Mp3 track of the day: - The treason of Isengard - Lord of the Rings
Weather: cloudy, hot but very cloudy
I woke up early to start the mammoth walk I had planned for today; the eight hour 'Alex Knob trail' was my route. At 8am I left my hostel and, just like every other day here, I proceeded to the tourist information office to make sure the weather, which was due just to be cloudy today with no rain, hadn't changed ... It hadn't.
I suppose you are wondering why I was attempting an eight hour walk, that would accent high into the hills to a view point just over 1300 meters above sea level, when the weather stated cloudy ... surely I wouldn't see a thing and all that effort would be a waste. Well there were two reasons I had decided to give this walk ago; firstly it was the last walk within the ranz Joseph glacier region and I wanted to complete it. Secondly, and more importantly, I thought that, if I got high enough I may go through the cloud and shoot out into a magical photogenic world with a carpet of cloud and mountain peaks all peaking out around ... oh plus I was scheduled to get to the summit at around midday when the sun should be it's strongest (hopefully cutting the cloud from around it).
I got to my starting point and had a drink before attempting the climb; I had decided that I would stop every 30 minutes to top up my fluids. However this trail was so much easier than 'Roberts Point', the trail I followed yesterday, that I changed my schedule straight away to every hour (oh plus the clouds were blocking the sun so it wasn't as hot as yesterday).
I had promised myself that if the clouds blocked visibility along the path I would turn back as I know just how dangerous walking in low cloud can be. However most of my track was tree lined as so the trees broke up the cloud to provide me with 98% visibility so, apart from the odd spider web in my face ... oh and the huge steps that I had to climb once in a while, the path was a joy to follow.
About 1hr 30mins into the walk I had arrived at my first view point, 'Rata lookout'. The view here was stunning and worth the walk alone. I took a little while to photograph the Franz Joseph Glacier in front of me with heavy cloud acting as a roof for the photograph. Looking at the weather presented infront of me I hoped that my gamble of being able to walk through the cloud would pay off.
As I continued to walk ever upwards other views presented themselves, usually not for very long as the cloud soon hide them away. By now I had arrived at the sub-alpine region of the walk where I was quite surprised to find that the visibility was still very good. It was only 11:30am and I had reached the summit ... it had only taken 3hrs from the start of the walk (Flow had been up to her evil tricks again).
It was quite hot at the summit and so I sat down and had something to eat. Dense cloud was all around me but I was patient; I set-up my camera and waited. At least four times the cloud cleared momentarily for me to get a couple of photos of the mountains that were in front of me.
After about an hour at the top of the summit (which is 1303 meters above sea level, only 31 meters short of the summit of Ben Nevis in Scotland) I could see a new patch of dense cloud coming in; I thought that this cloud would take ages to clear and so I decided to head back down the 'Alex Knob trail'. Had my gamble paid off? No not really, the views were okay at the summit but not brilliant, still I had enjoyed the walk. The good thing about this trail is that it isn't at all sole destroying; when you climb up the trail you are always climbing up and this means, unlike 'Roberts point', you don't do a lot of hard climbing just to descend straight after and gain no height.
It was 3pm and I was almost down at the foot of the trail when I met a couple walking the other way; we exchanged an 'hello' but I hoped that they weren't going to attempt to reach the summit as the weather is due to get very wet tonight and it would take them at least five hours to complete the walk meaning that they would be back down here at 8pm ... way to late.
I got back to the hostel around 4pm where I had a quick bite to eat before heading back to the tourist office. The previous day I had seen some good photo books and I went back today to purchase my favourite. It was quite expensive but I had checked around the area and the price seemed the same as everywhere else ... plus any profit would be going to the park so that's a good thing.
After this I went back to my hostel to get some laundry done (I love the smell off clean clothes, I take this for granted at home but it's the one thing I really appreciate here ... however it is so expensive to clean your clothes in New Zealand) before chilling in the common room. I have loved my time in Franz Joseph but my feet are looking forward to a rest and so I'm looking forward to moving onto the town of Wanaka tomorrow.
I have to get up earlyagain tomorrow so I better have a early night tonight or I'll never get up in time for my coach.