I have just got back from a day trip to Mount Alford track. This was organised by Verso l’Alto, our local catholic hiking club. We began the day with a mass at St Therese’s church, then took off down State Highway 73 towards Mount Hutt, passing the Rakaia Gorge track along the way. We arrived at a rainy carpark at the start of the track, wrapping ourselves in rainproof jackets, gloves and warm clothes. We then set off for the distant summit with a mixture of excitement and apprehension about the weather. The first stages of the walk zigzagged through native beech forest under scattered rain, then breaking through the tree line. Once we reached a saddle further up, we were blasted with icy winds. A friend cleverly pointed out that the mountain didn’t seem to want us on it’s slopes – it did seemed to be trying to blow us right off. However the sky had cleared, so we continued our way steeply up through scrubs and occasional thistle. We then found a sheltered spot in between two arms of the hill and decided to take a snack break. Finally, after steady climbing, we made it to a lower peak and stopped for lunch. By now the view across the Canterbury plains, Mt Hutt and Mt Somers was fantastic. We then made the final push for the summit, reaching it a fair while later. Once again, we were not disappointed with even better vistas, now including Mt Taylor further inland.

By now however, I had become aware of an ominous front of muddy cloud slowly creeping over the ranges around us. The weather from this point turned ugly, with a curtain of sleet and snow swirling down onto us on a strong wind. We therefore quickly made our way back down the mountain, with the icy displeasure of the mountain pelting our backs. However, with the storm cloud now around us, the view over the plains was magical. A hazy mist hanging over them, as well as a layer of storm cloud over us, made it feel like we were walking in a limbo between two distant and unreal worlds. Nevertheless, we did make it back down to earth safely, with the cloud cover melting away again.

The drive home was as wet as before, however good banter with better company made it a breeze. We finally arrived back at the carpark, all damp, tired but thoroughly glad to have Conquered One More Hill. An excellent way to spend a Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who organised this trip. As a token of appreciation, please enjoy these photos of our little “odyssey” – at least carrying up a big DSLR camera wasn’t such a waste of time!

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