Declan ascending.

Declan ascending.

McKinnon Pass, that notoriously awful crossing between the surrounding peaks, turned out to be a beautiful and relatively easy trip thanks to our great good fortune with the weather.

The day involves a 16km walk and going about 700m up and another 900m down in the course of a few hours. The walk is relatively tiring because of all the going up and down but on a day with bad weather it can be a real feat of endurance.

For us the sun shone and the views were absolutely spectacular. As we zig-zagged our way up the mountainside each turn brought a new vista.  The path itself was less well-formed than yesterday and had been further ravaged by erosion and rockfalls. In spite of that Declan set a killing pace and we made it to the top of the pass in amazing time. As we surmounted the top of the pass we were met by a guide with hot chocolate and by keas with incredibly sharp beaks. The keas and very clever birds, like pickpockets they often work in packs with one distracting you while the others attack your stuff. Nothing really stops them, they can rip into packs, punch through boots, tear up walking poles. In spite of that they have a lovely green plumage with a flash of orange on the underside and if you stay vigilant they are great to watch.

View to cloud-ringed peak.

View to cloud-ringed peak.

The view from the top of the pass was totally worth the climb. On the far side we could look down on a perfect conical peak ringed at about half its height by a crown of cloud. It was a dizzying and completely stunning spectacle.

After lunch we started downhill. The rough path and stream crossings were tough on the legs but the weather and views made it more than worthwhile.

At about the 15km mark there was a wonderful series of cascades to provide air conditioning as we walked. In spite of the cooling spray the last part of the walk was hard in the way that last parts often are. But there’s no question we were astoundingly luckily in our crossing of McKinnon Pass.