Day 1 - Dart Valley to Scott Basin
Another weekend. Another Otago outdoor epic!
This time I hopped in the car with Tamasin Christina Langton to head up to Scott Basin. A lesser known track just below the Routeburn, it's a quick 3-4 hour track straight up Scott Creek (and by up, it just goes up for nearly the whole thing!). Following a creek in New Zealand means lots of tree falls and landslides to pick your way across but I find this much more enjoyable than a groomed gravel slog-fest.
Eventually the track runs out and leaves you facing a large 200m wall. The basin is hiding on top so it's time for some fun routefinding. Scrambling over boulders, trying not to fall in creeks and avoiding stabby spear grass. Oooh how it loves to stab.
Although it could be done as a day hike, our mission was to spend the night in Scott Basin itself, camping with two new friends called Dan. Both experienced in the mountains. One became "Fast Dan" as he was always up front. The other "Casual Dan" because he cruised at the back, in a stunner of a Hawaiin shirt.
Once we reached the Basin (which was so much more impressive than the topo implied!) the marked tarns were dried up so we stocked up on water and set up our tents behind unofficially named "Hide Behind Rock". It was a super windy and one step to the left or right of the rock and we'd be blown half way across Otago in our sleep.
Tents built we then dropped our gear to lighten our loads and pushed on up the valley to see if we could reach an unnamed mountain pass. I was pretty nervous as my avi training had me convinced the Spring melt snow was out to kill us. "Trust me" said one Dan. "But I literally just met you today!"
Everything turned out to be fine, and somewhat hilarious as we tried to walk through deep slushy snow with nothing but hiking boots. The Dan's made fantastic steps for us but even then, my tiny feet still sunk deeper. Regularly plunging me down to my knees. "Think light thoughts!" became our favourite approach. As if creeping lightly over the snow somehow meant it wouldn't realise we were on it.
Up top, with completely sodden, very cold feet, our efforts were rewarded with a gnarly looking spire simply labelled "1552" on the map. It framed Mt Earnslaw perfectly for a painting so the team put a brew on and patiently froze their extremities to let me do my thing. It felt great painting something that chances are most people haven't even seen, let alone sketched. I was super pleased with the results!
Day 2 - Sometimes you just have to hide under a rock
Sometimes you have to say yes to things, because the alternative is to forever wonder what that experience would have been like... In this case, it was spending the night under a great big rock. Why? Because I could. When we first reached Scott Basin and set up camp behind "Hide Behind Rock", we also found a second, even larger boulder that resembled a Star Wars sandcrawler (one for the nerds out there). Hidden behind some grass, was a gap just high enough to slot some humans. It felt daft, and potentially risky, but the idea of sleeping in it played in my head for the rest of the day... Oh sod it. How often do you get to sleep under a giant boulder, half way up a mountain with snow all around you. Besides, the tents were noisy in the wind. Maybe the Dans snored! "Bedtime Rock" seemed a nice quiet option and as Casual Dan pointed out, was a once in a lifetime moment.
I squeezed my airbed in the gap. Built a pretty crap wall to block the breeze on one side. Used my pack on the other. Lined up my sleeping bag and awkwardly shuffled myself in to position...
Then almost immediately needed the loo. Gah! After a heap more faff (learning to pee kneeling up so I didn't get my socks muddy) my feet were dangerously cold from all the hiking in snow in wet boots, so I curled up like a dead spider to heat my toes with the arteries behind my legs. Then my brain kicked in as I heard rocks falling down the mountain. What if I got squished!? What if this rock moved for no apparent reason after thousands of years!? Did I just hear something in a bush!? After a spot of star gazing, I realised just how peaceful it was under my new rocky home and fell fast asleep. Thanks Bedtime Rock.
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