In 2018, we were off to Queenstown for a week to celebrate Gelo’s big 3-0. Prior to our departure the weather has been good, however, the forecast mentioned light showers that will occur on the third day of our holiday continuing until the end of the week. Knowing New Zealand’s weather, we decided to be safe and brought a handful of winter gear, just in case.
On our second night in Queenstown, it started to rain, a day earlier than the forecast. But since we already knew, it wasn’t an issue, thinking that tomorrow the weather will be okay. It was midnight, we were awoken by the sound of thunder and heavy rain. The temperature started to drop.
On the morning of the third day, we woke up to what seemed like a sunny day. We heard the birds singing and the rain has stopped. These were all signs of a clear day. I hurriedly stood up and peeked through the curtains. And guess what? Everything was white; it was snowing! Like a child, I was so excited, I told Gelo then I grabbed my camera, put on my slippers, and went out to take photos. It was our first time to see actual snowfall. It was beautiful.
Our amazement did come to a halt when we found out that due to the snow fall, all the outdoor activities that we have planned had to be cancelled, and that included the hikes.
On September 19, two days post snow fall and Gelo’s 30th birthday, we were originally going to explore Moke Lake. But because we didn’t know the area well we decided to go somewhere closer and “safer”. So we consulted our friend, Google, and found Ben Lomond Track. It is a popular track due to its close proximity to Queenstown and the views at the summit.
After our hearty buffet breakfast we set out to hike the Ben Lomond Track. Our adventure started at the One Mile Powerhouse Track.
The path heading up the mountain was damp and the air was cold. We followed the signs that were supposed to lead us to the main track to Ben Lomond Saddle.
There are numerous reasons why this day was very memorable, one of them stemmed from the lack of information. Due to this adventure being unplanned, we weren’t aware that the path along One Mile Creek track wasn’t maintained. Furthermore, we later (months after!) on found the Department of Conservation guide stating that “route finding skills are necessary”. So here’s what happened.
We continued following the path and the signs until we decided to stop; one, because it seemed like the path that we were on was no longer part of the actual track and two, because the signs (which were small, yellow, plastic flags with numbers) were nowhere to be found. We looked around, but all we could see were trees, a broken pipeline, and nowhere to go.
We decided to re-trace our steps. We then realized that the path that we were supposed to be following was no longer passable. There was a big pile of tree trunks which might have “broken off” during the snow storm. Then we saw it, the tree that had the next sign, it was now laying on the ground.
At this point, I was already silently panicking, I even suggested that we just go back. However, the birthday boy seemed to be unconcerned. He was hiking up and down, left and right looking for an alternative route. It wasn’t long when he found a track. I had to follow him up a steep and slippery path. Imagine my sigh of relief when I saw the actual track. It was a biking track. After about 20 minutes, we reached Skyline. We had our final bathroom break before ascending to Ben Lomond Summit.
As we left the recreation area, we found ourselves surrounded by trees, the ground was partly covered in snow and the temperature was dropping. It wasn’t long until we were greeted by this magnificent view.
The mountain was covered in snow, good thing we were slightly prepared for the hike.
Slightly Waterproof boots
Enough water and food
Fully charged phones and cameras
More than enough daylight hours
(Makeshift) walking sticks
From this point, it was a slow but continuous ascent to the saddle and then the summit. This area, unlike the One Mile Creek Track, is maintained. The path from A to B was clear. I won’t lie, due to the snow, I found this hike to be more difficult than the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that we accomplished in early 2018.
After approximately 2 hours we reached Ben Lomond Saddle. The view made us forget how tired and cold we were, it was breathtaking. After taking a break and a million photos, we decided to go back to Queenstown , we were advised by fellow hikers that the hike to the summit wasn’t possible because of the depth of the snow.
The sun has been up for a few hours since we started the hike, the snow was already melting, and there were puddles of mud and water along the path. I found the descent to be emotionally challenging because I was already tired, the path was slippery, and my shoes were soaked. All I can really think of was getting home and taking a hot shower.
An hour or so later, we reached the Skyline. Due to exhaustion, we decided to pay for a gondola ticket going down, booked a room at the Crowne Plaza, and ate our way to a $100+ food bill at threesixty.
This adventure is definitely one for the books especially because Gelo kept saying that he did have a great time despite the challenge we faced going up Ben Lomond Saddle.