After a nice breakfast at home on Thursday, I headed with a daypack over to the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown. It heads from town up into the mountains, about 1500 vertical feet up. Up top, there's an overpriced restaurant, a luge track, a bungee operation, and a paraglide launch, as well as a couple of trailheads.
The trail (ok, "track") for Ben Lomond, just over 6000', is listed as a 5 1/2 hour return, so I figured that would make a good day before work.
A round trip on the gondola is 21NZD, but they have a year-long pass for 59NZD. One obvious decision later, I'm the proud owner of a year pass. It's an awfully nice view to go check out after work, etc.
Here's the view of downtown Queenstown from the top of the gondola:
And here's a view out over Wakatipu from the top of the gondola (click the thumbnail for a large version):
I had no idea how much of a hike I was in for, as I didn't even know at the time how tall Ben Lomond was.
Here was my first good view of the peak:
And another quick panorama of Wakatipu as I neared the saddle (click for larger):
I got to the saddle and was greeted by breathtaking views to the north and the west. As the crow flies, Queenstown is very close to Milford Sound, but it's a long trip by car. These mountains to the north and the west are in the vicinity of Milford Sound.
After the saddle, the track turns sharply up, and it's a good grunt up to the summit. It was quite windy on the exposed northern face, too.
The grunt was well worth it. Here are two shoddy panoramas from the top, one over Wakatipu and the other looking north and west (click both for larger).
And a self-portrait, an hour and 10 minutes and some 3200 vertical feet after I stepped off the gondola:
The trip down was equally quick, although I started feeling some familiar sensations in my legs, reminding me that the race was only 2 1/2 weeks ago.
Sure enough, 2 days later, my quads hurt like hell and I'll be keen to be able to hobble around a little better tomorrow.
The shots to the north and the west are a good indicator of how quickly uninhabited parts of this island can be reached. A mere hour or so out of town...not too shabby!
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