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.

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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!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Mokihinui River

Today we get the sad news that the West Coast Regional Council has approved Meridian Energy’s Resource Consent Application to build a dam on the wild and scenic Mokihinui River. Last year I was lucky enough to go on a club heli trip on the amazing Mokihinui river and I have to say this decision marks a huge loss for New Zealand.
“The Mokihinui River is not only an outstanding river for whitewater kayaking, it is an outstanding river for all recreationalists in New Zealand,” said Glenn Murdoch, conservation spokesperson for Whitewater NZ. “The Mokihinui is a truly wilderness river and the West Coast Regional Council’s decision to allow it to be dammed marks a watershed moment for New Zealand’s environment. This decision, coupled with the National Government’s move last week to weaken Water Conservation Orders in Canterbury, fully illustrates the environmental future that New Zealand’s rivers face,” Mr Murdoch said. “Today we see the loss of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful places.” One of the most sobering statements at the Resource Consent Hearing was the opening paragraph by legal counsel for the Department of Conservation who said, “The Mokihinui hydro scheme is the largest scale proposed flooding of public conservation land in New Zealand since the Manapouri scheme of the late 1960s and early 1970s. If approved, and constructed, it will be the largest inundation for hydroelectric generation purposes of lands and ecosystems set aside for protection and conservation ever seen in this country.”
It appears that New Zealand is throwing away its clean green image and re-embracing the industrial age. Building dams and mines in the national parks just doesn't make sense - are we not conserving them for a reason? Was the decision to protect  these areas of land undertaken lightly? Is the government ready for a drop in tourism, do they care?

Related Links: WhitewaterNZ, Stuff