Mt Catherine is a superb peak overlooking Lake Heron in the Clent Hills area. We'll access via a 4WD road and cross the flats then ascend the south west ridge - about 1000m sustained climb, some of it fairly steep, tussock at first and then rock - to get to the commanding summit of Mt Catherine (2085m).
We set off from Christchurch at 7am and were hiking by 9:30. In the party was Alister, a programmer like me, Keith, who seemed to work in one of the many vineyards of New Zealand, and Christina, an accountant. The drive out was delightful. I finally found out what the giant hedges I was seeing on my way to Arthur's Pass last weekend - they're wind breaks. Of course I saw lots of sheep, too.
|The weather started off nice.|
|Stopping for a break.|
Tramping in the south island seems to follow that mantra of Kiwis I mentioned previously - "do it yourself". There wasn't any path to take after the farmer's 4x4 road ended. We hopped a couple fences and just started up the creek bed, nothing particularly fancy. Alister mentioned that Catherine probably only sees five or six summits in a year, so there's little purpose in having a trail. Besides, there was quite a bit of snow travel involved.
The other neat thing was that no one really knew where to go exactly, we just figured it out as we went. By we I mainly mean Keith and Alister, though we all joined in guessing which of the peaks was actually the tallest, since at times it was hard to tell.
|On the way up.|
The weather in New Zealand is rather temperamental, at least in the mountains, since it changes often and can get quite brutal compared to weather systems I'm used to. The weather today wasn't stellar, but it was nice enough to make it to the top, and it was a good introduction. Something that I've never experience before today was a gust of wind so sudden and strong as to knock me off balance and almost completely over. We were never on a knife-edge ridge, so there was zero danger of falling, but the concept of being blown off a mountain I can imagine to be literally possible here, even at relatively low altitudes.
|On the way down|
And now to finish this terribly laid out post, here's a terribly shot video I took while slogging up the snow valley about 200m below the summit: