Tara Tama Traverse

Words and images: Caroline Bellamy

Participants: Caroline Bellamy, Hamish Cumming, Alastair McDowell, Philip Sültrop and Phil Wallace

After dinner at Darfield we arrived 9.00pm Friday in Arthurs Pass, where all the fun began. With our five packs loaded and ice gear secured we began our way towards Rocky creek hut on the pleasant warm night
it was, pumped and excited for what was to come. We estimated a 2-3 hour walk in…. well……

We gradually climbed through lush greenery up onto the ridge and followed the track down to Rocky Creek where torrents of water gushed furiously past. Apparently it had rained the previous week on the West Coast and the rivers were very high, not to mention the snow melt. It was going to be a long night! Time to get saturated. We navigated following the river and used the track where we could find it which was quite challenging in the dark. With a mix of slippery rocks, torrents of deep water, difficult terrain, at 1am we were starting to tire and needed to get to the hut to be sure we knew where we were.

However with some great nav skills of Alastair and Hamish we knew the hut was not to far away…. hopefully.
Best sight of the night… the hut!! At 3am we all piled into the hut, boots and clothes dipping, relieved to have finally made it. With a big couple of days ahead of us we had a quick snack (can’t go to sleep hungry!) and doubled up the bunks with one on floor and one outside.

Sleeping in to 8.00am we quickly set off into the clear sunny day continuing up rocky creek. Looking up at the dense green bush and rocky guts we knew we were in some rough, wild and exciting country. As we reached a left fork in the creek we followed it up into a steep rocky gut where we heaved each other up careful not to drop rocks. ‘Phew, that was hard’! We ventured into the dense bush leading up to a side ridge. A huge amount of arm strength and good foot holes was needed as we scrambled up, grabbing and dislodging plants while slipping on muddy steep ground. At the top of the ridge we were pretty much tree climbing!

Note to all adventures: Always wear long pants when bush bashing in West Coast otherwise legs will get very scratched. It was rough stuff.

Just below Scotties Saddle
Just below Scotties Saddle

With a view from the ridge we could see the creek below us was clearer than the bush and lead up towards
Scotty’s Saddle. Woo thats where we want to go! We all followed the steep rocky creek until the very end,
gaining some good vertical. One last push up the steepest most challenging part to the saddle rewarded us
with amazing 360 views across the ranges, especially the nasty looking narrow Razorback ridge. The rolling
tussock saddle decorated with tarns glowed in the sun, with hardly a breath of wind to disturb it. It felt really
good to work so hard for something and then be rewarded with something so beautiful.

Our campsite at sunset
Our campsite at sunset

The West Coast sea and lake Brunner reflected in the warm evening sun as we trekked along the saddle, scouting out our campsite for the night. We choose a tarn below Tara Tama so we were able to get up onto the mountain nice an early on Sunday. A well deserved hot dinner was consumed warming us from the inside. As the sun disappeared we knew it was going to be a cold night. One biv bag, one 1 person tent, a fly with walking poles and 5 people. Probably should have brought a tent. Lucky the weather was flawless with clear skies (incredible view of the stars), no wind …..and no warmth. It was very cold!!

Early at 5.00am the West Coast birds chirped us awake. Everything was frozen… and sparkly! The fly and everything under it was frozen. Bivvy bag froze to sleeping bag and there was so much condensation in tent a lake had pretty much formed. A very memorable experience. As our bodies defrosted with a warm breaky we turned out frozen socks and laced up frozen boots. We set off in the dark with much anticipation for the sunrise and summit! The crunchy hard icy snow held our
weight with ease as we approached our assent of Tara Tama with the faint lightening of sunrise.

Crampons strapped on and ice axes ready we steady followed the snowy ridge avoiding the large rocks that we would detour or climb over. It took quite a lot of concentration in the more technical areas where with each step you had to be very sure. Learned some great snow craft tips on the way up and was able to practice then as we progressed. Perfecto!
Gradually the sun rose above the low cloud and lit up our mountainous surroundings. A breathtaking moment. Absolutely out of this world. The warm morning sun filtered through the clouds and there was not a breath of wind. It felt so remote and wild….

Traversing Tara Tama at sunrise
Traversing Tara Tama at sunrise

Onward to the summit we progressed up, down and around the not too technical ridge. Great for beginners. Reaching the summit at 10.00am the terrain flattened off and again 360 views of mountainous ranges were visible on the clear day that it was. We had all reached the summit safely! Woo it felt great! It had taking a lot of hard work but it was totally worth it. The reward cannot be put into words. The weather was perfect for a summit, we were very lucky.

The summit of Tara Tama
The summit of Tara Tama

However a successful ascent comes with a safe decent so after refuelling we traversed Tara Tama and went down the other side, practicing our down climbing and ice work. The snow had started to soften so we had to be careful with the more experienced in our team testing out some different routes before we proceeded, finding the safest way. We choose a grassy/ snow gut to decent down to the river below which was very direct and steep. Steep enough to do a complete summersault lol. Before we knew it we were back down at Dunn’s Creek with the unrelenting force of gushing water.

Descending Tara Tama
Descending Tara Tama

Rehydrating, and saying goodbye to the Tara Tama range we approached Dunn’s Hut around 2.00pm. Looking at the maps we realised we had a good 17km to go. With some of Phills ginger nut cookies we were off. We quickly made tracks following the Dunn Creek out to the Taipo river reducing our time. The high river levels sent Hamish swimming and Philipp taking a slip in the freezing white water brrrrrr!! A lack of sleep was defiantly taking its toll with vision becoming blurry and food supplies running low.

Tara 6We kept moving at a good pace crossing the Taipo river on an awesome cableway before bypassing Dillion’s hut. At one point the track became very difficult to find once it had gotten dark however with some help from local West Coast hunters we made it back to the car at 9pm. We had managed a 14 hour day and were still standing, oh yea!! Great fitness endurance training. Thanks Hamish for driving almost 3 hours and staying awake! The rest of us didn’t.

The trip was an amazing chance to explore remote Rough West Coast terrain. We were faced with many challenges which make it that much more exciting and rewarding. One for the coolest things about tramping I love is how primitive life becomes. Everything is simple, eat, sleep, move and take in everything around us.

Living in the moment! Big thanks to Alastair for organising the awesome trip. Bring on more Wild West Coast
Adventures…….
Here is a link to a mean video Alastair has created of our trip,

Reflections on Everest 2007

Our dear Tania dwells in memories of her trek to Everest Basecamp!

Happiest In The Hills

In April 2007 I spent a month in Nepal, trekking to Everest Base Camp. This was my attempt at squeezing four weeks of travel into an 1100 word article for a local newsletter.

Mt Everest. The name conjures up images of struggle, of sacrifice, of challenge and sometimes triumph. Of men who wore hobnailed boots and tweed whilst laying siege to the mountain. Of modern-day struggles, where the glory of the summit can override any desire to help a fellow climber in difficulty. Everest is all of these. But for me it was the chance to get off the beaten track, to see if I was up to the challenge that had me trekking to Everest Base Camp in April 2007.

Base Camp is a maze of high-altitude tents and ice platforms nestled into the side of the Khumbu glacier that leads of Camp I on the flanks of Everest…

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Andrews Stream

Location: Andrews Shelter, Arthur’s Pass
Date: 21 March, 2015
Participants: Matt Falloon and a crew of happy tramps

Words & Images: Susanne Birgelen

On a very sunny Saturday Matt and a group of motivated trampers met at the UCSA carpark. Everyone arrived well prepared with towels and extra clothing, since we were going to be wet. Our plan called for an adventure, so we were very glad for the great weather. We started walking at Andrews Shelter, about 25km south of Arthur’s Pass Village. Right at the beginning we had to walk steeply uphill. But the rest of the first half of the tramp was rather a nice stroll tramping up the Andrews Stream Track. We had plenty of time and pleasure to enjoy the forest, take pictures and watch birds.

Walking through the stream bed
Walking through the stream bed

The lunch break then marked the turning point of the day. Most of the group took a quick detour to explore a nearby hut while Matt and I decided to extend our break instead and stayed at the side of the river enjoying the sun and numerous sandflies. When the group was complete again, we prepared for the exiting part of the tramp: rolling up trousers, tightening shoes and putting everything away in a water proof place. Taking a deep breath we stepped into the water, as we aimed to head back via the streambed itself! It’s a nasty feeling, when not too warm water floods your shoes.

After a while it would feel warmer, we were told by Matt. It took quite a while. So we started walking down the stream, with lots of slipping and jumping from boulder to boulder. First only ankle deep, we soon stood knee deep in the water (yay, finally I didn’t feel the cold any longer). Then we came to the narrowest and steepest parts of the valley, meaning the deepest parts of the stream. I watched my fellow tramps in front of me trying to walk on a rocky cliff around this area. One slipped, the other started swimming –and I made a stupid decision. Climbing up the wall of the valley was easy (and dry), just coming down was way harder than expected. My thanks go to everyone who directed me from below, waited patiently and didn’t comment on my brilliant idea.

After that part it became easier again. Now we didn’t have far to go anymore and after a total of 6 hours we returned to Andrews Shelter. After drying and changing we headed back to Christchurch. Also thanks to our van who bravely climbed up the steep roads! All in all I really had a great day, in wonderful nature, with some adventures and a very nice group!

Concerning Freshers

Location: Magdalen Hut, St James Walkway, Lewis Pass
Date: March 7-8, 2015
Participants: 60+ Freshers

Images by Samuel Chau and Josie Dransfeld

“This trog is largely concerned with Freshers – CUTC’s first big annual tramping trip – and from its pages a reader may discover much of its character and a little of its history”

It is a thing with this author… She can’t seem to create a trog without including at least one or two Lord of the Rings references. However, it seems to be somewhat unavoidable since last year’s outing is rather famously known as “An Unexpected Journey”. Traditions shall be upheld and the author forgiven.

On Saturday morning, the majority of the fellowship gathered at our departure spot at 7.30 AM – as we had told them during the 1st meeting. Apart from our sometimes incomprehensible Trips Officer Enda, who simply stated: “I’m never ever on time”. The German cringes briefly at this blunt statement… You know, they are said to be always punctual and don’t take this lightly ;-P

It’s CUTC club tradition to normally leave 30 minutes late. When everyone was ready and seated on the buses at 8.12 AM, we couldn’t quite believe it, because that potentially meant that we could adhere to another famous club tradition: A pie stop in Culverden😀

Happily munching pies in the sun, everything looked rather good until we came closer to our destination, the Boyle Village. Quite correctly, the weathermen had predicted some heavy rain for the weekend, especially on Saturday and of course, we could not escape it – We had our formerInstruction-Officer-who-is-cursed-by-the-Weather-Gods-and-now-Captain-Glen on board!! Who voted him in for Captain, really?

At Boyle Village, it poured down with rain. It was by no means torrential, but still constant. The call was made that everyone would walk in the same route to Magdalen Hut that day since it would be way too much hassle and possibly dangerous to charge up Mt Faust or Six Mila in these conditions.
Before we headed out, the most essential question was asked:

“Does everyone have a raincoat?”

Agreeing murmurs all around, everyone seemed prepared. Although we did spot some cotton-ish pants here and there and lots of people wearing running shoes and sneakers. Have fun surfing the mud and crossing rivers with these…But then, that’s the point of Freshers… Everyone will learn…😉

Boyle Valley. Lewis Pass

It rained and rained and rained, bits of the trail were really muddy, which is not really a problem in sturdy boots as you can simply walk through…Assuming the puddle is not half a meter deep. After a while the forest cleared and some river crossings followed. Some of them were a bit freaky since all the rain resulted in rapidly rising rivers. Kudos, to everyone for waiting up and helping each other across!

We passed some cattle on the way, apparently in distress, we were told by Ethan. Rumor has it someone had some fun scaring them by chasing some geese across the bog!
Walking in wet shoes and boots is not the most pleasant of experiences, which is why people kept asking after a while how much further to go. The only thing I knew was that it would be roughly half an hour more once we reached the second swing bridge, Luckily, the said bridge came into view faster than expected. One more river crossing and we made it to our destination: Magdalen Hut.

Sam and Ethan and THE KEG

The weather cleared slowly, the sun peaked through the clouds, the keg was ready. As the afternoon and evening drew on, everyone enjoyed some or plenty of the beer and various other beverages and prepared dinner. St. Mathew created a wonderfully spicy curry, I wish I had known it was free to all. It looked and smelled delicious!

Gathered around the Holy Keg

Later on, for some reason, plans were debated what to do the next day. Walk out the same route? – “That’s boring!” – “Who is up for a challenge?” – “I’m keen on Six Mila!”. What ideas people get once… Well. Initially, only 3 or 4 people were keen to the extreme Route Six Mila, but it seems that this plan was advertised loudly throughout tent city and all of a sudden there were more than double keen for the ‘challenge’. Another bunch was keen for Faust.

The next morning, the Six Mila group left at 7.15 AM since it would be a very long day. They rushed off without telling anyone how many there were in the group…What about that ‘Lesson Learned’ from Avoca last year??
Until someone came limping back to camp 2 hours later. Injured. Luckily, we had a 4WD at hand.
The Faust group led by Volker left about an hour later. It was made clear the night before, that he would only take 6 people up and over. Some missed out, however, Ethan took a bunch of them to Boyle Flats Hut in the meantime while the rest of us would leave camp at around 10 AM to meet up at the swing bridge,

Crossing a swing bridge

The walk back was relaxed and easy, we stopped for breaks and lunches and photos, admiring the Boyle Village and river, staring up Six Mila wondering how it went for all the others. It seemed windy and cloudy up there.

One tramping couple

Back at the car park, we waited for everyone to return being eaten by sandflies in the meantime.
To cut the story short: 60+ people went on Freshers, 60 returned!

The CUTC wizards this year were strongly determined to prevent last year’s slightly chaotic mission from happening again. The club may have succeeded since most tramps reported to have a had a great time despite all the wetness.

Freshers served its purpose after all🙂

Freshers Fotoshoot🙂

 

A Journey to the Top of New Zealand – Aoraki Ascent

Words & images: Alastair McDowell
Participants: David Chen, Elisha Nutall, Alastair McDowell

There are only a few days each year when the many suns, stars and moons that govern perfect mountaineering conditions at Mt Cook line up. To be there ready, with a climbing partner, feeling fit and primed to pounce at this very moment – the chances seem impossibly slim. But on one such day in mid-December, the impossible happened.

Good weather was moving in for the weekend, so we made our move to advanced base-camp – Plateau Hut – on a miserably wet Wednesday. Although my climbing partners Elisha and David were quite keen, as most are, to fly from Mt Cook village up to the Grand Plateau, I was determined to make a clean ascent from the road-end, and eventually convinced them to join me.

NZ's highest peaks - Mt Cook & Mt Tasman
NZ’s highest peaks – Mt Cook & Mt Tasman

The walk-in via Haast Ridge has a feral reputation as being long, loose and painfully exhausting. With exceedingly heavy packs loaded with full alpine gear and six days of food, I can confirm it was all of those things. Navigating the moraine and white ice of the Tasman Glacier in white-out, followed by climbing 1800 metres of choss and wet snow certainly drained us and forced us to ask deep questions, like “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” For the glory, we try to answer, but the reply is drowned out by the roar of another rock avalanche and serac-collapse in the chaotic Hochstetter ice-fall far below. But oh how satisfying it was to walk into Plateau hut after a tough thirteen hours; drenched cold and tired, plaguing guilt upon the many lazy climbers who had taken the easy option. This was tramping at its finest! We now had two days to rest before conditions would come right to climb. The clouds of the storm slowly parted over the following days, revealing the country’s highest peaks – Aoraki, Tasman…

Midnight, December 14th, I poked my head out the door of Plateau hut to a clear starry sky. The chill of frozen snow. Conditions were perfect. After a quick breakfast, we set off roped together for glacier travel, marching over the freeze in unison. The darkness of the Linda enveloped us, a the half-moon barely glinting at the edges of the labrynth of crevasses that tumbled into a hollow abyss. The scale and potential power of those overhanging seracs wasn’t worth considering.

A sense of urgency through the upper Linda saw us move quickly across the icy Linda shelf, aware of the tumultuous icefalls above us, hiding beneath the darkness of the early hours. After a long traverse across the particularly firm ice, we continued upwards, finding a good snowbridge across the major bergschrund, allowing us to crampon up a gulley to meet the crest of the Zurbriggen Ridge. I yearned to find somewhere flat to sit or stand, to rest, to wear off the nerves of the past four hours, but nothing was flat up here. “She’s pretty steep, the Linda”, the Aussies would say. We had made good time to the Summit Rocks, not stopping even once, and now we were rewarded with a classical Mt Cook view… jagged summits cast against a golden glow on the horizon.

Sunrise on Dec 14
Sunrise on Dec 14

 

As we pitched our way through the steeper, well iced-up Summit Rocks, alpen glow threw majestic light over the neighbouring Silberhorn and Tasman. We were quickly drawing level height with those ice-carved summits, a feeling was rising. With sun came warmth, and the climbing become truly enjoyable as we picked through many short vertical ice and rock steps for three rope-lengths. The summit was now in view, and not far away. Once the final ice cap was surmounted, we stood on the top of New Zealand, proud to be Kiwis, proud to live in such a beautiful country.

Making the ascent
Making the ascent

Brilliant Ball Pass

Words & images: Enda Walsh
Participants: Simon Litchwark, Jeff Ducrot, Enda Walsh

So Ball Pass. It had been on my mind for some time. I’d first heard about it from Alex Warnaar when we did our Basic Alpine Skills course with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club. We were up at Mueller hut and Alex mentioned it as a route from across the Mount Cook Range from the Hooker to the Tasman Valleys, one that was good to do in Winter if you were confident in your snow and ice skills.

An Autumn, Summer and Spring later, Winter had come again and I was looking for some challenging routes for the season, Ball Pass came to mind. I had a look at the Department of Conservation description of the route and decided it could be done in a weekend (albeit a big one). A free weekend finally came around in August. Conditions were prefect, great weather and a low risk of avalanches. We finished work Friday and set out for Mount Cook National Park.

Joining me on this mission were Jeff Ducrot and Simon Litchwark. We’d decided to leave on the Friday evening so we could get an early start on Saturday. We arrived at the CMC’s Wyn Irwin Hut at the Hooker Valley carpark around 11.30 after a long and foggy drive from Christchurch. The plan from there was to get up early the next morning, head up Hooker Valley, climb to Ball Pass, camp just above the pass on the route to Kaitiaki Peak which we’d climb the next morning before descending to the Tasman Valley and walk out. One of us would have to cycle from the Tasman Valley carpark back to my car at Wyn Irwin Hut and then return to pick up the other two. Simon had volunteered his mountain bike for this purpose and the plan was to hide it near the Tasman Valley carpark on Saturday morning. We were saved this hassle by Cameron, the Wyn Irwin hut warden, who did a carshuffle with me on Saturday morning (this ended up saving us at least an hour on Sunday).

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Mount Sefton and the Footstool standing tall and proud above Mueller Lake.

So having done the carshuffle, sorted out our gear and left our intentions at the DOC visitor centre we set off up the Hooker Valley at the somewhat later than planned time of sometime around 8. We made good time heading up the Hooker Lake Track in the early morning light, the track is a highway at this point. We turned off just before the second suspension bridge, my newly bought map lead us to believe it continued up the true right of the valley when we wanted to be on the true left. And hour of following, sometimes losing and sometimes bushbashing our way along an old track on the valleys true left we came face to face again with the Hooker Lake Track. Turns out it has been redirected so it returns to the true left of the valley were it now meets the lake. From there you can just hop off onto the track which takes you around the lake. Never mind, it would only have saved us half an hour… and who real cares when you’re on your way to Ball Pass as mighty mountaineers only to be overtaken by an elderly couple who you suspect had left sometime after you…

Travelling up the Hooker Valley with Mount Cook looming majestically above us.
Travelling up the Hooker Valley with Mount Cook looming majestically above us.

Nonplussed, we continued walking alongside the Hooker Lake were we quickly encountered the first obstacle we’d been told to expect on this trip, moraine wall collapse. As the Hooker Glacier has retreated in recent decades the moraine wall it left behind has begun to collapse. In three places between the end of the Hooker Lake Track and the start of the climb to Ball pass, streams have cut deep gullies in the side of the moraine wall. There are also smaller sections of collapse along the route. When we came to the first of the three gullies we decided, optimistically, that we could drop in (easy), walk across (easy enough) and climb out (err…). An unpleasant climb up lose gravel and rock to get back out was the result of this decision. When we came to the next two gullies we opted to climb up the valley side and around. Given the size of these gullies this adds a fair bit of time and climbing to your trip up the Hooker Valley before even beginning the climb to Balls Pass. I fear that shortly in the future these gullies will cut off any easy access up the Hooker Valley on foot altogether.

One of three gullies that incise the track up the Hooker Valley.
One of three gullies that incise the track up the Hooker Valley.

So after passing these gullies and continuing up the lakeside we finally arrived at the large flat area which I believe is unofficially known as the Hooker Valley Campsite. We had lunch sitting in the sun ontop of a large bolder looking across the Hooker Glacier at lonely Hooker Hut.

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Lunch!

Access to this unfortunate hut appeared to our eyes to be cut off from every direction by gullies and moraine wall collapse (which is worse again on the true right of the Hooker Valley). The only way to get to it might be a long sidle to and then descent through, the bluffs above the hut.

After lunch we donned our crampons, got out our ice axes and began the long climb to Ball Pass. The first half of this climb took us up a long South facing gully below Mount Mabel. The gully was sheltered from the sun on three sides so the ice and snow made for good cramponing.

Beginning our climb to Ball Pass.
Beginning our climb to Ball Pass.
Looking back down the Hooker Valley.
Looking back down the Hooker Valley.

After an hour or so we emerged onto a large flat shelf known as the Playing Field. We stopped for a break here to take in some excellent views of the Hooker Valley and surrounds. This would make an excellent campsite location for anyone thinking of doing the Ball Pass crossing in three days instead of two.

Looking down on the Hooker Glacier and up at La Perouse from the Playing Field.
Looking down on the Hooker Glacier and up at La Perouse from the Playing Field.

We continued climbing up and around a ridge which extends down from Mount Rosa. This was one of the trickier bits of the trip as we’d to follow a route which zig-zagged up and around some nasty bluffs. After crossing the ridge we got our first sight of Ball Pass across the large basin which lay infront of us.

Our first sight of Ball Pass with Mount Cook high above us.
Our first sight of Ball Pass with Mount Cook high above us.

After climbing for another few metres heading in the direction of Mount Rosa we dropped down into the basin. I’d read in the DOC route description to avoid climbing too high on Mount Rosa and we could see tracks in the snow infront of us in were a party had dropped down after initially trying to traverse across the basin rim. After dropping down into the basin and beginning to travel across it and up towards ball Pass we could see why. There is a ridge which extends down from Mount Rosa which, while barely noticeable from the side we came from, is a ten metre cliff along the entire length of the side facing Ball Pass. A big thanks to whoever put those footprints in the snow!

It was a long auld plod at the end of a long day from the bottom of that basin to Ball Pass. We stopped I don’t know how many times along the way. The longest was beneath a large rocky outcrop were having run out of water I was forced to live off nature’s bounty, sucking meltwater off the rock. The idea had come to me from an episode of Top Gear were Jeremy Clarkson, while driving a Land Rover Discovery up a Scottish mountain, mocked Joe Simpson efforts to survive by drinking water in a similar manner during the events of Touching the Void. Not that I was in such dire straits but the water was certainly very welcome!

Refreshing!
Refreshing!

Finally, we emerged out onto the summit of Balls Pass. It was an immensely satisfying achievement standing there looking back were we’d come from down the Hooker Valley while simultaneously being able to look down on the Tasman Valley. All the while we were surrounded by the great peaks of the Southern Alps, none more so than mighty Mount Cook itself standing a further 1500 metres above us. What a truly spectacular spot.

Ball Pass!
Ball Pass!

We made camp on a shelf just above Balls Pass on the route to Kaitiaki Peak. Jeff and I dug out a snow shelter and set the tent up as Simon set about melting snow to make water. I was suffering abit for lack of water so some soup was well received. Also, we’d each made the error of assuming that one of the other two would bring sunscreen. None of us brought sunscreen.

The Team at our campsite.
The Team at our campsite.

So by dinner we were all truly well cooked ourselves. After dinner we watched the sun go down and the stars come out before getting some much needed shut eye.

Sunset over the Southern Alps.
Sunset over the Southern Alps.

We rose late the next morning, not too worried about the snow and ice conditions as today was going to be mainly downhill travel. We had breakfast before making the hour long return trip to Kaitiaki Peak.

Kaitiaki Peak!
Kaitiaki Peak!

This is pretty straightforward for the most part bar a short section were the ridge gets abit narrow and exposed. I thoroughly recommend making the climb to this peak. Although otherwise unremarkable it offers truly breathtaking 360 views of Mount Cook National Park and down into the Mackenzie Basin.

The Mount Cook Range with the Mackenzie Basin in the distance.
The Mount Cook Range with the Mackenzie Basin in the distance.

We were even able to look across the Hooker Valley, through Copland Pass on the far side and down onto the West Coast with the Tasman Sea shining in the distance. Truly spectacular, it was hard to leave that view behind.

Mount Cook (and Simon)!
Mount Cook (and Simon)!

We descended to our campsite where I did my Ice Bucket Challenge, much to Simon and Jeff’s amusement, before packing up and starting down Ball Ridge.
This made for an easy descent. For the most part the ridge is wide and gently rolling. We dropped off it at two points in order to avoid to small peaks as we weren’t sure that they offered an easy route down their far sides. As it turned out we could have gone up and over those peaks quite easily. The whole time we were able to feast our eyes on the Caroline Face of Mount Cook on our left and the Tasman Valley ahead of us and on our right.

After a couple of hours we arrived at Caroline Hut were we stopped to have lunch. This is a private hut but it has a public shelter attached to it and the toilet facilities are (mercifully) open to the public.

Dropping down to Caroline Hut.
Dropping down to Caroline Hut.

We were able to sit out on the small deck enjoying the food, views and soundtrack provided by the near continuous stream of avalanches coming off the Caroline Face (and this was during in a LOW avalanche forecast period…).

One of the bigger avalanches to come off the Caroline Face, this thing was huge!
One of the bigger avalanches to come off the Caroline Face, this thing was huge!

From Caroline Hut we continued along the ridge, making steady progress for another couple of kilometres. Then around the 1700 metre mark, the ridge narrows abruptly. From here we dropped down and traversed along the right hand side of the ridge.

Again, DOC had recommended this in the route description and again we could see the footprints of those that had gone before us heading in that direction. We tried to rejoin the ridge at one point but quickly dropped off again before descending into a bolder field. A this point a cairn marked route materialised, leading us through the bolder field, through the bushline, down a gully and out onto the top of the Tasman Glacier’s moraine shelf a hundred metres North of Ball shelter.

At Ball Shelter we encounter a Canadian tourist who was staying in the shelter for the night having walked up the Tasman Valley Track that day. He assured us the track was pretty easy going bar the remains of a massive avalanche which needed to be crossed. Confident that the hardest part of our trip was behind us we set off down the track aiming to be at the carpark before sundown.

At Ball Shelter, happy and exhausted.
At Ball Shelter, happy and exhausted.

Easy going it was, were possible the track follows the old Tasman Valley Road, where it hasn’t collapsed into the Tasman Glacier anyway…

Crossing the avalanche was a cakewalk after what we’d just done so before long we were on the intact section of the road which runs from Husky Flat back to the Tasman Valley carpark.

The last section of track before the joining the 4wd track, Lake Tasman in the distance.
The last section of track before the joining the 4wd track, Lake Tasman in the distance.

The work which went into building this road, which must have been a mighty effort in its day, has to be admired. It was also nice to be able to walk along and admire the scenery without having to worry at all about were one is places ones foot!

Not staring at ones feet means that you notice things like this beautiful New Zealand Falcon perched on a rock above you.
Not staring at ones feet means that you notice things like this beautiful New Zealand Falcon perched on a rock above you.

We eventually arrived at the carpark around 6 exhausted and even more sunburnt than I’d believed possible. At this point we were extremely grateful to Cameron for having helped us with the car shuffle, even with a bike it’s a long way back to Wyn Irwin Hut… Having picked up some gear at said hut, left our intentions return form at the DOC Visitor Centre and grabbed some much needed chips at Charlie’s we headed for Christchurch fuelled by coffee and the deep satisfaction of having completed a truly epic trip. Ball Pass is not to be underestimated, it requires confidence in ones snow and ice skills and is physically demanding. But nor is it unachievable for anyone with these skills. Above all, it is awesome, truly awesome. Do it.

The Brass Monkey Balls Up

Participants: Enda, Alex, Simon, Joe, Mark, Clare and Richie

Date: 16th & 17th August 2014

Words and images: Richie White

Right so my first Trog, and what a tramp I’m picking to write about!

As per usual, we met at the slightly earlier time of 7am, packed up our gear and were quickly under way. The plan was to meet at Culverden Bakery, grab a coffee, munch down some pies and hit the road again fairly promptly. Next stop was the drop off point for the passengers while the drivers went off to leave one car by Rough Creek (our exit point on day 2 if all goes well). While they were gone we got ready and had a peek about the place. Just round the corner of a track there was a little frozen lake, it was just the start of some of the most stunning scenery I have seen! In the meantime Enda and Alex had come back and we were ready to go.

 

Up the road a bit and a swift left into the Forest of Despair (as I have now called it) there was no gentle walk in to ease ones self into a hard tramp – it was brutal from the get go! It seemed to go on for ever, I had no concept of time and cant count the amount of times I stopped wiped the sweat off my forehead, looked up at what was to come and think to myself “shit”, sometimes I thought it out loud as well, getting hit in the head by falling snow and have it fall down my back were like little treats the forest had for me and at one desperate point I even considered asking one of the guys for a tent and I would happily camp in the car park and wait for them! I banished that taught from my mind, gritted my teeth and carried on upwards.

Emerging from the tree line I saw we still had a decent amount to go before were at the top, quick breather and we set off again. Once I left the Forest of Despair my struggle seemed to lessen and I started to find a nice rhythm, which was made easier because of the rest cutting footprints into the snow, which was past our knees and deeper in spots. Shortly after we were celebrating our first victory, my second (dam you forest!!), by topping our first peak but more importantly we got to sit down and had some well earned food and rest. We also got our first view of Mount Technical off in the distance, it seemed ridiculously far away to me and apparently we were going to be walking past Mt. Technical, over The Apprentice and on to Brass Monkey Biv AND if we’ve time we’ll build snow caves to sleep in (collapse in, more like it!)

After resting, refueling and taking the obligatory group photo with Mt. Technical in the backbackground, we were off again but this time glorious downhill. It wasn’t very steep or deep snow so it was relatively easy going for a bit so I got to look around for a bit and holy crap New Zealand A+… the views in every direction were stunning. At this stage I was finally feeling good (dam you forest!!) and in my stride. Over the next while we had some gentle-ish parts, again which Enda, Alex, Mark and Simon were making easier by punching in footsteps for Clare and myself to follow until it was our turn and when it finally came to my turn… well ho-ly F£€K is it tough going, I had a new found respect for the lads at the front, lads I tip my hat to you!! I might have gotten 200m, 250 at a stretch. Then it was stand aside and let the pros do it! I think I may have possibly done 400m of punching footsteps the whole trip. It is tough work!!

Further on again after following the ridgeline we were now approaching a pretty steep decline of about 150-200 vertical meters back into a fairly steep incline of probably 100m with The Apprentice on the left and the master, Mt. Technical on the right. Before we could start the descent we had to find and plan a safe route down, as the snow had a nice powdery layer on an icy layer we were a little cautious of triggering an avalanche so following the correct protocol (which I had learned the previous week at snow craft!) we set off one by one across the dodgy looking parts. Having safely navigated the dangers of the decent we were faced with a long and tough incline trough between knee and waist deep snow and sometimes deeper when mostly either Enda or Joe would find an extra soft spot and have to clamber out and trudge on.

brass4 brass3 brass1Once we had gotten up and over the saddle we had a decision to make, whether to push on the other half of our planned route to Brass Monkey Biv or set up camp and build snow caves!! It was no contest really, find a good spot and set up camp it was! After a couple of test spots for some decent snow for our snow caves we decided on our spot, which by that time only Simon and Mark were keen to build a one so as they set about building their cave, Enda and Clare got our tent pitched while I started to boil water for our soup, dinner, tea and some water for the next day, I had monstered thru 3 liters of water on the way, which is a lot for me. For those who haven’t had the privilege to cook in the higher altitudes, it takes an age to boil even the smallest bit of water; I wont bore you to death with all the science mumbo jumbo (because I don’t fully understand it myself!) but it has to do with differences in atmospheric pressures.

With warm food in our bellies we were determined not to go to sleep to early so we stayed up chatting and had the craic till it was time for bed. At 10 o’clock the 3 of us clambered into Enda’s generous 2 man tent and settled in for the night’s sleep. A word of advice for everyone is careful on the amount you drink before bed, as you most definitely do not want to be getting up at 4.30 in the morning to take a pee!!

We unzipped the tent door to a very overcast and misty morning, which had put a spanner in the plans to climb The Apprentice so I cranked up the stove again and started on water for breakfast, Clare had brought an amount of oats and raisins with cinnamon, which was delicious topped off by some more soup and bread! After breakfast both tents were packed up and Simon had jumped thru the roof of their snow cave to test it, once we were ready we headed back out the same way we came in, the going was made much easier by the fact that we were using the same tracks that we had used the previous day. Because the weather and visibility was so bad we decided to just keep going and only take a couple of breaks in order to get back to the car and get back in Christchurch earlier, so that’s just what we did.

The journey back to the car was pretty uneventful just up and down over and over again till we got to the top of the last peak and the Forest of Despair was back in my sights, we stopped and had some snacks at the entrance to the forest. I felt more confident going in this time as we had made great time getting back and I was still feeling ok, so in I went. After ages of going down hill, this time with out snow to cushion our steps, my knees started to hurt a little and I taught to my self – “Dam you again forest!!” A little while later as I was trudging along I happened to look down and see what I thought was the strap off my gaiters, the forest was really taking the piss now, but as I bent down to pick it up I noticed that it wasn’t the strap off my gaiters but a watch with a busted strap (no doubt from a previous victim of the forest!). Finally I had gotten one up on the forest and I walked on, I came to a sign saying that the car park was 10 minutes away… half an hour later I arrived at the car park! After everyone was back, we didn’t waste time in getting back to Culverden where we stopped for a refreshing beer, chips and a burger! We bumped into Tania and Jeff who filled us in on their adventures in the quest for the Brass Monkey Biv from the opposite direction. Once fed and watered we were in the cars again and on the final stretch for home, back again at our starting point we all said our farewells and went our separate ways until we meet again on another adventure.

And that is where this Trog comes to an end, turned out to be a lot longer than I expected and I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Jolliebrook Hut

Participants: Mathew Falloon, Sergey White, Clara Voirol, Lisa Wiesent, Jenny Hamilton, Samuel Rademaker, Timothy Manning, Marie Riis, Amalie Watchmann, Andrew Nesbit, Kevin Polak, Dan Goodwin.

Date: 2-3rd August 2014

Words: Matt Falloon

 

Well shit. Earlier in the week I’d indicated to the club that I intended to lead an overnight trip to Kirwans Hut by the town of Reefton on the Westcoast and at the time the weather forecast looked promising. Alas as most of us know a week is a long time in New Zealand forecasting. By the Wednesday meeting the Metservice was predicting a great big red blob of rainy doom to descend upon the location of the intended trip and loiter for the duration which would probably cause a few issues. For one the track I intended to take followed a reasonably substantial river with a large catchment for most of the second day raising the risk of getting caught by a flooding. Secondly parts of the track were noted as being rather steep and with the sheer volume of rain (40mm+ on Saturday alone) probably slippery by the time we’d get there. And thirdly walking in pouring rain sucks. An alternate trip had to be devised and so I settled on the Jolliebrook Hut.

The Jolliebrook Hut is a seven bunk standard hut and surprising absolutely no one is located on the bank of the Jollie Brook up by Lake Sumner. There are two tracks into the hut forming a loop around a small set of hills between the Hurunui river and the Jollie Brook. Our plan was to walk up the track to Gabriel Hut for lunch and then onto the hut for the night. The next day we would walk out the Jollie Brook track back to the cars thereby completing the loop. Each day was expected to take about 5 hours or so. Some of the group also wanted to head up to a nearby hill top on Sunday morning.

Saturday morning came and the 12 of us gathered in the UCSA car park for departure, only one person was late and a thirteenth person slept in and called to tell me they couldn’t make it. We piled into three cars and set off about 8:15am. A small break was had in Waikari and shortly after we arrived at the start of the track. The wind was blowing so strongly that it cleared out my car of loose paper when two or more doors were opened, it was also raining a bit. The weather was somewhat expected seeing as the storm on the West Coast had a direct line up Harpers Pass to flow and blow down. Some members of the party expressed slightly concerns about conditions while we prepared to set off but were reassured that there were no major river crossings on the first day and should the Jollie Brook prove too deep on the second we could always come out the way we went in. The group set off with me, as is my style when the track is well marked and I am the only trip leader, keeping an eye on things from the rear. We quickly reached the Sisters swing bridge  and began to cross. As is DOC standard the bridge had a capacity of one and took about a minute to cross. As the wind was still blowing at this point the crossing could become interesting in the middle when the bridge started to swing terrifyingly. In the end we all got across and started to head for Gabriel Hut.

In any given group some people like to head to the front and lead regardless of whether they know where they are going or not, many others are quite happy to follow whoever is in front of them as well. This was aptly illustrated when Timothy heading to the front lead the entire group past the quite well marked track within a minute of starting off from the swing bridge. A quick yell from the back corrected the course of party. Shortly after setting off when I was counting the group to see that we were all there I only managed to count to 10. This was a problem as I should have been able to count to 11. Sergey had headed off as soon as he got across the river with no one seeing if he went the right way or the wrong way. As he’d had a 15 minute head start there was little point in waiting around in the hopes he might come back or that we’d catch a glimpse of him in the distance so we headed off along the intended track hoping that he A) didn’t get lost and B) stopped at Gabriel Hut for lunch.

As we were walking along to Gabrial Hut the rain started to clear and the wind died down. A prominent rainbow could be seen back the way we came. After walking for a couple of hours over the mostly flat planes next to the Hurunui we arrived at Gabriel Hut stopping for lunch and found Sergey waiting at the hut.  After lunch we started on the bushier part of the track with several people being rather fascinated by the black trees and other funguses found in New Zealand beach forests. The walk was uneventful although the group did get a bit spread out particularly when I stopped to take some photos (hazard of being the leader at the rear) but I was not concerned as the track was well marked and we were making good time. Eventually I arrived at a rather new bridge from which I could see the Jolliebrook Hut. The first day had taken 4 hours and 50 minutes according to my watch 10 minutes less than the DOC time.

I found the rest of the group sitting by the fire looking rather downtrodden and a little bit soggy from the light rain on the way to the hut. Everyone quickly warmed up and banter began to flow. On reading the hut book we found the previous entry from when the CUTC held Freshers at the hut in 2012 and a small novel which took up nearly two pages of the hut book but managed to leave absolutely no useful information about the group other than that they had no idea about geography nor any navigational skills (or a map.) Key lessons from this tale – bring a map and a few brain cells next time you head out into the hills.

As the night wore on the part everyone had come on this trip for began. The game of Power Grid. We divided into 4 teams of between 2 and 3 players each and started playing, about 3 hours later team purple emerged victorious although it was a close game as it usually is. One more turn might have seen any team win. After the game we all went to sleep in the hut as it was raining quite a bit by this point. When morning came about half the group headed off to try and climb a nearby hill but it was still a bit cloudy and nothing much was seen. The group was mostly soaked when they got back 3 hours later from all the wet vegetation they were scrambling over. I’d re-lit the fire so the hut was warm and some of the group tried drying their gear out on it before we left the hut at about 12:30.

The plan for day two was to proceed down Jollie Brook to the intersection of it and the Hurunui River (point 8) then head up the true left of the Hurunui and reach the swing bridge we originally crossed at the start of the track. From the map this route looked like it involved 3 or so river crossings and would be about the same or a bit longer than the previous day. My estimation of the number of river crossings quickly proved inaccurate as we crossed the brook for the first time less than 100m from the hut and crossed it twice more within the next 200m. The crossings did not cease as we proceed downstream and all up we crossed it maybe 25 times. Such wetness, much moist. After two hours of walking down track that alternated between river flats and crossings we reached the turn off to Cold Stream Hut and had lunch there.

Not too long after setting out after lunch we reached a small prominent ridge which crossed the valley forcing the brook into a gorge. A problem arose as there was no track marked either into the gorge or over the ridge. We decided to head over the ridge and found a way up encountering a fence at the top. Descending the other side was tricker as the bush was thicker and plaths less clear. The reason for the fence quickly became clear in the form of the large volume of cow dung found in the rest of the valley. Continuing down stream the track remained pretty much the same with frequent river crossings punctuating otherwise flat valley track and one more ridge similar to the one mentioned above but without a fence. The second ridge caused a bit of concern not for the ridge itself but for Timothy deciding to just charge up it afterwhich he was impossible to find by sight in the dense foliage. Directing the rest of the group up the ridge he was eventually found on the top.

It is a problem in many groups where someone perceives themselves to be a leader that that individual will act like it whether or not they have the experience, knowledge and specific information about what is actually going on or where a trip is intending to go. Another problem is that people will follow who ever seems to know where they are going usually without checking for themselves if a path is the best way or not. A case in point is the final hill our group encountered before reaching the Hurunui intersection. Everyone in the group following Timothy headed up the hill of about 20m. I followed the marked track around the base of the hill and got to the other side well before any of them. In this case it was a simple thing to get back to the track on another it could have gotten the entire group lost or stuck in a difficult position.

Finally we were at the Hurunui. It had taken about 4 hours and we were all soaked from the knees down by the repeated crossings. The remaining path promised to be drier and take about an hour. The downside of the lack of river crossings came in the form of mud, lots of it and unavoidable on the track. We pushed through it driven by the closeness of the cars and the end of the trip. Darkness was just falling as we reached the cars and began swapping out wet clothes for what dry ones we had. In short order we were ready and set off on the long dusty road to home. Rural roads can produce a number of issues not seen in the urban setting such as cows standing in the middle of the road which is more startling at night as the first thing you see are the white patches reflecting the car lights giving them a somewhat ghostly appearance. We stopped again at Waikari for a bite to eat (for future note the shop is open till 8pm 7 days.) and then returned to our point of origin, the UCSA car park.

Overall I think everyone enjoyed the trip despite the average weather at the start and the amount of time spent crossing rivers on the second day. The key lessons learned from this trip is having an alternate plan in mind incase the weather packs in and if leading a group of unknown individuals do explain what is expected with regards to checking on the group, keeping together and when and with whom to make decisions when the way is not clear.

Frozen Snowcraft

Participants: The 6 Ice Masters (Tania, Glen, Woulter, Richard, Enda and Sam) + 36 brave ice wanderers

Dates: Aug 9 – Aug 10

Words: Josie Dransfeld

Once upon a time when the beloved and yet accursed Mistress Winter finally decided to bless New Zealand’s mountains with a decent dumping of fresh and powdery snow, it was time for another attempt of getting Snowcraft underway…

Postponed and cancelled due to a lack of the fluffy white stuff countless times earlier it now so happened that we almost had too much of it. The Ice Masters had to assess the situation, call up highway and ski patrols alike to make sure the roads were clear and avalanche danger manageable. Luckily, everything could go ahead!

On a crisp and clear and very early Saturday morning the snow crew gathered to head out to the magical mountain ranges of Arthur’s Pass National Pass. The company was delayed by slightly rundown vans provided by Avan Rentals – may Mistress Winter curse them – due to shockingly flat tires and no supply of snow chains. Finally on the road again, our first destination of the day was reached: The Temple Basin Ski Field.

After every ice wanderer was equipped with crampons, helmet and ice axe, the ascent to the lodge started. It must have been pretty cold the past days, halfway up the trail transformed more into an icy uphill slide that made it tricky at times not to slip. Some of us apparently did, but after an hour or so, everyone made it safely to the lodge and it was time for lunch. The Ice Masters, in the meantime, determined the route up to the basin where the camp would be set up for the night. The Weather Masters from MetService issued a forecast of -9… Quite correctly, it turned out…

Before starting the climb, there was plenty of time to get funny, disco-y and ice axe-waving pictures! With such a stunning backdrop, this opportunity was not to be missed😉

To keep everyone happy, the company of ice wanderers was divided into three groups. Woulter and Glen headed up speedily with the faster ones amongst us, Sam and Enda took up the medium peeps, Tania and Richard formed the rear group, now famously known as the ‘slush puppies’. Since the whole point of doing Snowcraft includes learning how to walk in crampons, these things with normally 10 pointy ends were attached to the boots and off we went…

up…up…up…up, up, up…Trying not to bump into numerous skiers and snowboarders on the way, the crews zigzagged along the slopes, sinking in and tripping over the sometimes very loose snow. Walking in crampons is a quite cool experience, it makes for a mostly safe feeling on icy bits, albeit it can be extremely tiring. When the second group arrived at our base camp, the digging of snow caves was already well in progress, however, one of the Ice Masters seems to have disappeared to ‘dig a pit for number one’. What does that mean, one might wonder?

Well, up in the snow and ice, things that normally degrade naturally… just don’t, because it’s too cold. In tramping speak ‘number one’ refers to the yellow stuff. And you want to go to a pit to do…the easy business. Seriously, it’s yucky and utterly disgusting to have yellow spots right in front of your tent or snow cave, or down at the lodge where our fellows from the Snowsports Club obviously got pretty hammered the previous night and couldn’t be bothered to go someplace further or actually use the toilets there! If the business falls into category ‘number two’, you need to use a ‘Poo Pot’…Which should also be avoided, if somehow possible…

Coming back to the pleasant things about camping in the snow: Digging snow caves! It takes a lot of time and some knowledge, but the effort is totally worth it, especially when the result is a ‘snow mansion’ providing space for eight ice wanderers and even some candles. Building snow caves also inspired the re-phrasing of one the more or less annoying songs from ‘Frozen’:

Who needs a snowman, when you can build a whole cave? But then, there was soooo much snow, that we totally should have built a snowman, too!

As the hours passed and the digging continued, those who weren’t involved in the latter had time to enjoy the marvellous, sunshine and show off😉

But when the sun started setting, it really did get pretty cold quite quickly which then resulted in the title of this trip log: ‘Frozen’.

One should actually know or realise for that matter that everything freezes solid that is not put into packs, tents or caves overnight. There were frozen fleeces, frozen hair, frozen trousers, frozen shoe laces, frozen gloves…And yes, frozen boots! Although the boots were stored in a plastic bag in the snow cave, it did not help. The next morning, the boots of this trip log’s author were frozen solid. Instead of having a lovely hot cuppa of tea, plenty of snow had to be melted to unfreeze the boots. It was a pain to get these boots on again, be assured…

“Let it freeze, let it freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze, let all my nice gear freeze…..”

Who cares of letting go, dear Elsa, when you can let it freeze instead?😉

Besides all the frozen business, the company gathered around 11 on Sunday morning to practise one essential skill: Self-arresting with an ice axe! It was not as icy as desired, but it was fun anyway to slide down slopes on your bum, the bottom or backwards or headfirst!

Sad to say, there was an evil-looking cloud moving in all too soon, and we had to make our way down the mountain, back to the Temple Basin lodge where we all had a very late lunch and found that some of our food, namely cheese and carrots, had frozen solid as well! Dang…

And so the adventure in snow and ice slowly came to an end, making the descent on slushy ice to the car park, where all of a sudden found a box with all the club’s first aid kits, probes and avalanche transceivers was found snuggly sitting in Tania’s car! Thank goodness…we didn’t slide into any major troubles up there😉