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Walter Peak Panic!

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

Walter Peak from Queenstown Prints available.

Well, I finally got waaay too far outside my comfort zone. It had to happen eventually!

Last weekend I had the joy of joining @tortoisebell and his birthday crew. The mission was to summit Walter Peak. It's the iconic mountain viewable from Queenstown and after drawing the thing ten times or so I was excited to get on it. However nobody seemed to have to done it before and the one write up we could find had it down as:

"extremely steep, exposed, a scramble that becomes climbing for short sections and for experienced hikers only"

I don't do exposure. I'm probably not even that experienced. Uhoh. 😒

Walter Peak Farm Station - The best buffer ever! Prints available.

With this in mind I figured I could get at least half way up before it got too spicy, set up my paints and wait for the others to come back down. Except I got a bit carried away...

The group dynamic meant we had some fast guys up front and me trailing behind (taking the things slow and trying not to fall to my death). It meant decisions on the route were being made before I really had a chance to catch up and to my horror, we ended up peeling away from the little red line we were following and scrambling (climbing) straight up the main face! I could have perhaps stopped before this point but I was already in a heightened state of fear after an earlier section of scrambling and being left in such an exposed place on my own felt awful. In a backwards way, pushing on with friends at least meant I had support of the group and people to literally hold my hand at points! It was needed as I found myself concentrating VERY hard on each foot and hand placement and trying not to have a total freak out. One false move would have literally killed me. I wanted to collapse and cry but I knew losing it would end in disaster. I bottled up 30+ minutes of terror and I can safely say I traumatised myself!

Five hours after we'd set off and I was stood on top of the bloomin' thing! The only problem was I'd spent the last hour in a state of complete terror. The route change meant I had absolutely no idea down off the bloody thing. I trusted my friends to help but it didn't stop my imagination going bananas. This was way WAY beyond the comfort of anything I'd done and had so much adrenaline running through my system I struggled to take in the hard earnt views. I was far too busy crapping my pants! 😅

What a mad experience. Now we had to work out how to get back down 😕

My "crapping myself" level reduced slightly on the descent with shorter sections of scrambling and less exposed gullies giving me something to hold on to.

But because of the adrenaline at the summit I couldn't eat my lunch. I knew this was risky and part way down I had a huge mood crash. I went from bouncily and happily enjoying not being dead to barely being able to talk and making silly mistakes.

This was only made worse by the rest of the team being more experienced, so as soon as we hit the tussock slopes they accelerated off around the corner and there were several points where felt completely alone on the mountain. Loose rock sent me sliding a metre on my back down a scree slope and after six more slides on snow grass, I'd had enough. The shock from all the fear on the ascent and the near misses on the descent caught up with me and I broke down crying.

@sabipoulin did a great job of picking me back up and the universe threw me a reward for all my efforts in the form of a passing hunter who gave us a lift in his truck for the last 2km. We returned to a ruddy good party and tucked in to the farm's BBQ buffet. (Best. Food. Ever) The highlight of the night being finally getting to see the Southern Lights!!! 😄

I feel really mixed when I look back up at Walter Peak. It took me weeks to get over this trip. People say "yeah but how awesome is it that you made it up there! you should be proud!" but honestly, I pushed it too hard and really really scared myself. It's really cool that I'm in a select few who have gotten to get nice and up close to the mountain that Queenstown stares at every day but It's not even type two fun as I write this.

We keep pushing our limits but eventually we'll find out where they are and I consider myself lucky to have gotten away with this one!


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TSS Earnslaw in Queenstown - Prints available.

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