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An Alpine Solo Journey Along the Southern Alps

by Henriette Beikirch

During the two summers of 2012-14, I completed a high-alpine solo traverse of the Southern Alps over a total period of nine months. Starting at Farewell Spit in the far north, I travelled south with the scenery becoming progressively more alpine the further south I went. I visited numerous remote high-alpine regions and glacial plateaus, and climbed several peaks along the way. Between alpine crossings and when the weather was harsh, I travelled valleys to ensure progress, which also allowed me to visit a number of natural hot springs! South of Mt. Cook, travelling through Mt. Aspiring National Park, I explored some of the more remote western valleys and even side tripped out to Big Bay for some beach time.

Originally intended for just one summer, by the end of the first summer I reached Milford Sound and – after much debate – decided to defer Fiordland to a second summer. This allowed me to take advantage of more settled summer weather so that I could achieve my planned route close to the Main Divide.

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Footsteps on the upper Tasman glacier.

Fiordland took a further 2 1⁄2 months in 2014 and was the most remote part of my trip. My journey was likely the most high-alpine traverse ever undertaken of Fiordland, and the first solo traverse of Fiordland by a woman. I finished my Traverse at Pt. Puysegur, which while not the southernmost point of the South Island, is the most remote southwest outpost of the Fiords. To return to civilisation, I walked out along the South Coast in a two-week jungle-bashing finale.

I feel privileged to have been able to complete this massive project. I have seen some spectacular scenery in the remotest parts of our South Island Mountains, which I hope to share with you in this talk. From the quiet souls of the glaciers, to rushing West Coast rivers, to the remote wilderness of Fiordland: Being a solo expedition, the Traverse tested both my physical and mental stamina, and required flexible and in-depth planning and logistics. Fiordland in particular will remain with me as one of the great wildernesses on Earth.

Posted: 01/02/16

Posted By: Sefton Priestley