Mitre Peak / Rahotu

5th–6th February 2022

Milford Sound / Piopiotahi,

Fiordland National Park

Climb with Rachel Jones and Alice Payn.

When a red warning of rain put paid to our canyoning plans on the West Coast, we ironically headed to the rainiest place in the country where the forecast was for nothing but sunshine. Alice collected me from Christchurch and we drove down to Homer Hut on Friday, collecting Rachel and a couple of kayaks in Queenstown en route. You aren’t able to get a water taxi or hire kayaks from Milford Sound for a trip to Mitre Peak, so it’s very much a BYO boat trip.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

Rachel and Alice paddle a double sit-on-top kayak across from Milford Sound to Sinbad Gully. They had all three of our packs stashed inside large pack liners in an attempt to keep them dry. It mainly worked.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

Rounding the corner, Mitre Peak came back into view. The ~3.5km paddle took us about 30mins, thanks to a strong tailwind. The return journey the next day would take us almost an hour.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

As soon as you leave the shore, the climb starts steeply up through the bush following a vague trail.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

We were warned of the many false trails we’d come across in the bush. However, we found the route up to be quite straightforward to follow.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

On the way down, on the other hand, on several occasions the obvious paths we followed petered out into nothing, requiring a bush-bash to regain the correct route.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

We reached the Footstool (835m) after just under four hours. From a small gap in the bush, Mitre Peak still looked a long way away, both horizontally and vertically.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

We’d planned to camp in a small clearing at the saddle after the Footstool (~690m), but a couple of guys on their way down the mountain told us about a better spot just above the bush line at about the 1000m contour.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

Our campsite had plenty of room for the three of us to spread out our bivvy bags and enjoy a beautiful evening.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

The views were stunning. My particular spot looked across Milford Sound to Mt Pembroke / Puhipuhi-takiwai and the Pembroke Glacier / Hakatere, glowing orange in the sunset.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

At sunrise on Sunday morning we reluctantly emerged from the warmth of our sleeping bags, ready to begin the climb to the summit.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

From our camp, the ridge became more and more rocky and exposed. However, the granite was dry and very grippy.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

Approaching Pt1302, we we afforded amazing views of the sheer cliffs and curved bedrock of Mitre Peak’s south face.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

Beyond Pt1302 the ridge drops steeply, with incredible exposure down to the fiord below.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

The climb on the other side seems to be the crux of the route, but is quite straightforward. There is a ring bolt at the top (~20m) which we used to belay/abseil on the way back down.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

Despite the days of rain leading into this trip, the rock was bone dry by thr time we were on it, and grip wasn’t an issue. The scrambling to the summit was very enjoyable.

Mitre Peak 5th–6th February 2022

360° panorama from the summit of Mitre Peak/Rahotu. The whole of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi was visible, from the Tasman Sea/Te Tai-o-Rēhua to the head of the fiord. Across the water was Mt Pembroke/Puhipuhi-takiwai with the Pembroke Glacier/Hakatere, and beyond Tūtoko stood above the rest of Fiordland.

The route back down to our campsite was straightforward. However, once we re-entered the bush, on numerous occasions the obvious trail we were following just disappeared, and required some bush-bashing to regain the correct path down the mountain. I’d strongly suggest GPS tracking your route up through the bush, which is easy to follow, and then following that GPS track on the way down.
We arrived back at the kayaks nearly 11 hours after leaving camp that morning. Our plan was to camp a second night at the mouth of Sinbad Gully and paddle back to Milford Sound the next morning. The swarms of sandflies, however, had different ideas, so we loaded up as quickly as we could and battled a headwind for the best part of an hour back to the boat ramp.
As a final note, be warned that once you leave the shore at Sinbad Gully, there is no water on this route. We had been told about a couple of small ponds at a potential campsite at the saddle just beyond the Footstool, but these turned out to be nothing more than muddy puddles which I wouldn’t drink from unless I was absolutely desperate! We took 5 litres of water each on this two-day trip, and found that it was only just enough.
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