Journey of a lifetime

21:59, Jan 22 2013
Alastair Fastier
Alastair Fastier and Dave Moulder celebrate their epic South Island overland journey with a replica bottle of Shackleton's famous Mackinlay whiskey, a congratulatory gift from the company's head distiller.

Glenorchy-based adventurer and alpine tramper Alastair Fastier isn't one to laze by the lake with a beer.

He has spent the past six summers restoring heritage huts in Antarctica so when he had this summer off he headed for the hills.

Mr Fastier and his mountaineering mate Dave Moulder, from Nelson, finished a 1400-kilometre, 70-day journey traversing mountain passes in the Southern Alps from Cape Farewell, near Nelson, to Slope Point, near Te Wae Wae Bay in Southland last Thursday.

Their route followed the eastern backbone of the Southern Alps. It included sea kayaking Lakes Te Anau, Manapouri and Hauroko, and walking the Routeburn via Dore Pass, and the Hump Ridge track.

Most days they set off at 5am, often knocking off a 1828-metre to 2133m pass each day, and setting up camp about 7pm.

"It gets pretty tiring," Mr Fastier said. "Mother nature was kind enough to allow us to complete the journey but along the way gave us several gentle reminders, in the way of storms, that she was in charge."


They hadn't counted on needing their crampons and ice axes after the section from Arthurs Pass to Mount Cook but the weather threw plenty of challenges at them

"In early January we had snow on the Cascade Saddle. We hit rain when we got to Aspiring Hut and the next morning there was a big dump of snow on the ground, but we managed to borrow an ice axe and a grubber off the hut warden."

The most daunting moments had to be enduring last week's awe-inspiring electrical storms camped in a tent at the Albertburn Saddle.

"The flash even with your eyelids closed was magnificent. Looking back, it's one of the highlights."

Walking the South Island had been a long-held dream and the pair were grateful to Mr Fastier's partner, Helen Clark, for critical food and equipment drops.

"It was more about the mental stamina than physical stamina - focusing on one day at a time. We didn't overcome the environment but several of our own weaknesses," he said.

Mr Fastier usually spends three months of summer in Antarctica managing a team of heritage carpenters and conservators, so it was fitting that the head blender for Mackinlay's in Scotland heard of the Kiwi men's amazing overland feat and sent the heritage trust a bottle of replica whisky which they enjoyed at their journey's end last Thursday.

"I hope our journey inspires others to fulfil their dreams," Mr Fastier said.

The Southland Times