28 April 2013

New Zealand Feb 2012 - The Five Passes Days 5 & 6

The Five Passes. Days 5 & 6 - North Col, Route Burn North Branch, Routeburn Shelter and home
Though we didn't leave 'til after 11am (resting and waiting for the fog to lift), day 5 became a bit of a biggy. It's a fairly simple (in good weather) alpine traverse to North Col (top of Route Burn North Branch) 1100m above the Hidden Valley Ck, and then following the North Branch down towards Routeburn Flat (camping before getting that far). Peaks 1796 is 200m up and back down from North Col, otherwise most of the elevation (800m) was dropping into the North Branch, which went for about 8km (in rain) before we camped.
Below: North Col, as seen from the traverse. Peak 1796, which we climbed for lunch, is on the right.
North Col
Below: "Just a Few Feet Below". From Peak 1796, looking down Hidden Falls Ck and onto the Hollyford River with Lake Alabaster in the distance. The drop's a little shear, about 1300m!
Just a few feet below...
From North ColTime to move on. Looking down to the valley of Route Burn North Branch. A very long valley (about 11km) it took about 5 hours to get from here to our campsite. Yes. That's about 2km/hour! This photo shows part of the reason. To get down from the North Col, we had to traverse over the steep scree slope that you see before you. Better that than hard icy snow without crampons!
Getting bigger nowThe North Branch was getting bigger by now, as it was starting to rain. Crossing back and forth became more difficult, as we tried to keep to the cairns. Around here I fell in whilst trying to skip over some rocks whilst crossing. Further downstream, there were places where the pad - what there was of it - would simply disappear, and you'd be left throwing yourself against vegetation to get through to the vague clearing that you thought might be a track. I think next time it would help to keep a sharp eye out on the true right for the true track...
Below: I know I was getting pretty tired by now. We had been walking or climbing for nearly 10 hours. Whilst the traverse had been fun, the peak exhilarating, and the river descent interesting, I was really ready for rest by now. Still, it really was a beautiful setting.
Final campsite
Below: Even though it was a relatively "benched and boring" final morning's 8km walk out, the Routeburn Track still turns up some pretty spots.
Diptych Prev (Day 4)
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As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

New Zealand Feb 2012 - The Five Passes Day 4

The Five Passes. Day 4 - Parks Pass, Parks Pass Glacier, Lake Nerine
Day 4. Simple. Go down the creek a bit, turn left, go up a bit, go up a bit more, come back down a bit, go up a bit more. Climbing 1250m, dropping 600m and covering 13 km. A big day.
Is this it?After following Hidden Falls Ck downhill for a couple of kms, we had to find the "left turn up the hill". T'was somewhere near this little stream, but alas we didn't find the track until the top, some 550m climb and 70 minutes later. We followed what was probably a hunter's pad up a handy ridge, which was in a way fine because you could put your hand out, and if it didn't crumble away, it was a good hand hold for dragging yourself up, and then a good foot hold four feet later... also, walking under the tree cover helped us not overcook ourselves.
So we must be at the top, then...?
So 70 minutes grunt later, we emerged out of the rotting forest to the alpine meadows. And this is the sort of thing you're likely to run into on NZ's South Island. So common this one's named Peak 1920!
Below: Having made Park's Pass, we continued up to Park's Pass Glacier, a mere 400m further up. Pretty easy going up in good weather. Wouldn't try it in bad! Amazing the loss of permanent snow here. The glacier has retreated a long way from what was marked on the LINZ map of the time... Those opposed to the idea of global warming must at least acknowledge local warming! (And this is happening all around the globe, btw...)
Park Pass Glacier
So rather than exit via Sugarloaf, we were told of a very pretty spot called Lake Nerine which involves a fair bit of alpine traversal, and headed for that. These two pics were taken on the way. Below: Parks Pass with Peak 1920 in cloud and Parks Pass Glacier above it. The exit stream of the glacier (and the source of the Rock Burn) is the cleft on the right.
Below: Upper Rock Burn, taken from 800m above. We didn't go back that way, though most Five Passers would travel through it. Theatre Flat, with Mt Nox to the left, and probably Peak 1863 on the right, with Sugarloaf Pass (usually one of the Five Passes as described) somewhere behind it.
Upper Rock Burn
The alpine traverse up to Lake Nerine is only 4km, but climbs 400m across snow grass and scree, and at the end of a day with so much climbing already, felt quite treacherous. We were pretty tired, and I think it took us over 2 hours! Lake Nerine looked so welcoming by the time we arrived.
Lake Nerine

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As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

27 April 2013

New Zealand Feb 2012 - The Five Passes Day 3

The Five Passes. Day 3 - Olivine Ledge, Firey Col, Hidden Falls Creek
Day 3 was only about 10km, but involved about 1000m in descent plus another 400m climbing, as we dropped down to and traversed the Olivine Ledge, climbed up over Firey Col, dropped down to Cow Saddle and then further down into Hidden Falls Creek.
Um, yep. Thataway.  ... and cross about here.
Left photo is looking downstream from near the top. Right photo is looking upstream at the crossing. The gully that drains Fohn Lakes is the route that you take to drop down to the Olivine Ledge, though you actually maintain course above it on the true right. There's a crossing where it suddenly turns left.
Olivine Ledge
The Olivine Ledge can be boggy, but we didn't have too much trouble.
The Forbidden Pool  Fiery Creek
The Plunge Pool on Firey Creek marks where you need to start going up to Firey Col (400m ascent)...
Below: Knee crunching 500m descent from Firey Col (where we had lunch) to Cow Saddle (the broad green saddle between the black valley wall and the red one). Needed to be done patiently.
Another descent
Below: Our day finished with the tent pitched above flood level on Hidden Falls Creek (and out of reach of all but the biggest rockfalls), several km down from Cow Saddle. Rather picturesque spot.
The view from our tent
Prev days 1 & 2.   Next Day 4

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

New Zealand Feb 2012 - The Five Passes Days 1 & 2

The Five Passes. Days 1 & 2 - Beans Burn and Fohn Lakes
Five Passes Elevation Profile In the southern end of Mt Aspiring National Park, a near loop done anti-clockwise by us, incorporating Fohn Saddle, Fiery Col, Cow Saddle, Parks Pass and North Col. Our plan was thus.
Five Passes Route MapDay 1: Jet boat from Glenorchy up the Dart River, and then climb 450m up Beans Burn to the Rock Biv (11km)
Day 2: Climb 660m to Fohn Saddle, then up and down another 300m for Sunset peak (6km)
Day 3: Drop 370m to the Olivine Ledge. Climb 400m up Fiery Creek to Fiery Col.
Drop 500m to Cow Saddle and a further 200m down Hiddle Falls Ck (10km)
Day 4: Drop a further 200m before climbing steeply 550m to Park Pass.
Up and then down 400m to Park Pass Glacier, before climbing a further 300m to Lake Nerine (13km)
Day 5: Climb 100m whilst traversing to the North Col, up and then down 200m to Peak 1796, then descending 800m to camp way down on Route Burn North Branch (12km)
Day 6: A doddle walk out, dropping 240m to the Routeburn Shelter to catch a bus back to Queenstown (8km)
All in all, climbed and descended about 3100m over about 60km. Stage 2 - walk up the Beans BurnWe chose to go anticlockwise to speed up the walk by using a jet boat to get to Beans Burn. Many people tramp the segment between Route Burn and Beans Burn, but it adds a fair part of a whole day.
Beans Burn is a typical NZ glacial-fed stream. Azure blue, freezing, quite capable of drowning you if you cross in the wrong spot. Luckily, it has a bridge to cross to the true right. Rain was predicted, and we thought it best to negotiate bad weather down low than up on the exposed tops.
Gettin' rainySort of worked. We were pretty wet and cold by the time we made the Rock Biv. Eight hours walking for 11km and 450m ascent, some of it in bog and some of it in the water.
Left: Beans Burn getting bigger.
We decided not to camp in the cave of the biv, as it was easier to clear the tent of sandflies, and there was sufficient break in the rain to pitch the tent.
"A tiny blue dot set in a sunbeam. Here it is. That's where we live. That's home." - Carl SaganNext day, the rain had cleared, leaving a gorgeous mist in the valley. The light was sublime. And then the climb up to Fohn Pass. You basically turn to face the valley wall, and start walking (well, you have to pick the right spot to negotiate the pass, as there are rock walls above). Keep going up 600m - some of it on scree - and you've got there. About 6km.
Below: Beans Burn from Fohn Saddle. The valley view extends all the way to Lake Wakatipu, visible about 35km away. Beans Burn was an awesome little valley.
Beans Burn from below Fohn Saddle

And then of course there's the view from the other side of the saddle... The Bryneira Range is over the Olivine Valley. Sunset Peak - with its head in the clouds - is directly behind Fohn Lakes, which are just hidden above the gully.
View NW from below Fohn Saddle
Below: Fohn Panorama. Left to right: The foot of Brenda Peak, Fohn (nearly 300m above the lake) and its reflection, Niobe Peak being pointed to by the strata, the smaller Fohn Lake with Fiery Peak ridge behind it, and the Bryneira Range behind that, with Alabaster Pass rightmost. A five image panorama, this is one of my favourite view from the trip.
Snow daisiesAfter climbing Sunset Peak, a further 300m, we came back down for dinner and shut eye. Fohn Lakes continued to drift in and out of cloud, as it had been doing all day.
Next, day 3.

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

12 March 2013

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Days 6-8 - Loch Maree Hut and out

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Days 6-8 - Loch Maree Hut to Kintail Hut to Upper Spey Hut and out. It was a pretty wet and misty day all day, making our way up 10km and 200m, clambering through so many muddy bogs and over slippery tree roots. Doesn't sound like far or high, but it was pretty hard work!
Through that, "The surface of the earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean." - Carl Sagan
Hillside at Gair Loch
Gair Loch is in yet another really spectacular part of the Dusky Track, but we were so clouded in we couldn't see much!
Next day... Tripod Hill from below Centre Pass The weather cleared more or less and, after climbing 800m (in only 3km!), we were able to look back and down upon Tripod Hill (centre) and Gair Loch (at its feet).
From Mt MemphisHaving climbed 800m to Centre Pass, the opportunity then presented itself to climb a further 250m to the top of Mt Memphis, which afforded beautiful views north over the Spey River to Wilmot Pass Rd (that faint scar traversing down the spur near the centre of the picture, about another 8km away). Whilst only 1200m distance away from the top of Mt Memphis, tucked in below what we can see here, Upper Spey Hut takes most of the afternoon to get to, as you first have to return to Centre Pass before continuing your descent. Over all, 6km and 950m descent including a rapid drop next to what sounds like a 150m waterfall, only you never quite see it. Total day was 800m up and 600m down, plus another 250m up and down for Mt Memphis. Distance was 7km, plus another 4km round trip for Mt Memphis.
Upper Spey Hut, Dusky Track
Looking back in the opposite direction. Mt Memphis is the obvious one in the middle. Click on the pic for more details. The duckboards are really important here, as the whole of the Upper Spey Valley is completely sodden. 500m back up the track, segments of the tramp are through thigh deep water. I think the Dept of Conservation are leaving it as a deterrent to day trippers!
Spey River SplashThe final day still had one or two boggy spots, but was the best day for track conditions. 8km to Wilmot Pass Rd, and another 5km or so before you can put your pack down. Was nice to have a final dip in the Upper Spey before "hitting town" (ie the passenger terminal for the boat that takes you back to Manapouri).

Back to Day 5.
More photos at Andrew's flickr pages.
As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

11 March 2013

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Day 5 - Day Trip to Supper Cove

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Day 5 - Day Trip to Supper Cove

Loch MareeThe track from Loch Maree Hut to Supper Cove Hut is about 12km one way. Sometimes it is on "paved" paths, cut and laid by miners in the early 1900s, but some of it is just as boggy as most of the rest of the Dusky Track! Keep that in mind when considering a 24km round trip! That's a half of the total distance of walking straight through from Lake Hauroko to Wilmot Pass Road.
"As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and the sky." - Carl SaganSo whilst it became quite a long day, it was still achieved by walking through some glorious bush!
Supper Cove - Mohona cover idea
Supper Cove, Dusky Sound.
Supper Cove really felt like a milestone for us, a landmark of why we came on this trek.
Back to Day 4. On to Days 6-8.
More photos at Andrew's flickr pages.
As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Day 4 - Tamatea Peak and Pleasant Range

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Day 4 - Tamatea Peak and Lake Roe Hut to Loch Maree Hut "Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides." - Carl Sagan The day started with little to encourage us. The whole tops were wrapped in fog. Disenchanted, all of the other trampers finally headed off by about 9am or so. We hummed and haaed for a while and just as we were lacing our boots to head off to Loch Maree Hut, we saw a faint pale disk through the fog. Hoping that the sun might appear, we decided to head up Tamatea Peak. It was still so foggy, we needed to use a compass bearing to make sure we hit the right part of the flank of the peak!
Andrew on the side of Tamatea Peak Pleasant Range and Dusky Sound from Tamatea Peak
As we climbed higher and higher, the fog started to thin, and we finally burst through it about five hundred metres above Lake Roe Hut. The views were spectacular!
Looking backLooking back towards Tamatea Peak (to the left) and Lake Roe Hut (above my hat) from the ascent onto the Pleasant Range. Lake Roe is but a sliver above the hut. The Merrie Range is in the background. Tamatea Peak was a 700m climb up and down that we did that morning. We are probably a kilometre from the hut and about 150 metres higher, with another six or seven km to go, and a huge 840m drop at the end. Time to move on.
Lake Horizon Panorama Lake Horizon is nestled at about 1000m high, amongst the Pleasant Range. Our route is between the two lakes, skirting around the far lip of Lake Horizon, and then traversing on the right hand side of that spine. It was a stunning place to be, and one of the most beautiful parts of the Dusky Track.
No way but downAt the top of the insane 840m drop from the end of the Pleasant Range down to Loch Maree (visible behind my pack). Mt Solitary and Dusky Sound are in the background.

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track Days 1, 2 & 3

New Zealand Feb 2012 - Dusky Track - Days 1, 2 & 3 Lake Hauroko to Lake Roe Hut

Tripod HillDusky Track is an six to nine day 50km walk in one of the most beautiful and remote parts of New Zealand. Tough walking, at times very tough, and very prone to flooding - expect a week of wet boots - but well rewarded.
Below is the profile elevation of the Dusky Track tramp, excluding the following side trips that we did, which were:

  1. Tamatea Peak (well, the adjacent Peak 1595), 720m above Lake Roe Hut
  2. Supper Cove (22km round trip) day trip from Loch Maree hut. A mixture of the best and the worst terrain on the whole trip
  3. Mt Memphis, 400m climb from Centre Pass. A glorious 2 hr ('cos of the bathing in the tarn) side trip.
Dusky Track Elevation Profile
The day stayover at Lake Roe Hut (due to inclement weather, and a desire to see the alpine tops in some sunshine), and the day trip to Supper Cove from Loch Maree Hut, meant that we had two extra nights to the five (we didn't overnight at either end) made for a seven night/eight day tramp.
I would recommend that you budget yourself eight days, and great weather might grant you an early mark. Many trampers do do the track in six days.

Day 1
Trackhead - drop off at Lake Hauroko Hut

Following the standard route (Lake Hauroko to Lake Manapouri, with a side trip to Supper Cove at the top of Dusky Sound) we were dropped by charter boat at Lake Hauroko Hut. The first day is quite a comfortable tramp through undulating beech forest, climbing only about 160m. About 3-4 hours takes you to Halfway Hut.
Day 2
View from Halfway Hut The second day, from Halfway Hut to Lake Roe Hut, climbs 550m over 6.5km. The track gets wetter and muddier in spots, as it continues to climb up adjacent to Hauroko Burn. By the time we reached the saddle at the top of the burn, a cold front had blown in, and - even though we were only at 820m elevation - conditions got very cold very quickly.
Day 3
"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever." - Carl SaganThe weather clapped out on day 3, so we stayed put in the hope that we'd get better weather for seeing the tops the following day. Lots of card playing occurred as all eight trampers who had started at Hauroko Hut two days ago squeezed in with a group of six doing some field work with Rock Robins
On to Day 4 and Tamatea Peak.
More photos at Andrew's flickr pages.
As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.