Getting out of bed prior to sunrise on my holiday was never going to be easy, especially in the near freezing temperatures of Wanaka, New Zealand, but after 2 hours of double time marching up to the summit of Roys Peak from Lake Wanaka below made it all worthwhile.
In anticipation of the daylight, I didn't appreciate how dark it would be at the start and unwisely didn't take a headlight, stumbling up a well trodden path under starlight and occasionally used my cellphone when the ground was uncertain. High up on the mountainside were a couple of headlights of more hardy souls than I, already well underway. I made it my goal to catch them before the summit and got stuck into it.
After over an hour of endless switchbacks I was making great progress up the trail, although my intrepid early starters were beginning to find the ridge line and my goal of catching them was beginning to look unattainable.
A couple of hundred of metres below the summit I hit the snowline and the dawn light began to reveal absolutely epic views across the lake to the jagged peaks of the Aspiring National Park. The adrenalin began to flow and the joy of running high took over and it was already going to be a great day.
Within 2 hours I scrambled up onto the summit and found both groups, two couples, had arrived only a few minutes before. I felt a little smug when they disclosed their start time was 50 minutes prior to mine, but cruically we all beat the sunrise, good times!
The Roys Peak summit hike is now a very popular route and for good reason. It is close to the appealing ski town of Wanaka, yet the trail quickly gives hikers that experience of isolation and sense of achievement of knocking off a peak with 360 views including the Southern Alps dressed in all its winter beauty.
The Department of Conservation recommend a generous 5 to 6 hours to complete the ascent and return however any moderately fit trail runner in clear weather will comfortably knock it off within 4 hours, I was down in 3.5 hours and stopped to enjoy the rising sun turning the mountain grasses that golden yellow colour so typical of the beautiful Central Otago hinterland.