The New Zealand Alpine region is alluring–it boasts vast magnificent views of untouched wilderness.
My buddy Mark and I went out on an overnight mission to find some Tahr high up in the Southern Alps. Mark was just wanting to get out for the hike and hopes of running into a big bull trophy. I, on the other hand, was on a meat gathering expedition, though I love getting out into the mountains purely for some exercise too. The plan was to climb up high on top of the ridges and use our binoculars to look down into all of the vast basins below in hopes there were some Tahr hanging out down there.
Winter is not far away. This was perhaps the first snowfall of the season at this lower elevation of 1700m. The far ridge in the background was our aim.
The views are spectacular from heights like this! At these elevations (I am standing at 2000m), it wasn’t terribly long ago glaciers covered the ground, hence the lack of topsoil and vegetation. The Alpine zone is a unique environment that does not hold a ton of life, just the various patches of tussock grass and many types of moss nibbled by rabbits, tahr and deer. On days like this with zero wind and temperatures were near freezing, the air is so still you could here the NZ falcons soaring overhead looking for rabbits.
We were sitting on top of the ridge enjoying the views, eating some lunch and thinking about taking a nap in the sun when I spotted some animals WAY down at the bottom of the mountain where we were perched, the opposite direction from where we came… I was watching that spot for about 30 min, and didn’t see them until one of them stood up and walked around eating some grass. Mark and I contemplated going down there. It was down a huge scree slope, about 500m vertically down and nearly 3/4 mile away, which meant we would need to come back up with heavy packs full of meat if were able to stalk into range and get a couple tahr… “Why not? We are young and fit and have 8hrs of daylight left.” (Well, “young” is relative I guess, I am starting to feel old after carrying a heavy meat laden pack up and over mountains and I get sore hips)
So here we are after scrambling down the scree slope and sneaking in on the mob of tahr. In the end there were no bulls to be seen in the group, just nannies. Now the real hard work begins! We deboned the meat and filled our meat bags with every bit of meat from the animals. Mmmm Tahr burgers, Tahr Curry, Tahr stew!
Marks not so thrilled about the climb back up the scree slope, Definitely the hardest I have ever worked for some meat!
Climbing up loose scree is “soul destroying” as Mark would say. It’s 3 small steps up and 2 large steps back, worse than trying to climb loose sand. We opted for the zig zag approach, hugging the cliffs where there was some stable rock to climb up on.
Phew, finally made it back up to the top, and it’s all down hill from here. The mountain tarn was almost a turquoise color, very inviting for a swim, but extremely cold! Our vehicle is somewhere down towards the bottom of the valley, still a long walk back down.
Another photo for those interested in dead animals and guns!