The Day the Young Adventuress Tried to Kill Me

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“I'm not really a hiker, Liz.”

I didn't keep track of how many times I uttered this to my friend Liz as we were driving around Wanaka, New Zealand, and she was pointing out all sorts of mountains she wanted to make me climb.

There was talk of a hike to Rob Roy Glacier in Mount Aspiring National Park. A hike to Rocky Mountain Summit just outside Wanaka. And what would have probably been a full day climb of Roys Peak.

“Again, I'm not really a hiker, Liz.”

I said this many times, but what I really meant was “I'm so incredibly unfit and I actually HATE hiking and I may cry and just sit down in the middle of the track and tell you to leave me behind.”

Rocky Mountain Track summit

But of course I never said these things. I stayed quiet, secretly hoping the weather would be terrible or that Liz would forget about all the hiking. (But who was I kidding? This is the girl who spent weeks riding horses around Mongolia and who lives in NEW ZEALAND now, for God's sake.)

Thankfully for us both, the weather and our lack of ability to plan anything conspired for us to tackle the Rocky Mountain Track first.

Rocky Mountain Track in Wanaka

The track, located about 20 minutes from Wanaka, is a slightly more obscure one in the region. Even though it's close to a lot of the other popular walks in the area, not many non-locals seem to know about it.

The track is maintained by New Zealand's Department of Conservation, and has a few different hiking options. We of course were going for the whole enchilada – the 7-kilometer track that would take us to the Rocky Mountain Summit and back.

The DOC estimates the whole hike should take about 3 hours. It's probably listed as an “easy” hike, but a hike that would have you scale a waterfall and leap over a river full of sharks would probably be classified as “easy” in “We-Downplay-Everything” New Zealand.

Rocky Mountain Track with Young Adventuress
Part of the Rocky Mountain Track

We arrived around 3 p.m., armed with water bottles, a few layers of clothing, and a bag of potato chips to reward ourselves with at the top.

Liz had done this hike before, and assured me it would take us far less time than the DOC estimate. “We'll probably be at the top in 45 minutes,” she said.

Famous last words.

Rocky Mountain Track in Wanaka

45 minutes into the hike, and we were nowhere near the top. We had conquered the easy first part of the track (mostly gravel) and climbed about a billion steps to a lookout point over Diamond Lake.

Rocky Mountain Track
Some of those billion steps
Diamond Lake from the Rocky Mountain Track
The view over Diamond Lake

By 45 minutes in, we had a nice view over Lake Wanaka, but I was out of breath and starting to get tired. Luckily, I had plenty of excuses to stop and take photos.

Rocky Mountain Track in Wanaka

To be fair, I wasn't the only one breathing heavy. But Liz was making fun of me anyway. I pointed out, though, that I TOLD her I was not a hiker nor in shape (unless “shape” means kind of round and squishy).

I wasn't about to give up, though.

Rocky Mountain Track in Wanaka

We continued on, Liz assuring me that the top was “not far now” every time I would be tempted to rest my screaming calves on an inviting-looking rock – even though I could clearly see that the top was not, in fact, anywhere nearby.

We climbed up small cliffs. Trudged along muddy, narrow switchbacks. And Liz kept saying “almost there, almost there,” followed usually by, “Oh, actually I don't remember this part from last time.”

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that she was just trying to kill me.

She lured me to her home in Wanaka, only to try to do away with me on an empty hiking track.

Rocky Mountain Track in Wanaka
See? Empty.

No, no. I really love Liz. And I'm actually glad she forced me to the top of that “mountain.” It was something I would have never done on my own, and it allowed her to show me a slice of her new, outdoors-loving life.

Rocky Mountain Track summit
We made it!

It didn't hurt that the view at the top was great, or that we had the summit completely to ourselves, either. We spent almost 45 minutes up there taking photos and appreciating how damn pretty New Zealand is.

Looking out over Lake Wanaka
Rocky Mountain Track summit

What's that quote about climbing mountains?

“It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”

Rocky Mountain Track
Photo thanks to Liz

I may not have been transformed into a hiker, but I definitely conquered something that day. (Though it might have just been Liz's plot to kill me…)

Rocky Mountain Track summit
Look at that look of glee on her face… probably thinking about throwing me off the top!

All my complaining and hyperbole aside, it's a pretty epic hike – totally doable in a morning or afternoon.

I'm not sure that I would do it AGAIN… but in the end I was glad I was forced slightly out of my comfort (and fitness) zone in order to get to the top.

Rocky Mountain Track summit

RELATED: 9 Signs You Are NOT a Hiker

If you're even in Wanaka, is this a hike you would tackle?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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  1. […] nearby due to high winds), but in the end that just made it more exhilarating. Here’s a great review by a non-hiker of this route. I think Jeff may have had similar thoughts on this and other hikes […]

    I’m going to New Zealand in June and I was wondering what type of jacket you would recommend? I feel like a rain coat would be too light but a snow jacket might be too heavy… eek

      It will be cold (and potentially snowy) in June on the South Island. So a warm jacket is definitely recommended! When I lived in Wellington a few years back in the winter, I took a heavier, wind-proof North Face jacket. A rain jacket will definitely be too light in most places at that time of year!

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