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.
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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
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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.