Sunday, 31 October 2010

My first 111 call

Occasionally other people call me crazy, I take it as a compliment; yesterday however, I called myself a bit crazy. I'll set the scene that lead up to me ringing 111.

So no shit there I was paddling down Maori Gully with Monique, Cristal, Dale, and Rob. We had already had one swimmer in the second rapid so we were taking things quietly and paddling as a group with myself in the front and Rob at the back. Queue a few missed rolls and Rob and I were just picking up the pieces from a double garage sale - both swimmers were bought safely to the bank after swimming down some chunky rapids. I'd thrown one paddle up onto the rocks while Rob was tackling a boat, a cursory look around told us the other boat must have continued downstream - they don't often stop of their own accord! I paddled down past him to chase the boat. I blasted straight through everything down to the getout and knew I would have caught the boat if it had been ahead of us. Queue running up to the road and running with boat back to the group. I jumped back onto the water and fairy glided across to see Mon and Christal on the bank walking down to where Rob had finally subdued the boat he was rescuing. I got out and walked up to Rob and Dale, paddling down with them.

When we got to the others Mon said her paddle had passed them by 5 minutes ago. Leaving everyone else I said I'd try get it back, I paddled straight down the gully for the second time. Our shuttle bunnies Marie and Juliett were down at the get out and proclaimed a paddle had passed about 3 minutes ago in the middle of the current. I decided to continue chasing it. Shouting at the bank “you might have to pick me up at the road” I took off again.

So unbeknown to me a while after the gully is another two gorge called "the chutes" that the whitewater club paddle - some more grade 2/3 stuff like in the gully. Was certainly a touch dodgy because I was soloing but to be honest I was having a great time! The was only two more mini gorges, neither as long as the gully but both with some decent paddling. After these gorges I'd been paddling for maybe half an hour and there were some rather large hills between me and the Lake Summers road, not being particularly fond of carrying boats great distances I decided to paddle down to the bridge.

The whole way down I was searching in the eddies and keeping my eyes peeled for the damn paddle, unfortunately once I reached the plains the river branched so often there was a small chance I'd see it. Once I spied a black blade wedged into a rock on the shore, with a massive grin on my face I jumped out of my boat and retrieved it... sadly it was just the blade and I think it had been there for quite sometime as the carbon fibre shaft fell away like dust!

About half an hour before the bridge I stopped and talked to some pig farmers to ask how far it was and asked if they could stop any cars carrying boats and tell them what I was doing and where I would be.

After searching up and down the road for a while the others had gone into see a farmer a fair way down who said it takes the Christchurch White Water club 6 hours to get to the bridge and at least 3 hours to get to his property. With this information they didn't go down to the bridge at the road.

It took me under 3 hours to get the whole 42km to the road - I was a little surprised when no one was at the bridge, it seemed like the most logical place I'd have to pass. Knowing that they would be worried about me by now I stashed my boat in the bushes at the bridge, hitched to the Waikari pub and asked everybody around if they had seen any boat laden cars. I got a fair few weird looks being soaked and in all my paddling gear! I wish I had a few phone numbers on my person so I could have tried communicating directly with the others. I borrowed the pub's phone and rung 111 to tell them not to send out a search if anyone rings them up, ringing to to lower the alarm if you will! I then just watched the intersection outside the pub that the others would have to drive through. Calling the police proved useful because about an hour later someone rang them to raise the alarm that I was out lost on the river somewhere near Maori Gully while in reality I was still chilling in front of the heater at the pub. I found out afterwards that Rob and Mon somehow visited a SAR volunteer's house! Another guy from SAR came into the pub just to talk about the situation while I waited for the others, he was stoked I'd rung 111 because he'd already been on the phone to a chopper pilot - thankfully he never had to leave his house when they found out I was safe!

So did I even find the paddle? Nope, but I swear I tried my best! I did a bit of reconnaissance, and had a fun solo adventure though. A trip from the top of the gully to a farmers just on the plains would be a sweet new run for the UCCC. Maybe a longer trip all the way to the bridge would be good - with the shuttle drivers knowing where to go next time!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Midwinter Nelson Lakes Tramping

July rolled around once again, the university had its holidays. This is usually the time when an engineering student has a chance to catch up on the many assignments due after the holidays. However, this time was different; I didn't have any classes after the holidays. I didn't have a job lined up. I didn't have any commitments for the foreseeable future. So needless to say, with my new found freedom I decided to go tramping.

Plans were hatched over a few beers at the Dux. Matt and I were quite keen for a longer mission. Kirstie was about to leave New Zealand and would like to get out on one last tramp, Becky was also keen for a trip - but ideally only a few days out. Fiordland was considered, but Nelson Lakes was deemed to likely have better weather. Pouring over guide books and online route descriptions told us that the route from Saint Arnaud to Lewis Pass was usually only attempted in summer, but shouldn't pose too great a problem in winter. I was talking to my brother, as one is bound to do occasionally and I determined that he was also on holiday, albeit in Te Anau, he didn't take much convincing to drive for 8 hours up to Christchurch and join us for the next 10 days up in Nelson Lakes.

How could we go past Lake Rotoroa without some inner reflection?
Our plan was to make some sort of short circuit with all five of us, then the girls were going to ditch Matt, Neville and I, who would have to find our own way south to Lewis Pass! We had been going less than a day when we came across this amazing vista at Lake Rotoroa. The spectacle awed me into quiet contemplation. Matt still had energy abound at Sabine hut, he performed cartwheels down on the wharf.

Matt still has the energy for acrobatics at sunset on the wharf by Sabine Hut.
A night time stroll revealed 11 very large eels swimming around the wharf, if I turned my headlamp to beam mode they seemed to follow the spot. With rope or string I'm certain catching one wouldn't have been too difficult - some were absolutely massive!

Leaving the shelter and heading for the tops!
Neville decided we were all walking too slowly so he took off ahead of us on the way up to Lake Angelus via Mount Cedric.  This was clearly his own special way of telling us that for the big trip he would like to carry the most!

Winter wonderland of Lake Angelus Hut
The day after arriving at Angelus hut we decided would be a nice relaxing pit day. We had plenty of books and it was all going rather well until Neville and I went for a scramble around the ridge above the lake. It was just so nice out, we had to get everybody out tramping - decided that climbing Mount Angelus would be our goal for the day. On the summit a bit of cloud came in, that was the worst weather we had in 9 days of tramping!
On the summit of Mount Angelus

Returning along Robert Ridge was a pleasant experience, we had the company of an older gentlemen who kept taking videos of us! For once returning to civilization after a tramp was only a temporary measure; we got a pie and had an ice cream. At this point the party split ways, Becky and Kristie departing back to Christchurch, Kirstie was actually flying back to England the next day! Saying goodbye to a friend was as hard as ever - it will probably be years before I see her again. Still Neville, Matt and I had a frantic time repacking our packs for the week+ long mission ahead of us. We were leaving immediately so the girls could shuttle my car, Big Brown, south to Lewis Pass. After stuffing more than we each thought could fit into a pack, we discovered more and more gear that must be taken - the tent was almost overlooked and was added in as an afterthought!

Heading up the Travers Valley
I would highly recommend going tramping to Blue Lake & Lake Constance. Such a gorgeous place! We didn't try, but it looks like you could just scramble around Lake Constance down at the water level. We instead opted to follow the cairns guiding us up and through the bluffs.

On the way up to Blue Lake I was tramping along behind Matt, I was watching him struggle slightly with his shovel. He had the rather long device mounted horizontally to the bottom of his pack, causing great difficulty in navigating around dense patches of trees. I bid my time, enjoying the entertainment before pointing out that the shovel unscrews in the middle and would even fit inside his pack if he so desired.

Navigating around the bluffs on the side of Lake Constance 
We were a bit apprehensive about the avalanche conditions for the multiple passes we had to cross on this trip. We had probes and shovels but no transievers, as the club had ran out. The first, Travers Pass was probably the most dangerous in terms of snow conditions - by sticking to spurs we were comfortable enough crossing over. And conditions seemed to improve as we went south.

Neville contemplates putting gloves on. 
Maybe we were weak, or our bags were too heavy... but climbing up to Waiau Pass was rather exhausting! We started walking on this day about 7am, our plans were to go nuts and cross as many passes as possible.

Down one side and back up the other. Neville taking the final steps to Thompson Pass.
One long day of plugging steps through deep snow later we ascended Waiau Pass, descended right down to nearly snowline, ascended Thompson Pass, sidled around into the D'Urville, sun has set now, ascended to NOT Upper D'Urville Pass, descended back down the same side from the fake Upper D'Urville Pass before deciding to stop for the night on the side of the mountain.

Neville and Matt skirting around the rocks from Thompson Pass
Camping on the snow is always interesting, it also helps to know where you are. After reaching the obvious (but incorrect) pass as the sunset we decided to descend off the pass to set up a quick camp. We had to dig out our tent site; we were on the side of a mountain so nothing was flat. Having to dig also meant creating walls, which worked wonderfully as windbreakers. For the first time Matt and I disregarded our menu, instead choosing the quick option of boiling water for a freeze dried meal. A rather long and cold night followed, I opted to put my boots in a plastic bag and keep them in my sleeping bag between my legs - Brrr!

Heading towards the (wrong) pass at dusk
In the morning we got our bearings back and made our way up to the real Upper D'Urville pass. Looking down the opposite side of this pass didn't make us quake in our boots like our fake pass had!

Neville is pleased to reach the real Upper D'Urville Pass
I got my foam sleeping mat out and slid on it almost all the way down into the valley - so much fun! Having spent all day yesterday then the night out, all our water had been boiled slowly and painfully from snow, getting down to a source of water that wasn't entirely frozen was most exciting for us!

Chilled water anyone?
Bob's hut was our destination for the evening, as we approached the smoke from the chimney got us excited at the prospect of seeing other people. The size of the hut then made it clear that it could be a bit of a squeeze! The other party was from the Victoria University of Wellington Tramping Club, it was funny talking to them as we knew quite a few people in common including Dave and Giselle. They had been hard at work having a rest day but told us all about the Three Tarn route that we would be doing the following day. I think we managed to impress with our culinary skills; despite this being near the end of our trip we still had fresh broccoli, frozen carrot, feta cheese and couscous followed by chocolate self saucing pudding. Mmmm!

Matt using my pliers to untie frozen laces. Makes me feel slightly better about having my boots inside my sleeping bag with me.
Three Tarn Pass was pretty easy, a long way up the valley from Bob's Hut but we made it down the other side and joined up with the St. James walkway for a late lunch. We met another party from VUWTC at Ada Pass hut, they were also having a rest day! They were making a mulled wine/whiskey mix and had the hut soo nice and warm! I remember them asking if we knew Terra from their club who had come to CUTC - saying she would have had them up at 4am off climbing mountains! We didn't stop for that long, we were only two huts in from the road end and there was at least another hour or two of light... Hot pools were calling us!

"I want to die here. Not right now, but one day" - Matt at our stopping point near Three Tarn Pass
I'm pretty sure we almost jogged to Cannibal Gorge Hut - taking about 45 minutes. During this final section Matt and I were busy planning our next big mission - there were thoughts of a Fiordland traverse or getting into the Olivine Ice Plato... or both! Our walk out to my waiting car ended just after it got dark (with shouts and whoops of delight).

The final route for the second part of our journey.

We covered ground faster than anticipated, and we actually ended up finishing two days earlier than expected. Six alpine passes down, time to head to the hot pools at Sylvia flats for a long soak with a beer - I swear Beer has never tasted better!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Kaikoura then Skiing

Since finishing the last of my classes in June I have been enjoying some free time. First up was a visit out to Kaikoura to help my friend Kieran with some field work. Kieran is doing a masters in biology - looking at caching behaviors of South Island Robins. So I spent a few days throwing meal worms at birds.
One of many robins

To start with the birds do as expected, they eat the worms. Curiously after about six worms have been eaten the robin starts hiding the worms in nearby trees for later consumption. I was astounded by how beautiful it was at the University of Canterbury field station.

Waking up in the morning across the road from the sea, watching the sunrise over the waves was outstanding. Following Kieran's example, I started going for a run each evening. Can't think why it was so enticing - must be the sea air.
Out running - it would be hard not to enjoy the views.
On getting back from Kaikoura I went on a skiing binge. Met up with friends down at Treble Cone in Wanaka and proceeded to hit the slopes. Having just bought my first ever pair of skis on trademe this involved a very interesting first run as one poorly adjusted ski kept wobbling sideways! A visit to the gear shop saw me right and I was away blasting down black runs with Ellen, Ivor, Kirstie and Ollie. The field is very big, but conditions weren't ideal for our visit.

We stayed at a motel in Wanaka that had a hotpool. Kirstie, Ollie and I decided to go check it out, unfortunately we got into the spa before working out how to turn it on. A game of rock-paper-scissors followed by a fierce game of "guess the closest to the average of all our guesses" (yes we made that up in the hottub) decided who would try convince the office to give us bubbles. Annoyingly the office informed us that, one it was broken and wouldn't produce bubbles and two they charged for the use of the spa, grumble grumble.

Cadrona was next, this was my favorite day of skiing since Banff, Canada. I did steeper stuff than I usually do, lots of runs off tracks and generally had a great day. Our convoy was first up the field and we squeezed in as many possible runs as we could. Kirstie, Ollie, Ivor and I had a few races - I think the best being a very tight finish between Kirstie, Ollie and I. With the end (chair lift) in sight we got to a junction. I went left along a slightly longer route (which I think cost me the win), Ollie went right to take the win and Kirstie kept going straight. Unfortunately straight wasn't really on option and Kirstie went flying from a very high speed crash, ouch!

For the third consecutive day of skiing we went to Ohau. This was my first visit here and despite being unimpressed with one lift had a good morning skiing. From the top of the chair lift there was a boot pack up to the top of the ridge - well worth it you can see my fresh tracks on the right of the picture above. Tom offered me his snowboard so I gave that a crack for the afternoon. It felt like I was being beaten up... a constant battle with gravity. 4 or 5 times down the stupid magic carpet thing and I think I had the hang of the basics (thanks Tom & Lindsey for holding my hands a couple of times down!). I followed the others up the chair lift this time on snowboard - warned the liftie that I was about to make a fool of myself but proceeded to glide off fine. A painful trip down the slope ensued, but I got to the bottom then did it again. I think I'll give snowboarding another try because turning wasn't quite feeling natural. Plus who could pass up getting a beating...

Next day was the start of a fairly long tramp right through Nelson Lakes National park in midwinter. That can be the next post.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Quick Visit to Fiordland

So at the start of the holidays I got the opportunity for a ride down to my home town Te Anau. The problem was the car wasn't going all the way - conveniently the Routeburn track section would have to be navigated by foot.

View Larger Map

We drove down to Glenorchy late on Thursday in the last week of term. Setting off on the run early the next morning. The crew comprised tramping club members and was pretty strong, although we weren't out for a race. For some reason everyone else ran straight past the turn off to the Flats hut, a mere five minute diversion. Needless to say I stopped at every hut, signed the hut books, talked to the hut wardens. By the time I got onto the tops after Falls Creek Hut, I'd entirely lost site of my running companions! A chase ensued, and I caught up at the harris saddle shelter. Lindsey was hiding from the elements while the others were heading up to the viewpoint. That reminds me, it was horrible weather. A heavy rain warning was out for the following day and it was wet and pretty damn cold - especially on the tops.

As I passed a hut warden working above Falls Creek, I enquired about the hut warden based at McKenzie Hut - to my delight it was Clive Rule, an old family friend. A quick message on the radio mentioned I was running through, and would pop in for a visit.

With McKenzie Hut, and the gorgeous lake in sight we ran into Clive, he had left the hut to do some track maintenance. Anyhow after catching up on all the gossip, he mentioned he'd left the hat wardens quarters open for us - with tea and biscuits inside! During a cold mountain run hot tea tastes amazing might I add. Sadly Lindsey ate all the biscuits, somewhere around 15. Boy she is greedy. Ivor, Tom, Mattias and I barely managed to get crumbs.  :-p

As we left McKenzie Hut, we met the Te Anau scout troop coming the other way. This slowed me down substantially as I recognized and talked to all the scout leaders, including my flatmate's mother! I half expected to see my little brother walking along, but apparently he is too cool for scouts.

The Routeburn Runners
As we approached Te Anau more and more runners were on the track, after talking with a few I found out why - the Routeburn classic event was only a few weeks away and everybody thought we were training for it! Our time wasn't exactly competitive, but we were out and back to Te Anau before dark.

Chilling in Te Anau, waiting for the rain to pass
That heavy rain that was forewarned came true, our plans of heading into the darrens were put on hold while the worst of it passed. Luckily my Mum was a great sport and didn't seem to mind too much having 8 extra people in the house! The rain was fierce but thankfully brief, only one day of intense Fiordland storm. I did feel very sorry for that scout troop though - they would have been going over the tops in the worst of it!

With a day of watching movies and chilling out inside over, we drove back up the Milford road into the Darrans - starting out at Homer Hut we crossed an icy icy stream before ascending to Gertrude Saddle on an amazingly clear day. The river/stream was supposed to have a bridge but it was underwater!

Lunch on the saddle was helped by my Mum bringing out Salman bagels and the hot chocolate and coffee! With lunch over the group split up, Mum, Liz, Ellen and Sally all turned around and went the tourist route back to Te Anau. Ivor, Mattias, Lindsey, Tom, Monica, Neville and I all opted to keep climbing - with Barrier Knob in our sights.

Just as we hit this ridiculously hard blue ice Dave, Vaughan and Kieran from CUTC just happened to show up, talk about random! A small Christchurch reunion took place before finding a rock route around this small obstacle (we didn't all have crampons with us)

Once we got right up to the Barrier Saddle, Lake Adelaide presented itself to us. An absolutely amazing view, really steep drops like that just take your breath away.

Well although everyone else was staying in Fiordland for the Kepler, the Dusky and various missions around Queenstown sadly I had to return north - I had two days to hitchhick back to Christchurch, create a presentation for a conference then fly to Wellington! Part one of the holidays was a definite success!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Mount Campbell

Just a weekend away in Arthurs Pass, the crew was:

  • Brian Thorne
  • David Manning
  • Volker Nock
  • Tom Alton
  • Martin Lennernäs
  • Jordan Witte
  • Dennis Skudlarek

The initial plan was simple: Set off early on Saturday morning, head up the Waimak to Carrington hut then dump the overnight gear, climb Mount Campbell then back down to Carrington for the night, then out early on Sunday.

starting off up the Waimak on Friday evening

The first change of plan was leaving Christchurch on Friday after work/uni. So the trip to Carrington is supposedly a 4 - 6 hour walk, after the 2 hour drive to Arthurs Pass. Despite leaving at about dusk we made it to Carrington late that evening. The weather was great for the night time walk in, stars were out in all there beauty and the river was COLD. I decided to try keep my feet dry, jumping from rock to rock etc that lasted right up till just before the hut unfortunately. My torch seemed to run out of batteries and I'd removed my spares - great! So I walked next to Tom most of the way - his torch was bright enough for everyone anyway! At one stage we diverged from Volker and the rest of the group - we managed to keep our feet much drier and get from A to B faster. I only mention that because it happens so rarely!

The hut was fairly full, but by the time we got up everybody had left. Not to worry we decided to spend enough time for two cups of tea on changing our plans for the day. The weather had taken a turn for the worse so Mount Campbell didn't seem like a pleasant prospect, so to leave our options open we took all our gear with us and climbed up to Harman Pass.

Heading up to Harman Pass

Enjoying the weather on the pass

We obviously passed everybody else on our way up there, and stopped for a cold snack on the pass. The weather was still pretty crap so no one was particularly keen to go up the mountain further. So all being rather fond of hot pools we went down to Julia hut for a soak.

On the way down into the Taipo valley, Volker and I found a large horde of snow berries and proceeded to gorge ourselves.

Sadly the hot pools at Julia hut were both too hot and too small. We did have some fun trying to brew a cup of coffee by floating billies and cups in the small pool, and it was entertaining watch Volker scald himself two or three times in the hot water.

Eating lunch was done complaining about the lack of usable hot pools these days then we kept walking... and walking and walking. The quote of the day would have to be "the rivers to deep and cold to practice safe river crossing technique", we ended up crossing the Taipo so many times - you will be disappointed to read that on ONE occasion I had to get my feet wet, although I did take my boots off and use my runners because thus far my boots and socks were dry.

Our plan was Mid Taipo but when we arrived there were already two people in the hut so we opted to keep going to Seven Mile Hut. This was really a village, there were a few old huts and hunters cabins etc. Volker and I were particularly excited to find black berries, we ended up at least half an hour behind everyone else due to the second foraging mission of the day. Somehow Volker restrained himself enough to collect some black berries for desert - I on the other hand ate as many as I could as soon as I found them!

So Saturday came to a close, the crew was actually rather tired, we had traveled about 30 Km. Dave took the opportunity to bust out his cheese fondue set - complete with swiss cheese, a ceramic bowl, toast and a bottle of beer to make the fondue with! It certainly hit the spot and gave us all grand illusions of being in a very civilized setting.

Come Sunday morning and we had a pretty small walk out if we continued following the Taipo, clearly we didn't want that, we wanted more adventure! So we got the Kelly range in our sights and ambled up to the tops in the now glorious weather.  I took a very refreshing swim in a tarn (shown on the map), I'm pretty sure everyone else was jealous of my swim, but no one joined.

At Carrol hut for lunch, then Tom and I raced down to the road and hitchhiked back to our cars at Klondike Corner. I wasn't back in Christchurch quite in time for kayaking that evening, still a pretty full weekend out!

Cass Lagoon + Otehake Weekend

At the tramping club I decided to organize a trip as a training and fundraising walk for the Oxfam Trailwalker that I'm participating in up in Taupo. The idea was anyone who came along would pay the standard fuel cost and ontop of that a donation to oxfam.

The trip I arbitrarily chose was Cass-Lagoon, its a nice walk with two small saddles and nice river walking. After the interested people assembled it became apparent that we wanted to split into two groups - one who wanted to do the whole trip in a day, and the other who would go at a leisurely pace staying overnight at Hamilton Hut.

The over forties tramping club were walking up the valley also, I walked and talked with them for a while, eventually I had to leave them to catch up with the others!

Up in the tussock basin above Cass Hut

Between Hamilton hut and West Harper Hut

Mmm Fungi

resting the feet for lunch at Hamilton

Giselle was excited by the three wire bridge

Looking over to Bealey Spur having a snack.

The last of our walking was done at night, there was a wee issue in that we only saw two thirds of the other group... But all in all a great day out, plenty of distance traveled and then we stayed in Bealey hut and planned Sundays adventure. Erik had managed to borrow a second pack raft so I could come on a mission with him. We had been planing on the Taipo, but I was tramping there the weekend before, and he had recently pack rafted it. So we opted for the Otehake hot pools, after the rain we assumed there would be enough water for a good paddle, we were not disappointed!

Yup we were tramping with paddles!

Giselle was very impressed with our boats

Getting kitted up after a soak in the hot pools. Took about ten minutes to blow up both boats.

Giselle did like getting ferried across the river!

Woot! Although it turns out you can feel the bumps.

Big smiles

Beautiful day out
So I had a very adventurous weekend in arthurs pass, finally got to try pack rafting. I was very impressed with the small and lite weight boats, the places you could get to in these things is almost limitless. I obviously prefer a "real" boat, something similar with thigh straps would be a big improvement. If I had a spare lots of money I'd be getting one of those!