Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hi all,

We have just finished a successful trip from Whatoroa to Erewhon Station. We walked up the Whataroa and Perth Rivers for a couple of days, and then bunkered down for another wicked front to come over and fill the rivers with torrents of its tears. We did a recky up to Redfields stream from Scone hut as this was to be the beginning of the next day’s route up to the Garden of Eden over the Great Unknown. Unfortunately the weather looked not to improve too vastly the next day, and so we had little choice but to find a change of plan. Instead we headed up in deteriotating weather to camp in the headwaters of the Bettison valley. It was hard going terrain but a cool campsite – and some cool spectacles in the head of the valley – a deep cobalt blue glacial meltpool and big ice caverns over the stream.

The next day was a hard slog over Dennistoun Pass (roughly 2000m) into the Havelock catchment and Veil Biv. The descent was exciting – even at 11am there were loose snow slides on the steep parts. We just linked up rockbands and there wasn’t enough bulk of loose snow to be too worried about.

The next day, an even harder slog up the Haverlock Glacier and over Disappointment Saddle (again roughly 2000m). I think there is an agreement between saddles that they all be about 2000m. This is not a described route, but we deduced from Hut book entries in Scone Hut that a party must have found their way over here, so we decided to give it a go. Though a hard climb it is so good when the view explodes into your eyeballs on the other side. We murdered a block of chocolate. There were a few crevasses to negotiate on our way up to this one, and some quite steep terrain to sidle/descend on the other side. We took some good notes on the route should anyone need them. By the way, we believe this saddle is named for the reason that it is soo close to the Garden of Eden that you can almost spit across a schrund at them, but that is the problem, there is a big schrund under Schrund Peak that blocks both the way and the view. And yes, at this stage we were a little disappointed that we might not make it to the gardens.

So, this put us at McCoy Hut, as Rion discovered. We were tired, and the next day it was raining, so we went nowhere and boy it felt good. Fiiiinally, Paul on the other end of the mountain radio gave us our weather window. A weird South East flow for three or four days at least was the first sign of a seasonal change from the cycle of fronts it seems we have been running with this whole trip. Yus we weren’t walking out yet we were going to the Gardens! We walked up the Perth Col route (via Colin Campbell Glacier and Wee McGregor Glacier) in complete white out – probably 20-30m tops. We could see lots of white, and not much else, but at least the winds were OK. Nav was a cool challenge and all the tricks were pulled out – pace counting even! We pitched West of Baker Peak, knowing we had made the Gardens but lacking the visual proof! Anton set about paving the garden path outside the tent with schist from a nearby rockband. We spent a cosy night and woke up to clear splendour (and yes we did end up where we thought we did). All who are reading should come to this place – yes it is just a lot of ice… but the surrounding peaks are covered in huge icefalls and crevasses displaying a real sense of power, yet the huge white plateau itself sets more of a calm mood, and it’s just a surreal place to be. You are at 2200m and the views of the Alps stretches a long way. Speaking of the surreal power of the place… we did manage to loose Anton into a schrund on the way up below Baker Peak. His whole body just disappeared in a flash, and yet I felt not the slightest tug on the rope… he just “appeared” back out again saying, “hmmm there’s a tad more than 3m depth in that one.” Spooooky.

We spent the morning on Baker peak and wandering around the Garden of Eden, eating the forbidden fruit (yes that’s right a gorgeous green ripe apple mmm) before starting back down the Perth col route late morning. The reason being (for Rion J ) the weather was due to become unsettled with more low cloud and whiteout. We had already stretched our food with the detour over the divide via Dennistoun and Dissappointment and couldn’t afford any issues with the multiday ambiguous route down onto the lyall glacier. Some more time spent in the gardens/surrounding peaks would have been great, but we are really thankful for an awesome ten days in the hills and were out with a meal to spare. A few photos will hopefully follow.

Cheers, Andy and Anton

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An old letter from Leg 1

Day 8 (Liverpool hut)

We have just (as of yesterday) completed our 1st first. Though we were unaware of it, we were the first party to cross the cascade saddle for the season. Some parties had tried but they turned back, they can’t have had either the elegance or the subtlety of the Andy & Rion U-Nit.

I thought I would describe in detail day 6-7 in detail as you may do this route later in summer. The climb up from dart hut to cascade saddle was relatively straight forward and it is clear that we are getting stronger. Though by the time we reached the saddle Andys’ ankle was giving him considerable grief. He has ankles that role in (I think it’s called inner perpetrating or something like that) and have been bruising against the inside of his boot. This condition had really started to aggravate on the climb down from Troas. The day off on day 5 was supposed to cure it but did not really.

This day off had been nice. We had played cards, read maps and played chess (with cards and maps). Lizzies’ cards she gave Andy are awesome.

Dart hut also have an awesome ranger in the form of a short ginger bearded dude. He made us cookies and told us tales; I already have in mind my next summer tramping trip, a 10 day trip through the Olivine and Marion plateaus. If you do pass by say hi from us. We have since found out that his name is Blair, it somewhat destroys his mystical allure. Therefore we will keep calling him the Dart Ranger or Paddy for short.

Post cascade saddle the track continues to climb and sidle to the pylon, though snow was quite deep through here. Our destination was the main tributary of the cascade stream, where there is a DOC campsite and toilet. On arrival the toilet looked like this:

That is, it was buried up to the roof in snow with only the chimney really showing. We decided the toilet was non-operational.

The next plan was to sort out Andys’ feet, we hiked up the ridge to try and get cell phone coverage – nada. So we set up the mountain radio and called Andys’ mum, the clarity of the call was quite good and the orthotics were to be sent down. Just so everyone knows, if we call the conversation can be heard from Port Pegasus to Papa New Guinea. (Love you too mum, says Andy).

We set up camp in this idyllic valley chowed down on some dehy goodness (they are going well) & tucked ourselves in. Unfortunatly a trio of kea decided this valley would be a good place to shelter from the sou-wester too. At 10.30 I was awoken with the kea sound outside the tent, I then spent half the night chasing them around the camp. We discovered in the morning that the pack (three more had joined them overnight) scored about 4 and us none.

They had managed to:

Rip out one peg
Poke their noses under the fly and stab a hole in my bladder.
Drag my crampons out from under the fly into the river where they attacked the rubber.
We found my crampons and bag in the morning, fortunately they did not float away and the damage is only cosmetic.

Due to the nights antics we made a slow start up Tyndal. It was a long plod in which we only used our axes for the last 50m vertical. Great views, I would recommend you take axes and crampons through. Unfortunately could not see Lochnegar L. When we returned to our camp, our gear which we had buried in avalanche debris had not been further attacked J. We climbed up to the pylon and that is where the real fun started.

The climb down the east side of the cascade was/is very steep and made somewhat nerve racking by the presence of 300ish meters of soft snow. It was slow progress and I would not recommend it to anyone for at least a fortnight. The rest of the descent was also very steep and hard on the knees. It is probably the steepest saddle I have descended to date. We made Aspiring hut in good time, where we were greeted with a box of supplies from Whiti (Ben Dare) – Thanks Ben, hope the trip up Aspiring was good. The pumpkin soup from the warden was awesome, so here is a challenge to all the wardens out there, try to beat the effort of the Aspiring and Dart wardens.

We counted on Andys’ orthotics arriving by Wednesday at the earliest so today we are heading to Liverpool Biv with the aim of climbing Barff tomorrow. This has been aborted as they arrive at the carpark at 10.15 tomorrow, bit of a bummer as we will have to climb back down, and I had been trying to convince Andy to cross the Arawhata saddle to the famous Arawhata rock biv, to make an attempt on Mt Athene. The new plan is to head up to French ridge hut.

Goodnight I’m off to take a dump in a room with an amazing view.

p.s when we were at Rockburn hut the rockburn looked an easy cross.

p.p.s Big thanks to the folks for sending those orthotics down on what must have been a rocket! Picking em up this morning, hopefully I can make them work in these boots.

Rion & Andy

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Leg 5: Gardens of Eden & Allah

Hi all
Andy and Anton started up again in the new year and headed into the Gardens of Eden & Allah. Word in from Mountain Radio is the are heading to McCoy hut tonight.
I cant work out why they were going to McCoy Hut, though im sure they have a reason.
That is in the head waters of the Clyde River and south from McCoy col when the planned route should be going NE from the col to Lyell hut.
The good news is that they got off the gardens safely, my guess is that they got off at Perth Col rather than Lambert Col and are droped off into the Frances Stream
They may still try and get round to the Rakaia via the Lawrence River and Butler Saddle, go south-north over McCoy Col or they may walk out at Erewhon Station
Thats my guess
ps. Im limping without crutches these days