Two weeks of climbing and tramping in the Wakatipu region - not a bad way to end the summer holidays.
I caught the first flight down to Queenstown on Wednesday morning and rendezvoused with Dad, Denis, & John. Spent a few hours planning and organising gear before heading out to Glenorchy to start our adventure. The plan was to firstly climb Mt. Earnslaw (2830m) after which Denis & John would head out, taking some of our climbing gear with them, while Dad & I would carry on up the Rees valley for another week of tramping and climbing.
Day 1: It was a hot slog up the Rees Valley from the car to the turn off to Kea Basin and Earnslaw Hut, and then a 500m climb up to the rustic bivvy. Laden with climbing gear, camping gear, and 12 days of food, my pack was the heaviest I had ever carried (estimated 16-17kg) although it was still lighter than the rest! Earnslaw Hut is a 4-bunk bivvy constructed from corrugated iron and beech poles. The top bunks were good old-fashioned sacking slung between poles. We hung some of our food from the rafters to be collected on our way back down - we didn't want to haul to much unnecessary weight up 1200m to the next hut.
Day 3: Up at 6:30am after waiting for Ross's party to leave. Took an hour to have breakfast and get kitted out before heading up the scree slope from Wright Col. From the Col to the summit is a climb of 600m. Denis was in a bad way from the beginning, suffering from nausea and a headache. John (a doctor) was quite worried about the symptoms but Denis insisted on carrying on. From the top of the scree we scrambled along rock ledges following the cairned route. The crux was a boulder called the 'keyhole' where you could either wriggle up a couple of metres through a narrow gap between the boulder and the cliff, or climb around the outside above a very long drop. Denis & I wormed through the gap while Dad & John took the easier but more exposed outside route. From there we popped out onto scree which led up to the summit. 3:15 hours from hut to peak.
Relaxed with hot soup at Esquilant Biv before packing up and heading back down to Kea Basin. Denis was still struggling but bravely soldiered on. It was a long descent and my legs were very tired and a little shaky before the end (roughly 3 hours down from Esquilant). We had planned to spend the night in one of the rock bivvys in Kea Basin but when we arrived we couldn't find any clean water nearby so we carried on another 15 minutes to Earnslaw Hut. Some very weary bodies that night!
|Dad & I on top of Earnslaw|
Day 4: Woke up with extremely tight legs thanks to the 1800m of descent on the previous day, much of it with a heavy pack. Headed down to the Rees Valley where Dad & I loaded Denis & John up with the gear we no longer required such as rope, helmets, and harnesses. Those two slowly made their way back down valley to the car while Dad and I headed further up the valley to Shelter Rock Hut. My quads were
than 10 metres away. That made my day! I was shattered so left Dad to set up camp. Mt Aspiring could be seen clearly from our campsite, as well as Mt Tyndall and Mt Ansted which we hoped to climb the next day. 10 hour day, including a 1 hour lunch break.
Day 6: Alarm went off at 5:30am but it took a few minutes before we actually crawled out of our sleeping bags. Breakfast under a clear sky with the mountains visible in the pre-dawn light. We packed up all our gear, including the tent, and stashed everything in the DoC toilet to keep it safe from raiding keas. Our climb started with a 200m climb straight up the track to the pylon, where we left the track and followed the ridge. Undulating to begin with, the ridge soon deteriorated into steep, loose rock and we reached snow after an hour of walking. Crampons on to ascend the easy snow slopes of the Isobel Glacier towards the summit of Mt Tyndall (2496m). A slight mountain zephyr (enough to warrrant my putting on a coat) but otherwise the weather was perfect. Upon reaching a shingle slide near the top we kept our crampons on as this gave a more secure footing on the small, loose rocks. Even when we reached the summit rocks we kept crampons on, as they bit into the
|Heading back along the Isobel Glacier|
From Mt Ansted. (Tyndall top right)
Day 7: Woke to cloud around the peaks which gradually lowered and threatened to rain. Headed down to Dart Hut for lunch (4 hours). Had planned to carry on another couple of hours to the rock bivvy at Cattle Flat but it started to rain while we were eating so as we were rather weary we allowed ourselves the luxury of staying at the hut. The weather gradually cleared and by late afternoon the sun was shining and Mt. Ansted was in clear view up the valley.
Day 8: Low cloud and very light drizzle slowly cleared. The track down the Dart valley was nicely benched through beech forest down to Cattle Flat. Here we shared our lunch with the sandflies before popping up to have a look at the bivvy. Quite a large overhang with a rock wall built in front. Plenty of room to pitch a tent underneath if desired. Daleys Flat was reached in 6 hours, and we pitched the tent at the top end between the river and the track. Hordes of sandflies! All I really wanted to do was sit still & relax but the sandflies were too persistent. We retreated to the tent and later the bush to escape their clutches. Retired to bed early, and although we entered the tent quickly we then spent over half an hour exterminating the sandflies which had managed to enter with us.
Day 9: Cooked breakfast in the bush above the river to avoid the worst of the sandflies, although they still found us. Popped our noses into Daleys Flat Hut before starting through the beech forest. The track around the new lake at Dredge Flat is quite rough in places although there has been enough foot traffic for the route to be easily followed. The massive slip which caused the lake is quite impressive and the outlet/river now flows through the trees on the true left. I started to run low on energy after Sandy Bluff (end of the lake). We hoped to cross the Dart River to head down the true right to the Lake Sylvan track, but the river didn't come to the party. Dad attempted to cross by the Beans Burn but the water was too swift. He tried again below Chinamans Bluff and got most of the way across but was stopped by the final, narrow channel. While Dad was thus engaged I was entertained by a friendly robin feasting on the sandflies which swarmed around our packs. When I sat still it even pecked the insects directly off me! Thwarted by the river, we carried on out to the carpark at Chinamans Bluff where we managed to get a ride out to Glenorchy with a couple of DoC workers. 6 hours including lunch and an hour spent attempting to cross the Dart.
Our trip turned out to be a little shorter than planned - 9 days instead of 12, but we had a marvellous time. After a couple of days recuperation in Queenstown we headed up to the Remarkables to do a Grand Traverse of Double Cone & Single Cone.
|Shelter Rock Hut|
|Our campsite above Cascade Saddle|
Mt Aspiring in the background
|On top of Mt Tyndall|
(Earnslaw back right)
|The new Dredge Lake|
|Climbing Double Cone|
|On top of Single Cone|