd track to a very welcoming set of scuffs😂 the feet were not doing well😅


Though this was a great time to look back on our day I could tell we were very much at the end of it.

Convinced a couple of fenceposts from afar were oncoming hikers😂


I took my little Mazda back out that long gravel road heading for Springfield where I would spend the night at Smylies hostel.

I settled in after a pizza and a couple of handles at the Springfield Hotel.


Next up was Avalanche peak and after a big breakfast at the Taste of Kiwi Cafe it was only an hours drive to the Arthur's pass trailhead.


This was another loop track, I opted to take the steeper of the two tracks uphill.

There was some light rock climbing involved and the bushline meant there was a reasonable shade cloth for the first couple of hours.

It was on this track I met a guy who would appear on a later trail.



After clearing the bushline glimpses of the nearby Mt Rolleston started appearing in the distance, along with a few of the biggest cairns I've ever seen😂



Admittedly I was a little shaky walking the Ridgeline of crumbling rocks to the peak you'll see below😅 but it was a hell of a spot for lunch, I think I even spotted Mt Taylor in the distance 🙌



After lunch I started my descent down Scott's track which may have been slightly less steep but with minimal tree coverage it was a long way down.

Walking back through the village to my car I saw a sign for a public shower and laundry so I gathered all my coins, now Avalanche peak was amazing but that shower sure was a highlight 👌🏻😂


Mt Rolleston in all it's glory🔽



I hung my freshly washed clothes from the windows of my car and headed toward Hokitika where I spent the night at the Lake Kaniere campsite gearing up for Mt Tuhua the next day.


Overlooking a popular lake in the Hokitika area is Mt Tuhua, there were a dozen boats in the water by the time I begun my ascent in the backdrop.

I couldn't help but think about the beers and biscuiting going on below😂



The west coast is known for its rain, that probably has a lot to do with the amount of colour in these hills.

You can see the coast north and south for miles from up here, I couldn't help but gaze toward the glaciers in the distance as the cloud tumbled around.



Revitalized by the energy intake of a One Square Meal bar I staggered back to my car bound for Fox Glacier, I checked into the Ivorytowers Backpackers then treated myself to a steak dinner at Cafe Nevé along with a couple of fitting Speight's Summits before relaxing in the hot tub 🍻


🔽🔽



🔼🔼


It was about now I realized I'd booked the wrong night at Welcome flat hut.

When I first made this booking the hut was full.

I instead took a spot in the campground,

The morning I'd realized my mistake someone must've had a change of heart and I got a second chance👌🏼

There was a lot of cover throughout the trail and the river on the way in was the most beautiful blue.



About halfway along I made friends with an American chick, we made good time and it was cool to hear about her experiences traveling.

I also spotted this goat like creature chilling across the river🔽



🔼 also made an appearance on our way out, curious as can be before ever so elegantly gallivanting up a meters of perpendicular hillside.



Welcome flat hut is real gem, the nicest so far with four rooms up top for sleeping and a huge kitchen/common area on the ground floor, solar powered LED lights and even flush toilets😲

There's a lot of history there that the warden told us all about, along with when the sandflies leave the pools👌🏽


This is about when I ran into an Israeli guy I'd met on Avalanche peak, he proposed we walk down together the next day given the way the weather was looking 😬

That seemed like a smart move.



Now I brought some goodies along on this trip and if there were ever a time to trip, it was now🤷🏻‍♂️

By the time I'd sunken into the mineral pools the sun was going down, and the sky was doing all sorts of things😂

I was chatting away with someone when I heard a vowel specific kind of singing in the darkness behind us, almost yoga like🧘

At first combined with the birds and the frog sounds it creeped me out but I grew to love this meditative state.


About half past midnight I decided I should probably leave the pool, which was a tough decision. By this point the pool was as much a part of me as any other🫠 I crept into bed and watched the eyelid show until I fell asleep 😌



If you'd picked up on an earlier comment you might be able to guess why I was so happy to sleep in the hut, possibly why someone decided to cancel their booking 😅

Everyone knew we were going to be walking back in the rain and having to pack up a tent in it suuuucks😂


Oh my phone was tucked away safe and dry from this point on 📸📵


My American friend packed her tent and hit the trail early, me and old mate from Avalanche peak weren't far behind.

Walking up I had taken note of possible hazard zones should it be flooded and boy was it😅

I gave up on any hope for dry feet early and committed to soaking my boots instead of risking a slip trying to jump everything.

My friend tried but eventually had to do the same.

After a couple of hours we'd caught up to the American and had ourselves a little convoy😂

Coming up to the carpark we knew there was a good chance the first river might be too dangerous to cross, forcing us to detour an hour to a flood bridge.

As risky as it could have been I really didn't want another hour walking in the rain🫣 especially when you can see your car from the other side of the river😅

Luckily for us we were able to cross safely, I bid my new friends good luck on their endeavors, slipped my scuffs on and blasted the AC.


On my way home I spotted a couple of guys hiking the side of the road toward Brewster hut, I understood what they were going through and gave them a ride before one final stop at Firebird Wanaka.


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larajeanne67
Jan 14, 2023

Worrying about your children just goes with the territory of the most important job of being a loving mum.

As much as I worry I am also in complete awe of your adventures son x 💜

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