My Summit Challenge journey had drawn me south in search of summits. I quickly moved through Canterbury, collecting Mt Somers and Mt Olivier along the way before arriving in Wanaka (Roys Peak, Corner Peak and Breast Hill), onto Queenstown (the Remarkables Grand Traverse), and up to Glenorchy (Mt Earnslaw). It is a wonderful country.

Mt Earnslaw

Fiordland enticed me with her iconic granite peaks towering above draped in vegetation. Mitre Peak was surely next. Disheartened to hear water taxis were no longer, I drove into Homer Hut anyway after an evening dash up to Conical Hill on the Routeburn. To my good fortune, a friend at Homer Hut lent me his whitewater kayak for the trip across the sounds. The Mitre Peak dream was alive again.

Mitre Peak from the Milford Sound
I had some emails to attend to in the morning from Milford Lodge, so I didn’t get away until 11am. Fortunately the sounds were beautifully calm. After half an hour, I dragged the kayak ashore and began bush bashing up the steep slopes of the Footstool, the first peak on the ridge. The track is initially non-existent, but later I merged onto a faint foot track through thick bush on the ridge. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of Mitre’s peak, closer and closer.


Mitre Peak panoramic view

I gulped some water from a saucepan at the mid-way bivvy spot and started ascending the notoriously exposed ridge. The drop-off into the sounds was incredible and the rock scrambling was a lot of fun. I reached the summit at about 2pm, took in the mesmerizing view, and began the careful descent.

Happy to be on the summit of Mitre Peak
After I got back at the water level a few hours later, I looked forward to a quick kayak back in the onshore swell. Just one problem . . . my kayak was gone. Oh dear. My kayak had been swept away by the tide. I was trapped on Mitre Peak.


Coming to grips with the fact that I have lost my friend’s kayak and will have to repay him

I looked out to Milford and saw the last of the cruise ships heading in, as it was almost 5pm. The sandflies found me and started to bite. My spare supplies were also in the kayak, floating in the sound somewhere. What a disaster.

I felt I only had one choice – set off the PLB and hope a cruise ship was sent instead of a helicopter to rescue me. I reluctantly pulled out the PLB and walked out to the water’s edge to set off the beacon near the best sky coverage. I saw a good rock on which to set it up.

Then something blue out to my left caught my eye. The kayak! It was the kayak! Goodness me. I rushed over to rescue the kayak, bobbing around by a log. But it was not just bobbing on its own accord, it was tied onto a log. Someone had rescued my kayak and tied it there for me. Thank you, whoever you are.

The kayak! I will survive!
I jumped in and paddled back to Milford, thoroughly glad that I was not late for dinner at Homer Hut. I was quite pleased with myself after this little adventure, completing the round trip of Mitre Peak from car to car in 6 hours 18 minutes. It would have been under 6 hours if it had not been for the kayak episode!


This article originally appeared on Alastair’s ‘Mountain Adventure Blog’ on 18 January 2022 and is reproduced here with permission.