Thursday, 22 February 2007

Stage 4 - Scrub, Boulders and Pain

10 January - After some last minute arranging on the evening I arrived in Mount Cook, I suddenly had three people joining me for the Copland Pass crossing. I had two days off at Cook in which I spent most of my time sitting on the Unwin Hut computer writing up my blog. Nina arrived on the evening of my first day and had to content herself with sitting around reading the following day while I tapped away on the computer. She was planning on hitching down the coast after the Copland crossing and meeting up with Kyle Beggs and Nic Millar in Haast to complete a traverse of the Haast Range up to the Matukituki. Dan Allan and Rob Lawrence arrived late on Friday night, and spent some time sorting out their gear before going to bed, as they were contemplating trying to climb Sefton after crossing the pass.

After a 0700 start, we dropped by DOC, so Rob and Dan could sign in, then we rolled on over to White Horse Hill to drop Rob’s Impreza off. By this time it was around 0930. My pack was huge, and I had to quite literally kick it into the back of Rob’s car. It must have weighed around 30-35 kg, as I was carrying 16 days food, ice axe, crampons, helmet, mountain radio and tent on this leg. The weather was being kind to us, but cloud was hanging around the Divide obscuring the view. We shouldered our vastly different sized packs and headed on up the East side of the Hooker valley, as DOC had recommended it over trying to traverse around the Western side of the glacial lake. The East Hooker had changed a lot since I had last been here in 2005. Large chunks of the moraine wall you sidle above the lake on have fallen away, changing the nature of the route substantially. It is no longer easy wandering along open ledges, instead there is a lot more up and down and a couple of guts to cross.

We had been told that there was a good chance that we would be sharing the Copland Shelter with four others that night. I initially thought that they may have assumed that they may have thought that it was our group, as I had been in there the day before asking about the route and saying that four of us would be doing the crossing starting today, but as we made our way up the valley we picked up sets of fresh footprints from time to time. It was going to be a cosy night with eight people in the four person shelter!

We made the point where up turn off up to the Playing Fields, and descended down a large gut in the moraine wall to the lower Hooker glacier. Rob and Dan had not taken much fuel with them, and none of us new whether there was a water tank at the shelter, so they decided to cart three litres of water up the ridge with them, as they didn’t want to melt snow if they possibly could get away with it. I was feeling pretty good, and was easily keeping up with the others, even though my pack was twice the size of some of their’s!

We crossed the moraine covered glacier and stopped for lunch at the base of the route up the Western moraine wall. From a distance the route looked alright. It was split by a shelf at half height, and didn’t look too steep. The cloud was starting to break up at this stage, and we started enjoying broken views of Mount Cook and the upper Hooker valley as we sat around eating and talking shit. We were soon on our way again, climbing up the moraine wall. We angled up to the tussock covered ledge, then sidled this until it started to run out, then climbed a small divot to the base of the final steep section of moraine wall, which was particularly steep and loose. Fortunately there was a fixed rope attached to the top of this last gut, and we dispatched it with ease.

We wandered along the top of the wall for a way before picking out cairns amongst the rocks, which marked the start of the climb up onto the Copland Spur. The route started up quite steep snowgrass before eventually reaching the original track which zig-zagged its way up the spur. The route starts out as a steep walk, but gradually becomes more scrambly as the spur narrows and steepens. There are some fun, airy rock scrambles and the occasional ridge top traverse. Nina and I had something of a close call one time, when a small wall of loose rock collapsed just as I was walking beside them. Luckily they didn’t go far, otherwise I would have been flattened and Nina taken out too. Dan was finding the climb hard work after a summer spent behind a desk. He decided to ditch some of his water to make life a little easier, but Rob objected to that and wound up taking it – he did not want to use excess fuel!

The ridge steadily got more and more scrambly, but relented just below the shelter, which turned out to be empty when we finally arrived there around 1700. To our relief the other party ahead of us had decided to push on over the pass, so we had the place to ourselves. Yay! The Copland Shelter is a large barrel tipped on its side and strapped to the top of the Copland Spur. There are precipitous drops on either side of it, and a small section of ridge in front that has had a small section flatten to use as an open air bivy if the shelter is overcrowded – definitely not a place to be in a storm! Behind the bivy, a steep snowfield rears up around 200 metres to meet the rock crest of the Main Divide and the small notch that is the Copland Pass. The could had pretty much cleared by now, and we were presented with views down to Mount Cook Village, Lake Pukaki, the Liebeg Range, Hooker Valley and Mount Cook Range. Of course everybody went a bit snap happy with the cameras – particularly when the sun started to set and Mount Cook started turning orange – bloody marvellous!

One of the first things I found when we arrived was a water tank attached to the back of the shelter, which was hilarious, as it meant that Rob and Dan had carried an extra three kilograms of weight up the spur for nothing. They were not impressed! We set up something of a couch made out of mattresses outside the door to the shelter and sat around and had dinner outside, then watched the sun go down from our eyrie. The night was so mild that when we went to bed, we kept the door open to circulate some fresh air.

I felt good today. And didn’t really notice the huge pack I was carrying. I found the climb up to the shelter easy, much to the others disgust, so must be finally getting match fit!

11 February – We were up and away by 0840. The day was beautifully clear and still. We followed old footprints up the left hand side of the steep final snow field behind the shelter. Some of yesterdays zing had gone, and hauling my huge pack up the steep firm snow was a bit more of an effort, but we made the pass in about half an hour of leaving the Copland Shelter. We stopped and blazed away at the backdrop of the Southern Alps with our cameras before taking off our crampons and stepping through the notch of the pass. From here we dropped down a bit of a shelf that led right from the pass into loose gut that dropped down to the first basin on the western side. We got a bit spread out here, with Rob way out in front out on the open scree below the gut and Dan some way behind him, but still in the gut. Nina was next, just in front of me. We were scrambling down a small step when she kicked off a rock which went barrelling downhill straight for Dan. We yelled “ROCK!” which alerted Dan to his impending doom. He bounded a few paces, then fell over on the loose scree. The rock came hurtling towards him, and we were sure he was going to get sconed, but he got up and got out of the way just in time. Needless to say, after that we were a more careful about dislodging stones after that.

Rob, Dan and Nina took off downhill after that and reached the first basin quite a way in front of me. The basin still had snow in it and was still hard from the previous night, as the sun hadn’t reached it yet. The others didn’t bother to put their crampons on when they got to it and spread out all over it trying to find the easiest way across it. From above they had a farcical, Keystone Cops look about them as they skittered across the slippery surface. I was no better than them when I finally reached it, but took to the scree a lot earlier, as I wasn’t prepared to slide around and risk a fall when I was only half way done with my trip.

We climbed over the lip of the basin and dropped down more scree into the next basin, where we again ended up splitting up and going our separate ways down to the bottom. I stopped and donned crampons, then dropped down some firm snow to reach the others at the bottom. We had a snack beside a large boulder where we were joined by a couple of inquisitive juvenile keas, who kept as amused with their clowning before we headed off down past a small bivy rock, onto more scree, then eventually onto the track to the valley floor. I stopped and changed into shorts and sunhat with Nina when we hit the tussock, as the day was getting hot, and stopped many time on the way down to admire the views of Unicorn and Dilemma Peaks, as well as the Copland Valley stretching away to the West. I was surprised to see that the Copland lake at the head of the valley was silting up, and may not be in existence for too much longer.

We reached the valley floor and walked along the track until we found the appropriate lunch rock to sit on with a side stream close by. The day had turned into a real scorcher, and it was hard to find any shelter in the open scrub of the upper valley. Dan had to stop at one point and just blob, as he suddenly felt he was having heart palpitations. The fact he was in long sleeves and trousers probably wasn’t helping things much either. The track to Douglas rock was generally good until we reached a giant landslide, which we scrambled across. Shortly after that we crossed an old avalanche then followed the slowly deteriorating track to the bushline where improved markedly as we approached Douglas Rock Hut. The forest was very dry from such a long period of fine weather, but that made travel much easier, as we didn’t have to worry about slipping on wet rock.

We reached Douglas Rock around 1500 and had a snack break before making our way down to the fleshpots of Welcome Flat. Rob and Nina took off in front, with Dan following some way behind. I suddenly realised that I may have left my camera in the hut, so went back to check. It turned out that I’d just put it in my pack, and I was soon hooning down the track, after the others. I didn’t make any real attempt to try and catch up to them, as I was trying to reserve energy for the rest of the leg, which I new was going to be every bit as demanding as the last one. The track was very up and down, with little scrambly sections here and there, but was generally in good nick. I eventually caught up with Dan, who was pretty buggered by this stage, and had decided that he wasn’t up to trying for Mount Sefton this time around. We had a break before ambling on down the track a bit further to find Rob and Nina waiting for us by a small side stream.

From here it wasn’t far to Scott’s Creek, where Nina decided she was going for a swim, so the rest of us stood around and watched while she jumped in. We wandered down valley a bit to where we could see up Scott’s Creek a bit more, and I showed the boys the route up the side of the first waterfall. Rob was still keen to go and do it, but Dan just shook his head, and confirmed that he wasn’t really up to it this time around. From here it was just a long stroll down to the swingbridge and Welcome Flat Hut. Somehow I ended up in front as the others slowed down. We arrived at what appeared to be a backpackers! The hut was overflowing, with people – mainly overseas tourists, and was half covered with drying cloths. We had a look around the hut, trying to decide whether it was worth putting up with the masses, but with more people arriving and the fact that my Annual Hut Pass didn’t cover this hut, we all decided to camp out the back. To my chagrin, camping wasn’t covered by the Hut Pass either, which I think is absurd! We paid our hut fees to the warden – mainly because she was so friendly, and sympathised with our complaints, and gave us chocolate as a reward for crossing the pass! We set up camp, made dinner and did the radio sched (poor reception due to atmospherics) before paying a visit to the hot pools just after dark. Boy, were they great! It was nice to lye back and let the hot water soak away the aches and pains of the day. We sat around talking to some American girls before calling it a night and heading for bed - Dan, Nina, and I to our tents and Rob to his bivy bag.

12 February – I slept like a log. I didn’t even hear our noisy Israeli neighbors arrive back at their tent. We got up around 0700, had breakfast, shook the tents and packed up. I somehow managed to misplace one of my sock liners I had been wearing the night before in the process of packing, which really pissed me off, as I had managed to be careful not to lose or leave anything behind so far on this trip. I searched everywhere, but couldn’t find it, so gave it up as lost, unless it was still in my sleeping bag, which Nina had packed up for me while we were packing the tent away.

After one last look for my sock up at the pools, we left the hut some time around 0900. The others tore off at a rate of knots along the well trodden track, and I lumbered along at the back, pacing myself, as I knew I was in for a long day if I was going to reach Cassel Flat Hut in the Karangarua. The walk down the Copland was pretty uneventful. We passed quite a few people going in both directions. We reached Architect Creek by about 1045 and had a snack beside the swingbridge, then stopped by the Architect Creek Hut sortly afterwards for a look. We ran into a large guided party further down stream, and had a short chat with one of the guides as his group filed past. It looked like it was going to be another busy night up at Welcome Flat!

On the way down to the road, Nina was in two minds on whether she wanted to come with me for the rest of this leg or whether she would stick with her Plan A, and go up the Haast Range with Kyle and Nic. She was busy trying to figure out ways of hitching to Haast, picking up her extra gear, buying more food and coming back to meet me. She was wanting me to go to Haast with her, but I stuck to my guns and said that I would wait for her at either the Copland road end or Cassel Flat, but would not be jumping out of the hills down to Haast now I had started this leg of my journey. I wanted to keep my progression down the Alps as pure as possible, which meant no heading out of the hills and jumping up and down the island unless absolutely necessary. I probably came across a bit harshly, but didn’t want to muck about when I had definite goals set for myself.

We had lunch near the end of the bush after the Copland joins the Karangarua. A nasty looking mutant vampire Daddy Long Legs kept us occupied for a while, as we were probably sitting on its house, as did a chat with a woman’s tramping group who were bouncing around the Island doing all the tracks. They were puzzled on how we managed to pass them without them noticing, then realised that we had snuck past when they turned off the track to have lunch at the Karangarua viewpoint. We let them pass, finished our own lunch and trotted on down the last section of track before the road. I was keeping an eye out for possible crossing points on the Karangarua, but there were none, so I resigned myself to walking all the way down to the road. The last section of track before Rough Creek has been re-route due to the end of the old track being blown out by a flood.

Just before Rough Creek, Nina picked up a couple of stones and got me to shuffle them behind my back before presenting them to her. This was her way of deciding on whether see was going up the Haast Range or coming with me. She drew the smaller of the stones, which meant she was going up the Haast Range. With that sorted, we crossed the Creek and caught up with the boys, who were busy washing up in the Creek to make themselves presentable for hitchhiking. I stopped long enough to refill my fuel bottle with the fuel Nina was carrying and gladly received a couple of extra Hot Chocolates that Rob was carrying, then said my farewells to everybody and strode off down to the West Coast Highway. I crossed the Karangarua Bridge, then turned off up the track on the other side. The track up to Cassel Flat is the complete opposite of the well graded, frequently travelled Copland track. After starting out well, it soon deteriorates to a sporadically marked route, crossing a series of flats and skirting the river before taking to the bush before coming out on a large flat, which is crossed before cutting the corner of the Copland/Karangarua confluence in more bush. I had to be on top of my game spotting markers, and had to backtrack to pick up the trail from time to time when I lost the trail or followed a false lead.

After following the bank for a while, the track turned up a large dried up flood channel before reaching McTaggart Creek. I crossed this and climbed steeply up the south bank towards a large white sack, which was the only marking to show where the track started at the top of the bank. The going from here was slow but steady. The track headed inland and zig-zagged a lot, climbing steadily upward. The was a lot of shield fern, mud, roots, windfall, boulders and side streams to contend with, but the track was okay to follow, and I only had to backtrack a few times. The time did seem to drag on though, and it felt like I was getting nowhere for a while, but just as I was wondering if I was going to get to Cassel Flat before dark, I stumbled out into the open. Cassel Flat is quite an impressive place, surrounded by towering bluffs of tussock and smooth rock. A bit more wandering through scrubby bush and a couple of clearings had me arrive at Cassel Flat Hut just on 1930. I was surprised to find that the hut was in really tidy shape, as I had imagined it to be a bit more run down, seems it was in a relative backwater. I noticed that there was a mountain radio aerial set up in the grass outside the hut, lying down amongst the grass, so dropped my pack and rigged my radio to the aerial. The sched had just started, but again, the reception was lousy. I managed to get the forecast through the static, but couldn’t raise IB Base.

Just as the sched wound up the owner of the aerial appeared out of the bush across from the hut. I had been following relatively fresh tracks up the valley for most of the afternoon, so new that someone was up here. His name was David, a shopfitter/farmer from Akaroa, who was up here hunting Thar. He was a bit of a talker – in fact it was difficult to get a word in edgewise – but he was nice enough. He’d just been up the track towards Lame Duck Hut, and said the track was rough. He’d just had a chopper full of DOC shooters come through the previous evening and shoot a whole lot of Thar off the valley walls, and was contemplating heading out early, as there were only about 20 Thar around compared to about 40 before the shooters had been through – go figure! When I asked him about the Regina Creek/Douglas route, he said he hadn’t been up there, but another group of four had just headed up that way about a day ago.

After our chat, I went about making dinner, and once I’d scoffed that down, I fell into bed just in time for the mosquitoes to come out and buzz about. Dave said that they were so bad the previous night that he was going to sleep outside tonight, so he took one of the huts mattresses outside and bedded down in the open. I just put on my beanie and pulled it down over my ears in the hope this would ward the worst of them off, or at least muffle the buzzing. I still hadn’t decided which route I was going to take the next day, and was disappointed to find that the hut book had recently been replaced, so there was no helpful beta on the surrounding area. I now regretted not getting DOC at Mount Cook to get info from DOC Fox Glacier sent through to me while I was at Cook. I decided to make a final decision first thing in the morning based on how I felt when I got up, and hunkered down to try and get some sleep in what was shaping up to be a muggy night.

13 February – Dave shuffled back into the hut some time during the night mumbling something about getting wet outside. The mosquitoes were indeed bad, and I wound up constantly brushing them away between fits of sleep. Dave got up at 0500 to go out hunting. He wished me good luck for the rest of my traverse when he left about 20 minutes later. I got up around 0700, and set about making breakfast. The valley had filled in with cloud overnight, and heavy dew lay on the ground. Dave had left the hut mattress he had been sleeping on outside, and it was soaking wet.

I finally decided to try the Regina Creek/Douglas route, as I was keen to return to the head of the Douglas Valley again, and felt it was going to be easier to get to the Landsborough this way. Another party had just gone up that way too, which meant the route obviously went, so I packed up and was out the door just on 0830. I crossed the soggy flats and dropped down to the cableway across the Karangarua. The box car was on the far side of the river where the previous party had left it, so I had to haul it back across the river. It was stiff and didn’t come back across easily, but I got it over eventually. I threw my pack and jumped on board. To my surprise the box car didn’t roll down the cable with my added weight, so I was forced to once again haul on the rope to get myself down to the halfway point, then get the ratchet out and use it to prevent me from sliding backwards on the upward side of the cableway. By the time I reached the far side of the river, I had managed to rip several large holes in my hands from hauling on the rope so hard (I perhaps should have worn gloves – Doh!).

I got out, unloaded my pack and headed on up the track. Again, the track had been marked with orange triangles in the past few years, and on the whole it was easy to follow, but it did vanish occasionally where it got a bit overgrown or had windfall. The track led steadily uphill, and was still wet from last night. I reached the swingbridge across Regina Creek around 1030 and stopped for a snack before starting the climb up to Conical Hill. The track climbed away from the valley floor very steeply, but I made good rapid height gain. The track passed closely by several slips that went all the way to the valley floor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if those sections of track end up there fairly soon too. I would be constantly be pulling myself up hand over hand on trees and roots before reaching short sidles as I made my way higher and higher. I passed a couple of fixed chains placed in slabby creek beds, one section of track that was pulling away from the bedrock beneath it that I had to climb up VERY carefully, and a cable ladder with haul chain that was attached to a very steep bluff near the top. Once I had climbed the ladder and scrambled up a section of steep, eroding track, the terrain started to lay back again, and I scrambled my way up through scrub to the tussock. Orange markers gave way to the odd snow pole, and I made my way up to the saddle beside Conical Hill. By this time it was 1300, so I stopped for lunch just below a snow pole with a large orange triangle attached to it. The morning cloud had largely burnt off, giving me views up the Douglas Valley. Boy, this is steep, unrelenting country, and I was just about to head into the heart of it!

After lunch, I followed a series of old snow poles into an area of scrub and boulders. From here I picked up a series of old permolat markers and followed these until they ran out on top of a bit of a bluff. I spent some time looking for more markers, but couldn’t find any more, so opted to descend down the only feasible looking way off the top of the bluff. I dropped into something of a broad gully, full of shield fern and made reasonable progress down. As the terrain let me, I started to traverse along the wall of the valley. I was still hoping to find some form of trail, but nothing appeared. It was hard going, following ledges of shield fern and pushing through stunted trees. Occasionally I would have to pull up through thickets before starting to traverse again. Occasionally I would break out into the open a cross the odd slip, but generally I was forced to stay in the stunted forest and scrub. The going became painfully slow, and when I pulled out the GPS it became obvious that I was making incredibly slow progress through this horrid scrubby terrain. I soon realised that maybe this wasn’t the right route to Horace Walker, however it was too late to turn around, as it was going to take just as much time to backtrack as to push forward, and I reasoned to myself that surely the terrain would relent soon!

After another hour or so of grovelling I realised that there was no way I was going to reach Horace Walker Hut today, and the best I could hope to do was either try and find an open flat spot to put up my tent (which seemed unlikely at this stage) or I would have to find the rock bivy that was marked on the map. I eventually broke out onto some open ground, disturbing a herd of Thar as I burst forth from the bush. It had just started to rain lightly, so I stopped and put on my parka. There were several large rocks around, so I decided to have a look around to see if any of them could be used as bivvies or whether there was any ground to put my tent up on, as it was now around 1730. Unfortunately there was nothing, but as I had climbed quite high, I did notice a very large rock that appeared to have a large overhang some distance off. It could quite possibly be the bivy I thought, so decided to go check it out. The rock was in a large clearing, and there looked like there was the possibility that there might be some flattish ground there even if the rock didn’t turn out to be the bivy.

It was 1900 before I finally arrived at the big boulder. I soon saw that it wasn’t the bivy, though a quick look at the GPS and map told me it wasn’t far away. I decided not to go looking for it, as I was shattered, and there wasn’t anything that obviously looked like it from where I was standing. I managed to find a small portion of flat ground that was just big enough to put my tent up on, and set up the radio aerial to listen to the evening sched. Once again I got really poor reception, but IB Base wasn’t able to raise anybody due to atmospherics that night. I was starting to get a little concerned about not being able to get in contact with IB Base, particularly when I was sitting in the arsehole of the Southern Alps right then! Fortunately the weather forecast was still good, so at least I wouldn’t have to deal with rain as well as all this knarly country. I decided that I would try and climb high the next day to see if I could get above this horrible forest. Hopefully the day would turn out a bit easier than this afternoon! I made tea and then crashed shortly after eating. I was buggered. It had been the hardest day physically so far on the trip.

14 February – Take two on yesterday afternoon. Fuck this is hard country! The plan to climb high to avoid the boulders I had camped next to just led me into more thick scrubby forest! At one point as I was climbing up beside a scrubby streambed I ran into a squeeze so tight I was forced to take my pack off and crawl through the hole, then haul my pack through. This was bloody hard work, as my pack was still in the vicinity of 30 kg in weight! Once I broke out of the scrub I was confronted with a series of steep slabs and gullies that I had to either climb or sidle. Mainly the slabs kept forcing me up and up, but I could only go as high as the base of the huge bluffs that loomed over the top of the valley. More than once I yearned to be above those on the tussock that I could see! The going on some of the slabs was quite hairy in places and if I’d slipped I would have gone a long way, however I was becoming quite adept at picking up Thar trails and following them. I also kept having close encounters with the local Thar. They seemed very surprised to see a human at such close quarters when I burst out of the bush at them!

At the end of the last big slab, I was near the top of the slope, and pushed up through a scrubby bank to be confronted with the sight of a steep bouldery stream dropping away beneath me and part of the bluffy headwall blocking any further progress. I swore mightily and had to stop and think hard about what I was going to do next, as I was starting to get quite disheartened by all these obstacles being thrown up in my path. I was still making painfully slow progress for the amount of effort I was putting in, and the day was sliding away far too quickly. After taking some time to look at my options, I decided to drop down the bank in front of me and follow it down towards the Douglas River. As soon as the terrain let me, I would cross this stream and continue my traverse along the valley wall. It was all I could do. Luckily there seemed to be quite a few Thar trails on this bank, and I used them as much as I could. Occasionally I would have to scramble down a water course or over the odd boulder, but the travel seemed to be getting slowly better – either that or I was getting used to travelling in Thar country! I was eventually forced down to the creek and had lunch in the sun beside a waterfall, then crossed the stream and started traversing around to a ledge I had spotted that looked like it had some open ground on it. I got there and got a brief glimpse up valley, and what I saw was very encouraging – there was a large open terrace that led to a prominent ridge that led up to the open plateau that lay just before the hut. Things were looking up!

After a bit more scrub bashing and up and down I reached more open tussock. I followed this until it ended at the top of a short bluffy section and clambered down the slabby, eroding hillside to the Douglas River. From here I followed a side stream up a short way to reach the large open terrace. I followed across this as far as I could and then ploughed into some truly heinous alpine scrub. I spent some time thrashing through this before finally making it to the ridge I had been aiming for. The scrub relented a little once I reached the large Dracophyllum and Fuchsia trees that were growing along the ridge. Occasionally I would run into thick scrub, but I would just have to persevere and I was soon back among the more open areas again. I eventually picked up something of a trail along the spine of the ridge, then near the top of the ridge I stumbled onto an old cut track that still had the occasional marker, and I followed this up to the scrubline, and finally the large tarned plateau just before the hut. The views suddenly opened up in front of me, and I could finally see the Horace Walker Glacier, the head of the Douglas Valley, and back down the gorge to the Saddle beside Conical Hill. I had almost made it! Yay! I crossed the swampy plateau and headed for the stream outlet that led down to the Douglas River. My way was blocked by a steep, bouldery stream, but I got my first look at Horace Walker Hut. I backtracked a short distance and climbed up to the shoulder to the right of the stream outlet and found a snow pole. After sidling right for about 500 metres I picked up a spur that led down towards the river and soon picked up a track through the scrub that led down to the valley floor, then followed it out to the Douglas. From here it was just a case of strolling across the flats to meet the Horace Walker River, crossing it at its confluence with the Douglas (grey and deep, but not swift), and I finally arrived at Horace Walker Hut. Whoo Hoo! I was so glad to finally get here! It had taken me eight hours to come the six kilometres to get to this fabulous little hut, but I had done it!

I had the place to myself, as the party that Dave had told me about had returned down to the Karangarua the previous day by what they had written in the new hut book. I spread out and made myself at home. The hut is well stocked with food, as it is mainly used by hunters who fly in and out by helicopter, so I had a look through it and found some instant pudding that I decided would be a great treat, so promptly mixed it up with some of the huts milk powder to have as dessert, although I started eating it as soon as it had set! It was Pam’s Instant Pudding which you can mix up without refrigerating it, and it sets really well.

I wasn’t entirely alone. A family of Weka were roaming around the hut. It was really cool to see the two little ones, although they foiled all attempts to take pictures of them. The evening cloud had rolled in once again, obscuring the valley walls, so I headed inside. I sat down and had a mending session on my shorts, as they had not survives the last couple of days bush bashing too well. After that I did the evening sched (Still couldn’t raise IB Base – Hmm, I’m not liking this, I’ve changed the batteries, there must be something wrong with the aerial.), then had tea and Instant Pudding for dessert and some real hot chocolate courtesy of the hut supplies, then hit the hay.

15 February – I was up and out the door by 0830. It was a cool and cloudy start to the day. I headed up the true right bank of the Douglas River to the glacial lake at the head of the valley. The Douglas Lake was huge and very moody, surrounded by towering cliffs on either side; these reflected themselves in the mirror smooth water. The low grey cloud gave the place a slightly menacing feel.

The way around the lake lay on the true right, following the shore of the lake most of the way around until it came to a large boulder field that blocked the way. After the boulder field it looked like it continued back along the lake shore until it came to a large bluff, which rose straight out of the water at the far end of the lake. The initial part following along the lake shore was easy, then I climbed high through the boulder field and slowly angled back down to the lake again before arriving at the main barrier to progress – the large bluff. At one point the mirror calm waters of the lake were shaken by a huge booming crash, which I have to assume was a large piece of the Douglas Neve dropping off further up the valley, though I did briefly think it might have been the start of an earthquake.

The low cloud started to burn off by the time I reached the bluff, and could start to see the Main Divide around Mount Burns, and got fleeting glimpses of Mount Thomson at the head of the valley. I scrambled up a large scree fan that ran down the left hand side of the bluff to gain a broad ledge on top of it, and sidled along this to get a look at where I needed to head next. There was nothing here except bluffs plunging straight into the lake, but I did get my first view of Mount Sefton and the Douglas Neve falling off overhanging cliffs onto the lower glacier, which ran down to the lake. I could see that I would have to backtrack a bit and climb up onto the next shelf to get around to a point where I could drop down to the terminal face of the Douglas Glacier and the end of the lake. I did this, sidling moderately steep scree covered slabs of this upper shelf to a point where the angle eased and two clean slabs and a waterfall were crossed before I could descend down to the beach at the foot of the glacier. The view up the lower Douglas to Mount Sefton and the Upper Douglas Neve were gobsmacking – it’s such steep, dramatic country in here!

The snout of the glacier was right on the edge of the lake, but I had seen that the lake was quite shallow here, so ducked around the front of the black hulk of ice rather than trying to cross over the top of it. Once past the glacier I clambered up the huge moraine wall to reach Harper’s Rock Biv just in time for lunch. It was great to be back here after so many years, and even nicer to have great weather, as my last visit, helping out as a geologist’s assistant was a bit of a stormy affair. After lunch I headed across the large glacial flats behind the rock biv to get to the start of the route up to Douglas Pass. I could remember very little of the route we took up and down here when I was here last, but there looked to be numerous options, so up I went. I bypassed bluffs at the bottom and then zig-zagged up steepish rock and tussock slopes for most of the way up until I got to a waterfall blocking the way back left towards the pass. It came down in a couple of steps, and I figured I would be able to bypass scrambling up the first step by climbing up the slope I was on a bit higher and dropping in on a shelf beside it. When I got to the shelf above, it turned out to be a no goer, so I clambered back down to the first step and scrambled across loose scree to get to the base of the waterfall.

Once I got to the base of the first step I realised that this step was much bigger than I had initially thought, and in fact was a bit of a rock climb. However by this stage I was committed to doing this route, so I just went for it. I took to the large crack in the left hand side of the face, jammed my way up it with the help of a couple of well placed ice axe hook placements. At about half height, I realised that a fall here would probably have serious consequences, which helped speed me on my way to the top. Once the angle eased, I crossed the stream above the waterfall and angled up towards the pass. By this stage cloud had rolled into the Landsborough and was rapidly filling the Douglas Valley too, so I headed straight down the slumping rock shelves in the head of the Landsborough rather than hanging around the pass. I aimed for the terminal face of the McKerrow Glacier, another very sad looking glacier, which is more rock than ice these days, and crossed the infant Landsborough at the mouth of the glacier. From here I followed down the true left. I was a bit let down that I didn’t get the splendid views up to Karangarua Saddle due to the cloud hanging around the valley, which gave the place a slightly suffocating feel. Steep scree eventually gave way to flats, then the river narrow and dropped sharply beneath Karangarua Saddle, and I was forced to sidle above this on steep scree for a while before the valley opened up once more to form broad shelves of tussock and boulders on either side, while the river thundered on some 60 metres below.

The cloud lifted a little when I came out from the gorgy section under Karangarua Saddle, but still obscured the mountain tops. I followed the benches on the true left downstream until I found the rock biv beside the Rubicon Torrent and stopped there for the day, as it looked to be a much better option than a tent. The biv is pretty much where it is marked on the map, and is the largest rock in the area. It is cairned on the top and has two waled sleeping chambers at each end, the larger of the two being on the downhill side. I got water from a stream some way away, cooked tea in the biv, and did the evening sched. Once again I could not transmit out! Grr! I started looking at the aerial for any obvious breaks once I had pulled it down for the evening, but could not see anything.

As predicted a small front made itself felt that evening with a bit of light rain and a marked drop in temperature, but I was nice and cosy under my bivy rock. It had been a good day, and I felt like I had made some real progress. I asked the mighty Landsborough to treat me well over the next few days before I went and curled up in my pit for the night.

16 February – The front passed through overnight, but it was cloudy once again when I got up, so I didn’t get the views of the Rubicon and Le Blanc streams that I had hoped for. The impressive walls of Mount Townshend were visible though, which was some consolation. After breakfast I dropped into the Rubicon Torrent and crossed it and climbed out the other side before following the remaining tussock shelves down towards Romping Water. A slight error in judgement had me drop down to the Landsborough slightly too early, and I was forced to climb back up onto the shelf via some stunted alpine scrub. Once back on the shelf I zig-zagged through more alpine scrub before breaking out onto more tussock above Romping Water. I had disturbed several Chamois who were out grazing the flats on my way down from the biv, and came across one more as I dropped down scree into Romping Water. I followed the true right bank until just before the confluence with the Landsborough. I had noticed that my left quad was giving me some grief this morning, and as I continued on down the valley it slowly started to seize up. This did not help my forward progress much, as it was making the boulder bashing I was now doing quite difficult, as I couldn’t weight my left leg properly. I knew that I’d be boulder bashing for most of the day, and was a tad annoyed that my leg was suddenly playing up for no apparent reason.

Just after I passed Whitcombe Creek, my right quad started seizing up too, and I was soon walking like a gingerbread man. Going uphill was painful when bending my knees, and going downhill became agony. I was once again very glad that I was using walking poles, as these helped a lot in keeping me upright, and acted as a second pair of legs that I could lower myself with and to roll over the tops of things. The thought of stopping and resting up for the rest of the day did pop into my head, but there was nowhere to stop and make camp, so I had to keep going. The rough nature of the upper valley, with a lot of boulder bashing and thick forest and scree sidles had me reduced to a crawl. I pumped my self full of anti inflammatories and Panadol to try and minimise the discomfort, but as the injury seemed to be torn muscle, these didn’t help much. The increasing number of scree banks I had to sidle and descend was the worst of the obstacles I encountered. I was forced to either side step or reverse down them with very little control, and I often slid out, which stressed my legs andforced me to stop from the pain it induced. The day wore on and on, with the only bonus being, that once again it was fine and clear. My progress felt like it was getting slower and slower. I just kept saying to my legs “Please, just get me to Zora, and I’ll let you rest – maybe have a day off – Come on, don’t let me down now!”

The bluff below Arthur Creek was intense, with me having to climb and traverse steep, loose gullies before dropping back down to the river via a side stream. At time I would be forced to just sit down and take he weight off my legs to relieve the pain, or occasionally wade into the river to cool them down, but at last the flats around the Zora confluence appeared, and I managed to gather enough energy to hobble on down to them. I arrived there about 1930, and managed to find an idyllic camp spot on a terrace on the true right of Baker Stream, where it flows into the Landsborough. I was mighty relieved to have arrived and be rid of my pack for another day. I hobbled around and set up my tent amongst a swarm of sandflies, got water from a nearby stream and made tea. I was too shagged to worry about the sandflies too much, and just let them munch on the few uncovered spots on me. My legs responded well to stopping and not having to haul my goddamn pack, but I made sure I popped more drugs before hitting to hay for the night. I would wait and see what my legs were like in the morning before deciding on whether I’d try to get down to Fraser Hut or not. It would be good if I could…

17 February – More of the same pain, but on easier terrain. The route downstream from the Zora is a lot more gentle, with more sidles in forest, and along terraces, and less rock hopping. There is less up and down too. My legs felt okay when I got up and stayed that way for the first half an hour of walking, but soon seized up again, though the pain wasn’t quite as bad. I made reasonable time down to Dechen Stream beside the river, then took to the bush when the river started to push in against the true left bank. I picked up a deer trail that took me up high onto a bench and I followed this until I came to a spot where I got a view of McKerrow Stream a long way below. The problem was I couldn’t easily get back down to the river, so I was forced to follow the trail up McKerrow Stream a way before finding a large slip to descend. This really aggravated my quads, and I arrived at the bottom of the slip groaning in pain. I hobbled downstream towards the Landsborough and had lunch with lashings of Voltaren.

After lunch I followed beside the river before once again taking to the bush when the river turned a corner to the left. This time as I clambered up onto the bush terrace above the river, I stumbled onto a track. Halleluyah! It was a trapping line, and it led all the way down to kea Flat. All of a sudden the pressure was off! I knew I’d be able to getto Creswicke Flat in reasonable time once I got to Kea Flat. Arriving at Kea Flat brought back memories of my last excursion into the Landsborough back in 1999. It had been a minor epic, and looking up at the incorrect spur we used to get up to Elcho Pass now, I had to laugh. It was good to be back on familiar ground again. I passed Kea and Jackson streams with a smirk, and headed down river until I picked up another trap line that led me down to Toe Toe Flat. The afternoon had heated up considerably and I was sweating like a pig. My quads were getting quite sore again too, but I kept on going when I arrived at the Queenstown Rafting fly camp, which is a pretty flash setup, I must say, complete with gas barbeque and picnic tables!

The track entered bush again at the far end of Toe Toe Flat and climbed over a large hillock, which made for slow painful travel, particularly when I had to descend off it. I came out onto more flats where the river swung back to the right and all of a sudden I could see Creswicke Flat – the place I wanted to be more than anywhere else! It took around an hour of hobbling following the bluffed, undulating trail beside the river to get there, but when Fraser Hut finally came into view I was wrapped – and it was only 1800! Tomorrow would definitely be a rest day – and not just because it was my birthday!

The hut is a slightly run down corrugated iron structure that is infested with mice, but it was paradise. I set about setting up the radio and doing the sched, with no more luch on transmitting out (I was getting more than a little annoyed by this, not to mention a little worried!), had tea, and set about catching up on my diary, which I had neglected to do for the past few days before eventually succumbing to sleep, dispite the sound of mice scurrying around inside the walls.

18 FebruaryHappy Birthday to me! I slept in until 0800, then tried to raise IB Base again on the morning sched without success. I had breakfast, then spent some time catching up on my diary, then had a closer look at my radio aerial. I found a couple of points that could be potential breaks, and decided to try and fix one of them. The other didn’t look like I could do much with it. When I was having a look around the hut at one point, I discovered a large plastic box that turned out to be the food drop for a guy by the name of Tim Mulliner who was coming through here some time in early March on another Southern Traverse. From the writing on the label, he was apparently from Dunedin too, so I scrawled him a note on the label to say “Hi, I’m doing a traverse too” and left him my email address if he happened to be passing by an Internet café on his travels. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for his name in the hut books in future, just in case we passed each other at some point.

Had lunch and then a bit of an afternoon siesta, as the day was another scorcher, and the hut was heating up quite a bit. My legs were thanking me for the break. I was hopeful that maybe I’d be able to stick to my Plan A and still be able to get over Studholme Pass into the Hunter, but was well aware that I would more than likely just have to bug out down the Landsborough and out via Strutt Bluff and over Haast Pass. I was opeful that my legs weren’t in such a bad state that this might mean the end of the trip for me. I figured I just needed to rest up for a few days once I had reached Makarora, and then hopefully push on.

Later in the afternoon a party of seven trampers from the Upper Clutha Tramping Club (UCTC) arrived at the hut after crossing Broderick Pass That day. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon sitting around yakking with Peter, Phil, Claudine, Dave, Madeline, Robin, and an Aussie guy whose name I can’t remember. Phil happened to be carrying a satellite phone (courtesy of Wanaka SAR – actually I later found out it was his.), and once he found out I was having problems with my radio, he offered it to me to use to get hold of Danilo, which I gratefully accepted. I called Danilo to let him know where I was, and what I was planning to do. He told me that Lindsay had already gone up to Makarora and dropped my next food drop off there. It looked like he wasn’t going to join me for a stint after all. I asked Danilo to see if he could source another radio aerial for me and get it up to either Makaroa or to Stephen to give me at Glenorchy, so I could replace the broken one I was carrying. Just as we were just winding up the conversation, the phone cut out – probably because the satellite moved out of range, but it didn’t matter, I had let someone know where I was, and that I was okay. I felt much better after that.

I had dinner and went to bed once the sun went down and the other group had started to toddle off to their tents. Claudine and Madeline joined me in the hut, as they would be able to get up a lot faster in the morning not having to pack a tent away. They were going to be getting up early to get as far down the valley as possible before the heat of the day hit. I had decided to go down as far as Harper’s Flat and see how my legs coped after a day off before deciding whether I’d be able to have a crack at getting over Upper Studholme Pass or bailing out to the road via Strutt Bluff.

19 February – The UCTC group got up just after 0500, and of course I woke up with them and didn’t go back to sleep. They were away around 0620, and I stayed in bed and dozed until 0700 when I finally decided to get up. I was ready to go by 0800 and strode off down Creswicke Flat in the early morning light. My legs felt alright, but still a little twingy. The flat ended and I rock hopped downstream following the others footprints in the sand. I passed another flat and rock hopped a bit more before crossing a stream at the end of the flat and picked up another trap line on the far side. The trap line immediately climbed away from the river and undulated along the hillside above. It was well marked and easy to follow, which was good, but the constant up and down started to flare my quads up again. They weren’t as bad as previously, but were still uncomfortable, and I could feel them slowly wind up as I went along.

I reached a large blown out creek around 1030 and stopped for a snack. Once I had finished eating I was presented with what turned out to be the crux of the day – a very steep, loose river bank. I tried to climb up to where the marker showing where to go back into the bush was, but this overhanging and loose. My second option was steep and ran out of holds and the third and forth tries the same, though the third might go if I put my poles away. I tried further upstream, but nothing looked any better, so I put my poles away and had another go at my third option. It was steep and slippery, but with some careful footwork and use of delicate hand holds I managed to get within reach of a couple of young beech trees that were growing on the lip of the bank. I grabbed hold of them, heaved up and kicked into the steep crumbly bank to gain a foothold. My foot slid out and I swung out into space, but the trees were well rooted and I was able to swing back in and get purchase on the wall and haul myself up onto the top of the bank.

I bushed myself down and picked up the trapping line once more, which headed inland along more bush terraces before coming out on a large gravel fan and followed markers across this to a blown out stream flowing down beside it just inside the bushline on the far side. From here the track sidled along more terraces in the bush, then led down to a short boulder hop along the river before heading back into the bush once more. I then followed it to a small clearing with my first view of Harper Bluff. I arrived at the foot of it shortly after, reaching it within four hours of leaving the hut – even with stuffed quads –Cool, I’m still going alright!

I started up the steep trail, and to my surprise heard voices in front of me. I was grunting and swearing a bit as the climbing was aggravating my legs, but I pushed on and soon caught up with Phil and Robin, who were at the back of their group. I was surprised to have caught up with them, and just as I was nearing them, a muddy ledge that I was climbing on to gave way beneath me and sent sliding down the bank a couple of metres. The others hadn’t noticed as they were too busy clambering up through the steep bush above. I swore like a trooper, brushed myself off and clambered up the slope after them. We reached the top together and met the rest of the UCTC group who were resting at the top of the bluff. Apparently they had been slowed down when one of their number managed to slash his leg on a sharp piece of stone he was passing. They were a little surprised to see me, but were happy for me to tag along, so I slipped in at the back as we headed down towards Harper Flat where we were going to have lunch at the rafting camp.

The descent down to the flat was slow and painful for me, and the others soon vanished off into the distance, as I gingerly lowered myself down on my poles, but when I got to the bottom, they had left a “UCTC >” carved into the ground to indicate where they had gone, and I soon joined them at the rafters camp. Peter and Robin were having a dip in the Landsborough when I arrived, and as Peter got out he suggested that I hit Madeline up for a leg massage, as she was a massage therapist, so as I got my lunch out I asked her if she would mind terribly much if she massaged my legs once she had come back from her swim, and she very kindly obliged. She went t work on my left leg once I’d found a spot where I could lie with my head in the shade, as the sun was baking hot. She said that my leg was really tight, and that the best thing I could do was rest up for a few days. This really made my mind up not to try and push over into the Hunter, as I believed if I tried to I’d end up just injuring myself properly and putting an end to the traverse. I decided that I would head out to the Haast road and head over Haast Pass to Makarora and rest up there for a few days before pushing on once I felt better.

Fortune once again smiled on me too, as the injured party member was not going to be be able to walk out like he had originally planned, and was going to fly out with Phil, Dave and Robin who had already booked a flight out from here. That meant that there was a space available in the truck that was picking the rest of the group up on the far side of Strutt Bluff. Peter, who was leading the group through the recently recut Cullers route over Strutt Bluff, and was happy for me to join them going this way. I was interested in what this new route was like, as it sounded a LOT better than the one described in Moirs, and as as Peter was one of the UCTC members involved in reopening this route, it seemed appropriate to be doing it with him – particularly as I had no idea where it started. Claudine and Madeline were also walking out with Peter and I.

The walk down to Strutt Bluff from Harpers Flat doesn’t take long. The view of the Moirs route over Strutt Bluff looks every bit as ugly as the description in the book says it is. Peter said he had done it once before and would never go near it again, saying it would be safer to pack float down the Landsborough around the Bluff than attempt Spearpoint’s Spur. But that isn’t necessary anymore, as this old Cullers route has now been found again.

The entrance to the track is marked with pink tape and is close to where the river flows into the bluff. The route climbs steeply to start with, then breaks right along a ledge before dropping down to almost river height before climbing back up and sidling right once more. UCTC have done a bloody good job of clearing this old track. According to Peter, it took a couple of weekends to scope out and clear the track when it was found. It was still marked with No. 8 wire when it was found and was horribly overgrown, but still navigable. Why this route feel out of favour and the one in Moirs came into favour is a mystery. This one is a lot easier and safer, and is has only half the height gain above the river than the other route.

The route finished with an abrupt climb up to a large terrace and when we arrive at the end, we were greeted with a tape barrier and a DOC sign saying “This facility is closed, sorry for any inconvenience.” Peter laughed and tore the sign off the yellow tape. He was happy to leave the tape where it was however, as it made it more obvious to anybody looking for it where the track started. I personally am impressed with the initiative shown by those members of the UCTC who put so much time into looking for and re-cutting this route. It means that there is now a safe all weather route in and out of the lower Landsborough, and that can only be good. Peter copped a lot of flak from DOC for publishing the fact that this route has been rediscovered and reopened, but apparently DOC has come round to the fact that this is a good route, and is going to go through and cut it to their standards at some point in the future.

From the top of the route our little group descended back down to the Landsborough. I took my time coming down, as my legs were still quite sore, though the massage earlier had helped them for a while. We picked up the 4WD track and started wandering down it. Claudine’s husband John was going to pick us up at 1800, so we took our time and stopped in the shade for a while. Claudine had blisters, and I’d given her some Compeed to help get her over the bluff, but they were still painful, and she changed into her sandals again (She had walked down to Strutt Bluff from Harpers Flat, but had changed back into her boots to cross the bluff.). Both Peter and Claudine were ex-North Islanders, like myself, and we chatted about how different things were between the islands. We finally decided to push on down the road a bit further to find a spot where the truck could turn around, and had gone about 100 metres when John showed up in his twin cab Mazda ute and bundled us onboard. We bumped down the down the track while the rest of us stared out the window at the views of the lower Landsborough and Clarke. We stopped to have a look at the shell of the old Landsborough Station homestead. It was rough as guts, and a hodgepodge of building designs, but kind of cool in a rustic kind of way. Apparently DOC are going to knock it down, as it doesn’t meet the building code standards.

From here we drove a wee bit further on the 4WD track, and then came out onto the Haast highway. We cruised over Haast Pass and I was deposited safely at the Makarora Wilderness Centre at about 1900. I gave Claudine by blog address and said my farewells to everybody, then headed into the shop and got myself a dorm room for the night. The food boxes that Lindsay had dropped off in the weekend was sitting behind the counter when I arrived (Wow, they multiply – I had only given Lindsay one!), so I claimed it and said I’d pick it up once I had had a shower and come back for dinner. I showered and shaved, then made a beeline back to the Café where I made the most of the all you can eat buffet (Three stacked plates of roast meats and veges, rice and sweet and sour chicken, wedges and salad, and a couple of Monteith’s Celtics – Mmm!). While I was feeding my face, the girl who served me at the counter brought my food boxes through to the café, which was thoughtful, as the shop was about to close for the day. Once I had finished dinner I picked up my boxes and headed back to my dorm to see what goodies lay within. Along with my tramping food and new pair of boots, Lindsay had left a couple of cans of Speights Old Dark, a small cake and half a ton of fruit, which was really nice (Thanks Lindsay!). I had a good rummage through everything else to see what I had, then retired to bed to write up my diary before finally turning the light out at 2300.
I was safely through the toughest country on the trip now, and I was pleased to have made it. I didn’t regret making the decision to not go through the Hunter and upper Makarora for a minute. I was sure if I rested up for a few days I’d be able to push on and finish the rest of my Southern Odyssey in good style, as the country from here on was largely known to me and easier to travel through. I had almost broken the back on it at last!


Day 44: Mount Cook Village - Hooker Glacier - Copland Shelter
Day 45: Copland Shelter - Copland Pass - Copland Valley - Welcome Flat
Day 46: Welcome Flat - Copland Valley - West Coast Highway - Karangarua River - Cassel Flat Hut
Day 47: Cassel Flat Hut - Regina Creek - Conical Hill - Douglas Valley
Day 48: Douglas Valley - Horace Walker Hut
Day 49: Horace Walker Hut - Douglas River - Douglas Lake - Douglas Glacier - Douglas Pass - McKerrow Glacier - Landsborough Valley - Rubicon Torrent Rock Biv
Day 50: Rubicon Torrent - Landsborough River via Romping Water and Whitcombe Confluence - Zora Confluence Campsite
Day 51: Zora Confluence - Landsborough River via Kea Flat and Toe Toe Flat - Fraser Hut (Creswicke Flat)
Day 52: Rest Day, Creswicke Flat (My birthday!)
Day 53: Creswicke Flat - Landsborough River via Harper's Bluff and Strutt Bluff
Days 54, 55, 56, 57: Rest Days, Makarora and Wanaka.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Stage 3 - Hard Yakka in the Central Alps

Whooh, I knew that this stage was going to be the hard part, and true to form it delivered!

A big thank you goes out to Mark McCaughan for joining me from the Rakaia to Mount Cook. You made life a hell of a lot easier for me by being around dude, and helped make some of the trickier sections possible when I might have had to pull plug on them if I was by myself. Cheers!

A big shout goes out to Rob Porteous for heroically trying to forge his way up the mighty Rakaia in his trusty Surf to make sure the my food drop (and Mark) got in. I owe you big time. Thanks dude!

Right, here's what went down:

After a fun rest day on 21 January where I hooked up with Sarah, the Uno Queen (from the States), and James the pizza guru (from England) at the Backpackers, it was time to hit the trail again.

22 January - The forecast did not look flash, with a heavy rain warning going out for the Otira evening that evening. I hummed and hahed about whether I should just go back down the road to Klondyke Corner and trog all the way up the Waimak to Carrington, or stick with Plan A, and head over Avalanche Peak and down the Crow. The weather in the village was still good, but I could see the cloud boiling around Arthur's Pass itself. I decided to damn the torpedoes and go for it, so threw the pack on and headed up the hill. Sarah and James hadn't got up when I left, so I couldn't say goodbye, but I had a big day ahead of me, and couldn't wait around.

The new Torre felt good after spending so much time suffering the rubbing from my old pack over the previous weeks, and I was feeling strong despite the full pack and I made great time up to the bushline where I passed a couple on a day trip up the Peak. I was still going strong as I moved up the ridge to where it joins Scott's Track just below the summit, and I stopped and had a snack, and put on my jacket, as the wind was picking up.

By the time I reached the summit of Avalanche peak the wind had become really gusty, and it was hard to stand up, let alone set up a self timed photo, so I just headed down and along the ridgeline to the big scree slope that leads down to the Crow Valley. The wind became really strong, and at time I was walking on a 45 degree angle along the ridge. Other times I had to stop and wait for the gust to subside before moving on. In the end I was forced off the ridgeline, down onto the lee slopes above Arthur's Pass and followed these around until I got to the top of the scree slope. I dropped down this as fast as I could to get out of the worst of the wind, and this worked well most of the way, but occasionally the odd gust would make down lower into the Valley.

By the time I reached the valley floor it had started to rain a bit, so I made my way as quickly as I could down to Crow Hut and had lunch. Nothing changed while I ate, so it was out back into the rain again once I had finished. Fortunately I was out of the worst of the wind now, as as I dropped lower in altitude down the valley the rain started to ease.

By the time I made it down to the Waimak, the weather had improved, but there was a lot of low, steely cloud hanging about, and it was looking murderous up the valley towards Carrington. I crossed the Waimak just up from the Crow, and started up the huge floodplane. Suddenly out of the blue, I tripped and stumbled forward. The weight of my pack sent me sprawling over my poles and crashing to the ground. I landed on top of several large rocks and banged my right leg just below my knee quite badly. I popped my pack off and jumped up in pain. There was a big dent just below my knee, but everything seemed to be okay. I hopped around and swore a bit before picking up my pack and moving on. I figured if I just kept moving it wouldn't give my leg time to seize up, but I moved with a bit of a limp for some time afterwards. I really tore into myself for not paying attention to where I was going, as it could have easily become an injury that could have ended my trip.

I moved up the valley and crossed the Waimak again, then followed up the endless flood plains before picking up the flood track for a short way. After that it was just more gravel bashing up more flood plain into the ever increasing rain, and a short distance through bush before I happily arrived at Carrington Hut. I had the place to myself, and felt like I was rattling around in it a bit, as it is a huge hut. I got the fire going and draped all my wet clothes around it and got about getting dinner and hot drinks going. Just as I finished dinner and started on my diary, a figure appeared at the doorway. It turned out to be three guys from Invercargill who were planning to do the Three Pass trip. They were happy to see the fire on and a billy of hot water on the boil, and soon settled in for the night. I was having some trouble deciding which route I should take the next day, as it was raining quite steadily by this stage, and I wasn't sure how had the White River was going to be, let alone Burnett Stream an the crossing of the Wilberforce, but decided to just make up my mind in the morning. had a late night - went to bed at 10.30!

23 January - The rain had cleared overnight, and the hills were clearing rapidly when I got up the next morning, but my instinct told me that I should go to Plan B and go over Harman and Whitehorn Passes, and do the route I knew rather than head over White Col.

I reached the White River and found it up and discoloured. I couldn't use the Clough Cableway, as it was out of order AGAIN, so after some searching about I found a spot where the river broke into three braids and went for it. The river was fast, but none of the braids was deep, and I got across without too many worries. I was once again very glad to be using poles, as they make solo river crossing A LOT easier. I headed up the mossy boulder field towards the Taipoiti and got great views up to Barker Hut and White Col along the way. Travel up the gorge of the Taipoiti was generally pretty good, though there were a couple of hairy river crossings across this steep jumbly wee river. I finally made it to Harman Pass just after 11am. The Pass was under cloud, which was hanging about the Western side of the pass. I could see some distance up towards Whitehorn once I got to Ariel Tarns, but then the cloud caught up with me again and I was soon walking in low visibility again. I got on the snow below Whitehorn and walked up this to a scree slope, which I climbed onto, seems I figured it would lead me into the Pass in the low viz. This it did, though the cloud lifted just before I got to the pass. I got the great views of the Cronin icefall and everything, and set about having lunch. The cloud rolled back in just as i set about getting my camera out to take a self portrait, which annoyed me a bit, but hey, what can you do?

There was no snow on the Cronin Stream side of the Pass, so I proceeded to bashed down the scree slopes that led down to the stream. The travel down Cronin Stream is mainly on scree and boulders, and goes on just a little too long for most peoples liking. This time was no different. When I got to the point where I had to cross from the true left to the true right of the river, I found that the river was running very high, and there was a distinct lack of good places to cross. I spent about half an hour looking up and down the stream before I found one that I was happy to try. The first bit was swift, but not too deep, but the second bit was waist deep, and threatened to push me off mt feet. Fortunately it wasn't wide and I muscled my way across and boulder bashed down to where the track starts again just before the river gorges.

From here I made my way down to Park Morpeth Hut and happily dumped my pack at the newly renovated huts door. I had time to dry my gear out, do the radio sched on the hut set, and have tea before the Invercargill guys arrived at about 8pm. Again I got to bed late, but not before seeing the awesome comet that was in the sky at that time - what an awesome sight! It made Haley's Comet look like the letdown it was all those years ago, with a tail that stretched across half the night sky. Cool!

24 January - The day dawned clear in the East, and cloudy in the West, just as the Canterbury Mountain Radio forecast had predicted. I was away from the hut by about 8.20, and soon crossed the Wilberforce to the true right. The river was quite manageable here in the headwaters, and I was soon sauntering down cross river gravels and wide open tussock flats. The going was quite pleasant - more so than I expected travel in a Canterbury river valley could be. The scenery was definitely becoming more alpine, with big glacier carved bluffs in places, and high snowy peaks in the background. I made good time down the river and had morning tea at Urquharts Hut, then headed down an old 4WD track to the Unknown River junction. The Unknown was up a bit, and flowing quite fast, though it was still clear, but I managed to find a good crossing with a gravel bar in the middle, and pushed my way through. From here the travel was a mixture of gravel flats, large tussock and matagouri flats, and the odd sidestream.

At one point I was forced to travel right on the edge of the river under gravel banks, and had to do a short bush bash where the river cut in around Logan's Mistake, but after that I managed to pick up an old vehicle track, which I managed to follow all the way to Moa Hut, where I had lunch. After lunch I headed up Moa Stream and arrived at the Moa Stream Hut at about 3.30. This is a very tidy little hut, hidden away in a little clearing up from the river. The hutbook goes back to 1996, and i saw the Lara Wilcocks' and Lisa lee Johnson's names were some of the first in the book! I also found out that the Mana Wahine girls had been here on the 20th, and were heading up Burnett Stream and over White Col, so I had missed meeting them, which was a shame. I was looking forward to seeing them at some point.

I spent the afternoon basking and drying gear again, and did the radio sched again. I got a message to say Rob Porteous was bringing my food drop plus three people up to the Rakaia on Saturday, which was good to hear - all I had to do was get there on time!

25 January - I was up and away by about 8.30, and followed up the true right of Moa Stream. The travel was largely rock hopping, but I was forced into the thick, scrubby bush on a couple of occasions to get around sections of the stream that were flowing into the bank.

I reached the head of the valley by morning tea, and pushed on up the prominent tussock spur that leads up to the pass over into Boundary Creek. This is a good route, though a bit of a grunt, and I made good time time up through the steep tussock and rock shelves to the snow patch below the pass. I noticed a lone Chamois watching me from the slope above, before it decided I had come close enough and decided to run off across the snow and up the bluffs to the right of the pass before stopping again and watching me grovel up the scree just below the snow. Once I got to the snow, I donned ice axe and crampons and zig zagged up to the pass itself. By this stage I was getting great views back into the Wilberforce and over to Mount Murchison.

I reached pretty much bang on lunch time, so decided to stop and have it on the Moa Stream side, as there was a bit of a wind picking up on the Boundary Creek side. I had a quick squiz through, and got a reasonable view of Mount Arrowsmith and Observation Col, but there was a bit of afternoon cloud building in the South and West. I was busily munching away on lunch when this guy pops over the pass. I was just as surprised to see him as he was to see me, but we started chatting. He said that there were six others coming up behind him, and that they'd come up from Canyon Creek that morning after crossing Mathias Pass the previous day. The other arrived, and it soon became apparent that none of them had expected to run into snow on the pass, and that none of them were carrying ice gear. They stood about planning how best they were going to get down this obstacle, as there is no other way down, and I left them to it.

I descended good scree slopes down into Boundary Basin and picked up the traverse line at 1400 metres, as Boundary Creek has two impassable gorges in it. I traversed around to a grassy knoll, then slowly angled across and down to the last stream running into Boundary Creek before it reaches the North Mathias. The going was straightforward, through scree, tussock, and then short alpine scrub.

The side creek on the other hand was hideous, with several waterfalls that I had to bypass by taking to thick scrub, first on the true right, and then on the true left at the bottom. The way around the bottom waterfall was the trickiest bit, and I almost committed to a hairy drop down a steep bank that I couldn't reverse if things went pear shaped, before talking myself into finding another route further right, which turned out to be the better way down. One consolation was at least I was going down this heinous stuff, and not fighting my way up it!

I stumbled out onto the North Mathias some time later and disturbed another lone Chamois, then trundled down valley and found a good place to cross the river, which I did via three braids. From there I picked up an old vehicle track that led across Blacksmith Point almost to the West Mathias, and then once I had crossed that, made a beeline to Centennial Cabin, which I reached at around 6pm. Centennial Cabin is a rodent and sandfly infested three bunk station hut, but I was glad to see it. I did a Sellcall with Danilo via the mountain radio that night to make sure that Rob Porteous, Nina, Rob Lawrence and Mark were still coming up the Rakaia, and then collapsed into bed sometime after dark.

26 January - I woke up at 6.45am to a cloud filled valley, and that heavy damp feeling you get with a low cloud ceiling. I headed up the West Mathias over a couple of massive gravel fans, then took to some tussock for a while, but this started to lead me away from the river and I ended up quite high, so dropped down a moderate scree/scrub slope to get back next to the river the bit at the bottom was a bit rubbly and steep, so I took care to try and not disturb things too much, but just as I was fully on it, the whole thing fell in on itself. I was knocked off balance and spun around as the slide sent me downhill. I lost one of my poles under the slide, and one big rock rolled down over everything else and hit me in exactly the same spot I'd fallen on the other day in the Waimak - OUCH! I swore and danced around a bit in pain, then proceeded to try and excavate my pole from the slide before hobbling on up the river bank cursing my luck, which in hindsight was probably good, as things could easily have turned out a LOT worse from that incident. Fortunately, there was a fair bit of wading to do after this bit, and i think the cold of the river helped keep the swelling in my knee down.

I made it to some flats and crossed these to get to the South Mathias. I was keen to stop by the biv on the far side of the river to see if there was any handy route info in the hut book, but when I arrived at the South Mathias I found that the bridge had gone. On closer inspection I saw that it had been completely blown out by some flood, and that all that was left were some remnant cable on the attachment points on either side of the river, so visiting the biv was out of the question.

I headed up the true right of the South Mathias, largely over boulders and along the occasional flood channel. By this stage the cloud was burning off, and by the time I got to a corner in the river about half way up the valley i started to get a look into the head of the valley. What I saw concerned me, as it didn't match what I'd seen on the map. I saw what I initially thought was Observation Col, but the terrain beneath it didn't fit! What the hell is that remnant glacier doing there? And where is the prominent sidestream you have to go up? I can see one, but boy it looks gnarly!

The valley wore on with more boulder and scree bashing, and just as I was starting to think I was indeed having to climb those ugly slopes in front of me, the valley parted, and the actual water course I had to ascend appeared. This looked MUCH better, and I was soon making my way up towards the snowy basin below the col. I stopped and had lunch just below the snowline, then headed up through the snowy basins and climbed the short, steep slope up to the col itself. I was expecting grand views from a place called Observation Col, but there weren't many, just back into the South Mathias, and over to the head of Cattle Stream. I didn't hang around too long, and headed off down easy snow slopes towards the gut that led down into Cattle Stream. I soon discovered the crux of the day - a set of slabby bluffs that cut right across the valley. How the hell was I going to get down those? They turned out to be not too bad, and I carefully downclimbed them via a series of small ledges. From there I made good time down old snow and rubble to Cattle Stream, bearing in mind that the gut I was descending was a potential shooting gallery.

Cattle Stream was easy, and I made my way down this largely on the true left via the river bank and flood plane lower down until I crossed over to the true right when I got close to Evans Hut. When I got to Evans Hut it was just before 7pm, and I'd noticed that the Rakaia valley was filling with cloud, and it was threatening to rain. I was unkeen to get caught on the wrong side of the river if it did rain properly overnight, so decided that I'd push on and cross the Rakaia now, as I was still feeling good, despite having a longish day already.

I strode down onto the floodplane and went to a channel in the river which I though looked crossable. The water was running quite swiftly, was milky white in colour, so I couldn't see where to put my feetand was freezing cold (Good old glacial river that it is).

I waded into the channel, but soon found it was going up to my middle thigh, and the current was trying to knock me over, so I turned around and backed out. I headed upstream a way and found another spot where the river was divided into three channels. The irst was swift, but shallow, and i got accross this easily. From here I waded upstream against the current a wee way before angling back towards the next exposed braid. The channel here was faster again and just over knee deep, but I forged my way through. The third channel was tougher again, being quite bouldery and slippery, but I leant into my poles and made it across. I thought that was it, and that I'd made it across the Rakaia, but a couple of hundred metres later I came across a fourth, much larger channel. Shit! I wandered up and down it for a way, then found a spotthat i thought might go, and ploughed on in. The current was really strong, and the river floor was slippery and boulder strewn, and I really had to lean into my poles and fight to get across. I gritted my teeth, and muttered under my breath "I AM going to get across - you are NOT going to bowl me over!" and I made it. Yay! By this time it was starting to rain lightly, so I put on my parka (as much to try and get warm after the crossing as to keep the rain off), and strode off towards to an object on the horizon that looked suspiciously like a hut.

The maps I had only went as far as Evans hut, which I had just passed, but I knew that there was a hut opposite Cattle Stream, though I couldn't remember whether it was Reischek or not. I headed towards the hutlike shape, but it turned out to be a large rock. Out came the GPS. It told me I was 200 metres away from Washbourne Hut, but i couldn't see it, so thought it must be hidden in the matagouri. I followed the GPS directions to where the hut was supposed to be, but when I got there, there was no hut. By this stage the rain was getting persistent, and i was quite cold from the river crossing. I made for a gap in the matagouri, and picked up a vehicle track, which I decided to follow downriver a way, and after about 15 minutes I stumbled across Washbourne Hut, some 600 metres away from where the GPS had said it would be! Washbourne Hut is a rundown old musterers hut that has had the birds let in and has a rodent problem, but at that point in time, it was the best damn hut in the country! I got inside, and changed into some warm, dry clothes, did the late radio sched, made tea and collapsed into bed around 10pm. It had been a long, adventurous day!

27 January - I was up at 6.45am, and was greeted with another heavily cloudy morning, but I didn't have far to go today, and by the time I had walked back up the vehicle track and along the open floodplane to Reischek Hut, the cloud was burning away from the head of the valley to reveal stunning views of the surrounding Alps. Reischek Hut is in a beautiful location, on the edge of a bushy outcrop opposite Louper Stream. I spent the rest of the day lazing around the hut and surrounds in the sun, reading my book and not doing terribly much in general, waiting for Rob and company to show up. As the day wore on and nobody showed, I started to get more concerned. I suddenly thought that Rob might have gone and drowned the truck or something, and hoped that wasn't the case. By the time evening came round I figured that they'd probably show up some time tomorrow - hopefully before the forecast rain, and if they didn't then I'd get on the blower and see what was going on.

28 January - I slept in. Got up, had breakfast, saw it was cloudy and windy, then went back to bed and slept some more before waking up and listening to my MP3 player for a while. Rob and Mark arrived on foot around lunchtime. They had had a real adventure trying to get up the valley the day before, and ended up leaving the truck at Manuka Point and walking in this morning. Apparently Nina and Rob Lawrence couldn't make it due to other commitments, so it was just Mark joining me from here through to Cook, though with the weather forecast promising to be not so good over the next few days, I had already decided to flag trying to get to the Gardens.

We caught up while I sorted through the fooddrop and weeded out the stuff I didn't need, then had some lunch and said goodbye to Rob, who was heading straight back down valley, so he could try and get home ton Dunedin tonight. I told him to follow the old vehicle track down past Washbourne Hut rather than take the way the boys had come up this morning, as that would save him considerable time.

It started raining steadily not long after Rob left the hut, and Mark and I spent the rest of the day mooching about, before having tea and hitting the hay around 9.30.

29 January - It dawned fine, but soon clouded over again, and began to rain shortly after we left Reischek at about 8.45am, after listening to the morning radio sched on the hut set.

We wandered up flats to a point where the river cut into a small bluff on our bank, and we picked up a rough, scrubby track that took us to just short of the bluff, which pissed me off, as we could have saved time by sidling the river bank to the bluff. We picked up the track over the small bluff and got through without any more hassles. We crossed more gravel flats and a side stream before reaching the start of the route over Mein's Knob, which would lead us in turn to Lyell Hut on the other side. It was raining consisently, and there was a cold wind coming off the glaciers at the head of the valley, so it was no place to linger.

We had to fight our way up through the scrubby, overgrown track to start with, but after a while it relented, and became easy to follow all the way to the top of Mein's Knob. The weather hadn't improved however, and by the time we'd reached the top we were soaked and freezing. i had lost the feeling in my hands too, which wasn't very nice.

The view from the top would be stunning on a clear day, as Mein's Knob is right on the confluence of the Lyell and Ramsey Glaciers and their respective lakes, but there was nothing to see today, so we just trudged on through and started our descent down towards Lyell Hut. The route guide specifically says not to try and drop straight down to the hut when it first comes into view, as there are steep bluffs and heinous scrub to contend with if you do, but rather traverse right and down a series of bouldery slopes until you reach the river, then follow up terraces until you reach the hut. We did this, but it was far from easy in the wet. The boulder fields were wet and greasy, and we had to move through them with great care, as a slip would prove nasty. Once we got down to the river, we spent some time pissing about trying to find ouor way along to the hut. A couple of markers confused the issue for a while until we found that they just led back up to the bottom boulder field, then it was just a case of sidling beside the river for a while until we came out onto the start of a flat where some bright spark had planted a large cairn with a corrugated iron sign saying Lyell Hut <. We rolled into the hut, relieved to have arrived after five hours in the rain from Reischek, and quickly got into warm, dry clothes to warm up before setting about putting on a brew and trying to get a fire going from the small supply of wood that was in the hut. The rain eventually stopped for a while, and we popped outside for a quick look. The cloud had pulled back enough to show us that it had snowed lightly up high, then we scuttled back inside when it started to rain again. it rained on and off for the rest of the afternoon, and we retreated to our pits, only to come out for tea and the sched, which promised a nice day the next day.

30 January - Fine day, yeah right! We had just about everything thrown at us on this day, but there wasn't much fine weather! We were away from Lyell Hut by 8.15am, after it having rained most of the night. There was a lot of cloud still hanging about, and in the brief breaks we could see that it had snowed to about 1400 metres overnight too. Still it was going to be a fine day, so off we went up the valley past the Lyell lake to the Lyell Glacier. To access this we had to drop down a moraine wall, go to the edge of the lake, traverse another moraine wall at lake level, and then scramble up onto the snout of the glacier, where we followed a bit of a gully along before climbing up onto the moraine covered top of the glacier. From here it was just a case of following the lowest angle, easiest moraine along and zig zagging as the terrain required. The travel was reasonable for moraine bashing, but our packs weighed heavy on our backs and we had to be careful not to overbalance as we jumped from rock to rock.

We reached the white ice at aboout 12.30, at which time the intermittent rain had become sleet. However it did clear enough for us to get a good view at the route up to McCoy Col, which looked pretty straight forward. I took a picture of it for navigational purposes, just in case we didn't get another clearance, and we headed on over to the base of the climb.

We found that there was quite a bit of new snow lying about on the ice, and the clooud started to lift a little, so even though we couldn't see much of what was above us, we got the feeling that we were surrounded by these huge walls of rock and ice. We stopped and had lunch at the base of the snow gully we needed to climb to get access to the slopes below McCoy Col, then plodded on up with Mark taking the lead. There had been about 10-15 cm of snow overnight, but turned out to be more help than hinderance. Mark insisted of staying out front, and we slowly, but surely made our way up to the Col. The slopes were never that steep, and the runout was reasonable, so things never felt exposed. It took us an hour to get up to the Col, and we stopped and took pictures, even though there wasn't much view to see.

We then headed off down the other side until we came to the first crevasse on the McCoy Glacier. I had a prod about with my ice axe and came up with that blue look in the snow and a feeling of a lot of air under it, so I quietly suggested that prehaps we might like to get the rope out. This was a good call, as we spent the next two hours weaving through partially covered slots as we descended the glacier. I was put out front, but it was mark who put a leg down a hole first. I went up to my knee shortly after, but apart from that we managed to get down to the white ice without incident. We took the rope off and we soon off the glacier and travelling down McCoy Stream.

The guidebook says to follow the true right, and it was all good until we ran into a section where the river ran into the true right, and the only way through was to clamber across a series of unstable scree shoots or cross the river. For some reason we chose the former, as while they looked ugly, they still looked doable. It was horrible. We should have descended the second shoot to the river, crossed at a safe looking spot, and recrossed further down, but instead we persevered with these steep, dangerous shoots. it took us over an hour, and a couple of close calls to get across them, and we felt exhausted by the time we got back down to the riverside again.

After that the travel eased, and the river opened out as we paased the Billy McCoy Stream and approached McCoy Hut. We arrived at the hut at about 8pm, set up the radio and listened to the late sched, which wasn't promising for the next few days. With the weather not looking so good for the next few days, we started talking about heading down to Erewhon and back up the Havelock as a real option, as the chances of getting over Fan Col looked minimal. After that we had tea, and finally crashed into bed about 11pm, very tired little puppies.

31 January - A pit day. It pissed down. The rivers were raging torrents by mid afternoon, with the rocks rolling down their beds. We could here it clearly from the hut. Mark practiced crevasse extraction and prussicking, and I lay on my bed passing on handy hints. Other than that, we just lay around, ate our rations and slept. The forecast was for better weather tomorrow, and we decided that we'd head for Erewhon if the rivers came down enough for us to cross them.

1 February - The weather was stunning, but the Frances and McCoy were still grey seething masses with rocks rolling down them, and there was no way we were going anywhere. We moped abot the hut, and went for the occasional walk to check on the river levels. We set up cairns at key spots to mark how the water levels were doing, and had some key rocks we kept an eye on to see if they would reemerge. By 5pm the water levels had dropped signifigantly, but the spped of the water was still too fast to contemplate safe crossing that day, so we sussed out a couple of potential crossing points and hoped we could get moving again the next day.

2 February - It rained a bit overnight again, but we woke to a fine, but slightly overcast morning. We were away by 7.15, as we wanted to get the crossings out of the way before the sun brought the rivers up again. Both the Frances and McCoy had only dropped a little more overnight, but more importantly, the river speeds had slowed up, though they were still on the swift side. We tried one crossing spot, but the river was too deep, wide and fast, so we retreated and headed up the McCoy a way to our next option.

This seemed more promising, as the river was split in three. The first braid we crossed individually, but I could tell Mark wasn't entirely happy about that, as it was still swift, so we linked for the next braidand got across thatwithout to many worries, though the river bed was quite uneven, and was forcing me off balance, as I was on the upriver side. We cocked the third channel up completely, and soon found ourselves in deep, uneven, swift water with not much chance of retreating easily, so we kept moving forward. I was getting forced more and more off balance by all the rocks we were passing over, and was slowly getting my feet pushed out out from under me by the force of the current, and about a metre out from the far bank my feet finally got pushed out from under me. I screamed out and fell sideways and forwards, taking Mark with me. Somehow we managed to grab at the bank and Mark was able to get back onto his feet and grab me while I clung to a boulder on the bank. I had hit my left leg quite hard, and had that horrible dead leg sensation you get when something hits you in the thigh, but much worse.

I dragged myself up onto the bank while Mark took a photo of me, and wrung my clothes out I had gone almost completely in, except for my right arm, and was cold, soaked, and more than a little freaked. We didn't hang around long, as I just wanted to get away from there, and get moving so I could dry out and try and stop my leg from seizing. I was walking with a real limp, but just kept pushing on.

We passed where the McCoy and Frances join to become the Clyde, and followed the valley on the true left down past Watchdog Peak and Watchdog Hut to Armada Bluff, then from there down to Black Bluff, which is aptly named. As we approached the Lawrence River it became apparent that the Clyde was flowing accross valley to join the Lawrence and then flow down the hard left of the valley, where we wanted to go. This concerned us, as with the rivers still being up, and our experience earlier in the morning, neither of us was overly keen on doing to many more river crossings that day.

We found the Lawrence to be just as high as the Clyde, and spent some time trying to find a good crossing. We tried one place, but again the river was too high, swift and deep for us to cross, and I could feel myself being pushed over again, which freaked me out a bit. On top of that, when we started to retreat, the pole that Mark had stashed on my pack fell out the bottom of its compression strap and starting acting as a rudder, twisting me around in the wrong direction. I started to freak a bit, but Mark managed to grab it and we made it back to shore. After that we became really picky about where we were going to cross, and ended up walking almost 2km up the Lawrence before we found a suitable crossing point on a gravel bar. This time everything went like clockwork, and we went with the current in knee deep water, which was SO much easier. After that we were forced to head across country for a way to make our way back to where we were originally heading.

On the way back we got a good view of the valley from the terraces we were sidling and realised that we may have cocked up the crossing, as the river was cutting right in hard again the true left of the valley, and there was a lot of steep ground to contend with. The only other option seemed to be multiple crossings of the Clyde and Lawrence down to Erewhon. We stopped and had lunch where the Clyde hit the true left bank, and decided to just stay on this side and deal with the steep terrain. In the end it turned out okay. After a bit of scrambling, we picked up a series of animal trails that led us above all the nasty stuff and down to where the river flowed away from the bank again (Go where the locals go, that's what I always say!), and from there we stumbled down to the pine trees behind Erewhon and had a well deserved break.

We arrived at Erewhon quite worn out, and decided to drop by the homestead to ask about the best place to cross the Clyde and Havelock the next day. We met the station manager's father just outside the homestead, as he was heading off to pick up some pine cones on his tractor, but he was just visiting, ad couldn't help us, so pointed us over to the homestead and told us to ask the "Boss lady", so we did. She confirmed that the best crossing was still the same as in the guidebook description we had, and when we asked her if it was okay to camp down there by the river she said sure, then looked at us again, and then said "Actually you don't have to camp, I'll just put you up in the shearers quarters behind you for the night, and here have some beer, you look like you've had a hard day, and oh, you'll probably be wanting a change from all that tramping food you're eating, so here, take thse sausages - they're homemade, but should be alright, and have some bread too - you must be starving."

We were just totally blown away. I tried to offer her money for the accomodation, but she refused, and said we would probably be best to get away early the next day, as the rivers were all up, and had been for most of summer. We headed over to the shearers quarters and dumped our gear, then headed down the road to check out the start of our route for the next day, but it was too far, so we came back, showered, shaved, drank beer and ate sausages and bread for tea, feeling much happier than we had when we arrived at the Station. What a great way to finish up up an otherwise shit day! Real oldstyle country hospitality is not dead - Thanks SO much Christine, you made a couple of weary trampers very happy!

3 February - We were up at six, and had more sausages and bread for breakfast before tidying up and hitting the road around 7.40 after chatting with some guy who was signing into the Station intentions book, as he was just about to fly into the Gardens. We followed the road down to the vehicle track that led to the Clyde. The river looked good. it was clear and not running too fast, so we crossed the first channel individually and followed the vehicle track to the next crossing, which was a bit bigger, but we saw a good gravel bar just downstream, and linked up and crossed that without any hassles. Two more channels followed in similar fashion and we were across the Clyde. This was SO much easier than yesterday. We were finding good crossing, and going with the current, and everything went like clockwork - Yay! We crossed the Havelock shortly after via two channels, and again everything went without a hitch, and we were soon wandering up the valley on a vehicle track that led bang-smack up the middle.

The travel was nice and easy, and almost (Can I say this about a Canterbury valley?) pleasent - especially after our mini epic down the Clyde. We lost the vehicle track for a while and wandered up the river shingles, then up a series of gravel fans before picking up the vehicle track again further up the valley. We stopped by the Findley's Face Hut, but found it had been removed, then headed up to Mistake Flat and had lunch on the corner of the Forbes River.

The Forbes was dispatched in about an hour and a halfs gravel bashhing and boulder hopping, and we arrived at the neat little Forbes Biv around 3pm. The biv a neat little two person dog box in a stunning location, with views up to D'Archiac behind it and all the way back down to the Havelock in the other direction. Apparently in the old days, you could see the biv all the way down at mistake Flat, but the scrub around it has grown a bit since then, and you can only see downvalley via the track leading up to it. We spent the est of the day lazing around in the sun and reading the old hutbook, which was full of interesting tales from the hunters and climbers that pass through this place. A nice easy day for a change - what bliss. : )

4 February - Another big day over Twilight Col. We boulder bashed on up the South Forbes from the biv and made the South Forbes Glacier by morning tea, where we refilled our water bladders and took to the steep scree slopes that we had to climb to get up to Twilight Col - almost 1000 metres of choss! The South Forbes icefall and Mount D'Archiac loomed overhead, and were quite impressive to behold, but the scree slopes soon took up all our attention.

We startedby angling up to the base of a large gully on large scree, but once we got a view up it, we decided the "Ugly Factor" was too high in that one and sidled across to the next one, which came down beside a solid red sandstone outcrop. We made slow, but steady progress up this gut until we came up against its manky headwall. Ass there was no easy way onto the solid red outcrop, we were forced to climb the chossy gully headwall, and this was bloody horrible, but we made it through with only a couple of minor dramas. After that we headed up on reasonably solid shelves and tussock to the snow patch below the col. From here we donned our ice gear and swapped leads up the steepening snowslopes to a gully that led up onto the col itself.

We were greeted with a brief glimpse of Mount Cook before it hid behind a veil of afternoon cloud that was hanging around the Tasman and Murchison valleys. The view back north however was superb, and I could see back along the route I had taken from Arthur's Pass. For the first time I realised that I was only a few days away from being halfway on this Southern Odyssey of mine, and that I'd come a long way already. It was a neat feeling of achievement.

We had lunch on the col, then descended down the snowslopes of the butcher glacier into Separation Stream, where the long, arduous moraine bash down past the Separation Glacier, then Separation Stream began. We stayed on the true left most of the way down until bluffs forced us to cross over to the true right, but after that the valley widened and flattened out, and we were spat out into the Godley Valley. Everything about the Godley Valley screams big - in fact I'd forgotten just how big this place is, but it was cool to be back, and I felt quite energized by arriving here again.

We crossed Separation Stream one last time, and saw a person wandering off down the valley in the distance, so went after him. We spotted a couple of four wheel drives parked down at the roadend too. The person turned out to be one half of a couple who were in the process of travelling the South Island on mountain bikes via all its back roads. They had come up here for a looksee, and were going to stay here another day to go for an explore before moving on to Mount Cook. I share my story with them too, and they were mightily impressed. The two trucks belonged to a party who had headed up to Godley Hut they said. They also mentioned that there was another grop camped further downstream, but they didn't know what they were up too. It seemed that the Godley was a busy place! We headed down valley a wee way, then stopped to do the radio sched, seems it was 7.30, and we were on safe ground.

Once we had done that we headed off towards Red Hut again, and soon came upon the next camp. There was a group of four wheel drives parked up wagon style, with a bunch of people milling about over a bunch of cookers. As we approached. one of them spotted us and broke away from the group. He came towards us, and his first words were "Have a beer on Macpac, guys" and held out a couple of Heinekins. How could we refuse? We took our beers and sauntered into the wagon ring, and started yarning. The group turned out to be the Macpac design team, who were up here for the long weekend "Testing our new range of Down Jackets", and generally having a good explore around the valley. We wound up spending about an hour standing around talking gear, and they were interested to hear how their product was handling the trip I was doing. In the end Mark had to drag me away, and we shot off down to Red Stag Hut, which is a funky little four bunk NZDA hut with a separate bunkroom and kitchen, and a funky outdoor picnic table for eating on. We had a late dinner and collapsed into bed happy with our days efforts.

5 February - We were up and away by 7.30am, and had little difficulty crossing the Godley via four channels of varying size. We walked downvalley a wee way, then turned the corner into Rutherford Stream, which was our access point for Armadillo Saddle. Rutherford Stream is tight, and steep, with very little terracing or flat spots. In winter it fills with avalanche debris, and is the starting point for the "Symphony on Skis" (A marvelous ski touring trip from the Godley to Fox Glacier via the four big glaciers in the area). In summer it is basically endless scree slopes. It is cut by two gorges, which we had to teeter around the side of on some pretty dodgy scree slopes, that were either loose and free running (a good thing), or more frequently well packed and slippery (definitely a BAD thing). This ate up a lot of time and energy, and on top of that, the day was scorching hot.

We managed to get through the gorges and scree up onto some remnant avalanche debri, and were then greeted with a line of slabby bluffs cut with waterfalls. By this time is was lunch, so we stopped in the shade of some large boulders and scrutinised the line of bluffs for possible routes. We came up with two options - one on the right of the biggest waterfall, which was a series of slabby ledges (My pick) and one further around on the left that zig zagged up some rock ledges and a tussock gut (Mark's pick). We started out for the grassy gut, but had to cross the stream and go further than if we just headed up to the slabby ledges, so ended up going straight up the ledges.

As I thought, they turned out to be straightforward, and leant back far more once we were on them than they looked from below. We were soon in the upper basin, and had another route challenge presented us. He had the choice of a narrow snow gut that led through to the open snowslopes above, or the choice of two bands of slabby bluffs to either side of the gut. We figured the snow would be soft and just plain hard work, and the bluffs to the left were too chossy and steep looking, so decided to head up the series of ledges on the right hand set of bluffs.

These bluffs were steeper than the last lot, but the ledge systems were good, and the climbing was involving, but not difficult, though a fall would have been lethal. As we got higher, the rock deteriorated in quality, but was still fine to scramble up. We reached the top of the rock and donned ice axe and crampons to do the final rising traverse back left to the saddle. The snow slopes were steep, but the snow was soft enough to kick good bucket steps in. I led out and got into that focused rythm that you get when you need to be getting somewhere tricky in a hurry. I ploughed my way up and across to the pass, and when I turned around once I'd got there, was suprised to see that I'd left Mark some distance behind. He arrived shortly after, and we popped through to the Murchison side of the Saddle for a well deserved break. It was now 4.30, and we still had a long way to go to get down from the pass and up to Murchison Hut for the night.

It was here that I rued forgetting to bring the route description for Armadillo Saddle. All I could remember was snippits of conversations with people who had crossed it on skis in winter, but I couldn't remember whether we had to go right and find a ledge through the bluffs under the pass, then drop easier terrain in the Harper Glacier, or head left and down and find a weakness in the bluffs under Mount Conrad. As it was getting late, I started to fret a bit about what course of action to take, but first we had to get down off the pass and onto the benches below us.

We descended down a steep, loose gut onto scree slopes below Armadillo Saddle, then dropped down some snow to where things flattened off. From here we couldn't see much of what was going on below, so after some brainstorming, decided to swing right and drop down onto the next set of ledges, then if no options presented themselves, we'd follow the ledge left until something did appear. It soon became apparent that there was no way through to the Harper Glacier on the right, and that the bluffs were massive in scale. We traversed above them as we swung back towards Mount Conrad, and my heart sank when I looked down these immense cliffs, as there was clearly no way through. However, we persevered, and the terrain relented. After some time traversing we came to a spur, then once we crossed the top of it we came to a steep tussock face that was quite descendable. These led to a bench, which then dropped down a steep, ugly looking moraine wall to the lateral moraine of the Murchison Glacier. We dropped down to the bench, and found a steep, loose gut that looked like it was worth a shot at downclimbing. it looked ugly, but once we got in it, it actually went well, and we finally clambered down onto the lateral moraine on the Murchison at 7.30pm, tired as buggery.

I said to Mark that if we found a flat spot on the glacier, we should probably stop and camp, as it was looking more and more unlikely that we were going to make Murchison Hut, and he agreed. We moraine bashed across to the edge of the white ice, and by this time it was after 8pm. I really wanted to get a message out to Danilo to say we were two days out from arriving from Mount Cook, so I suggested we stop and do the late radio sched. We hadn't found any flat spots to camp either, so I also suggested that if we were going to push on up the glacier, then we should probably stop and have dinner, then push on, so we stopped and set up the radio aerial and put on the stove to heat some water for our Backcountry Cuisine meals. I managed to get the message out that Mark and I were almost at Mount Cook, and that I needed a new carbide tip for one of my Leki poles, and that I wanted Danilo to bring up some feta cheese and basil pesto, but the operator just could understand basil pesto, even after I spelt it out for him, so I just let it be.

There was a cold wind blowing down the glacier, and Mark and I were soon rugged up in our storm gear while we waited for our dinner to rehydrate. We gobbled it down greedily, then packed up our stuff and roped up for glacier travel and put on our head torches. By this stage it was 9.30, and we were rapidly losing the light.

We headed up the white ice in the fading light, jumping runnels and the occasional melt pool. We were soon forced to switch our headlamps on and or world was soon reduced to the small area in front of us that we could see with our light. Mark was in front, and was only a silohette most of the time who would call out occasionally whenever we reached a slot we had to jump, or when he required a bit of slack or taughtness in the rope. The gentle runnels gradually became bigger, and soon we were jumping the occasional crevasse. The moon hadn't come up over the Divide, so the night was quite dark. After a long while of weaving back and forth, the terrain flattened out, though we were now jumping more crevasses or crossing snow bridges. The wind had dropped, and the night was actually quite warm.

I checked my watch at one stage and it was 11pm. I realised that it was probably going to be some time before we were even in a position to be able to find the way off the glacier, let alone climb the 200 metres up onto the spur that Murchison hut is on. The glacier had flattened out, and there weren't many slots around, so I stopped and called out to Mark. "This is crazy. Its 11 o'clock, and we aren't likely to be able to find the hut any time soon. We'll probably end up by going all night if we do try and get there. Its flat here, lets just set up the tent and get some sleep now. We can think about getting to the hut tomorrow if we still feel the need to." There was a brief silence, then "Yeah, thats a good idea. lets do it." came back out of the darkness.

We set up the tent and secured our loose stuff, just in case the wind came up again, then climbed into our pits. By the time I had zipped myself into my bivy bag it was almost midnight. It had been the longest, hardest day of the trip so far, but with luck the rest of the way to Mount Cook would be a bit more straight forward.

6 February - It was something of a restless night for us both. We both slept in fits and spurts. I was lying on a bit of a divit and kept sliding off my Thermarest. The night wasn't cold, but just before dawn the temperature dived, and I pulled the drawcord on my sleeping bag tight to stop the cold getting in. We were up with the sun, and had soon packed the tent away, though we spent some time melting snow for water. Our surroundings were stunning. Huge glaciated peaks loomed high above us with the sun slowly cresting over them. It was spectacular.

We roped up again and were away up the glacier by about 8.30. The going was straightforward, and the gradient nice and easy. We approached the first icefall, and wondered how the hell we were going to get through that jumble of frozen blocks, but again the perspective was deceptive, and an easy way opened up on the true left where the glacier flowed more smoothly. We wound our way slowly uphill, jumping slots as needed. The sun started make its presence felt, and things started to swelter.

We turned up the next hill a little too early and came out into the start of a jumbled section of crevasses, but were able to easily find our way back onto easier ground. We trudged up two more tiers before coming up beneath the Tasman headwall. We had spotted a couple of options further down, but as our angle changed and we got closer under the headwall the options were soon whittle down to one which led up slightly to the left of Tasman Saddle. There was one bit that looked like it might be slotted, but we were hoping that there would be a snowbridge across it. If there wasn't we'd be in trouble!

Mark led up the first steep slope in the softening snow, then got to the lip of the first big schrund and broke left along its lip. The next shelf was reached by Mark climbing across a snowbridge up onto a ledge, then I followed him onto the ledge, put in a snowstake and belaying him while he tenuously stood on another snowbridge and hacked a type of steep staircase up onto the next shelf, then once he was up on the shelf he wacked in his snowstake and belayed me across the second, dodgy bridge and up onto the shelf. This proved to be the crux on the headwall, and after that I led out across the shelf, across another small slot, up another snowslope to another large schrund, which I bypassed on the left, then we angled up to the right again to finally reach Tasman Saddle.

We had almost done it. We were almost at Mount Cook! We were now on the highest point of my trip on a beautiful, crystal clear day with the Southern Alps all about us. We could see over to Mount D'Archiac, and Twilight Col where we had been just two days ago, and the peaks of the Havelock, Clyde and Rakaia stretching away to the North, and the big 3000 metre peaks above the Tasman Glacier dissappearing away to the South. I was ecstatic! I was almost halfway on this South Odyssey of mine. It had been hard work so far, but by god it had been worth it!

We stopped and had lunch on the rocks beside the saddle, and watched a group of climbers coming down off Mount Aylmer, then packed up and headed down the Tasman via the lower icefall. The travel started out easy enough, but as we got lower the soft snow and slots started giving us some routefinding fun, leading us to a couple of dead ends before we found a conveluted route through on the true left of the glacier. Mark must have put his leg down a slot on at least ten occasions by the time we found our way through the lower icefall, as the snow had grown quite soft in the midday sun and the snow bridges weren't holding together as well as they would have if we'd gone through first thing in the morning.

Just as we got out onto easier ground, as ski plane came in to land in front of us, and a bunch of tourists jumped out and started taking photos of the surrounding mountains. The pilot hailed us over, teling us to hang around the plane for a bit, as another plane was just about to land, and he didn't want us to get run over! We came over and had a bit of a chat with him, then a couple of Japanese tourists rocked up and asked if they could have their photos taken with us. This was all a little bizzare, especially when you've been out in the hills for as long as I had, but we smiled and got our pictures taken, then waited for the second ski plane to land before heading off down the glacier again. The pilot we had been talking to, said as we left, "You poor barstards, I don't envy you walking out. It's a pity I'm full, or I'd have given you a lift."

We took a wee break further down the ice, and the first plane took off and buzzed us as he went past. We waved, then got up and trudged down the slowly flattening glacier to the start of the white ice. When we reached Darwin Corner we had to walk through a section where the surface ice and snow and ice had melted to form a type of ice swamp. We waded through ths, then came out onto the solid white ice. To our suprise, it wasn't flat, but all runnelled and full of wee streams which had the feel of hydroslides. We unroped and headed on down towards De La Beche Corner, where we planned to climb up the moraine wall and stay at De La Beche Hut that night. The runneled ice didn't let up and we spent some time following ice ridges and jumping riverlets. As we got closer to De La Beche Corner, we started to debate the best route along to the hut. The glacier had two strips of lateral moraine running down it, which divided the white ice into three channels. I was keen to follow the true left channel we were on down to the corner, and then cross to the corner, but Mark was keen to skip over the lateral moraine and angle across to the corner. I reluctantly agreed to give it a go, as alot of this lower part of the glacier had changed, so the travel may have improved on thhe true right side.

It hadn't, althouogh getting across the lateral moraine was straightforward enough. The problem lay in the fact that the true right of the glacier was a jumbled mess of crevasses and boulders that had fallen off De La Beche Ridge. We wasted a lot of time getting across this last section of ice and fighting our way down through the jumble of boulders that lay beside the glacier here.

It was here I turned up the pace a bit, as all I wanted to do was get up to the hut and finsh the day. I left Mark behind a bit and made my way down onto the smaller moraine, before starting to angle up the moraine wall when I though I saw a cairn above me which may have marked the route up to the hut. I got a call from Mark behind me "Did you see the markerr poles Aaron? I looked back at where mark was, then saw an iron standard attached to a spring mounted on a large boulder, then as I turned my head uphill I spotted another iron standard at the top of the moraine wall marking the exit point. I had only just gone past them in my mission to get to the corner, so it was good spotting by Mark that he saw them before I did.

I turned back right and angled up to the base of a rotten gully that was marked with cairns, then scrambled up this onto some ledges, then up to the top of the moraine wall, being careful not to knock anything off, as mark was climbing up below me. The hut and rock biv came into view, but i stopped and kept an eye on Mark as he came slowly up the moraine wall. He arrived where I was at 7.30pm looking a bit poked. We then rock hopped up the final 50 metres or so to the hut. It was great to be there, and we very quickly made ourselves at home for the night. I had been a good day, only slightly marred by a wee navigational hiccup. Tomorrow we would be at the fleshpots of Mount Cook Village!

To out suprise we couldn't find a toilet anywhere. it wasn't suprising that they'd taken out the infamous longdrop, but not to replace it with a flyout loo seems a bit slack. Relying on poo pots at this site seems to be an oversight, as half the parties that pass through this hut are coming from outside the park, and are unlikely to be carrying poo pots. Come on NZAC, I know that flyout loos are expensive, but I think that one is needed at the De La Beche hutsite.

7 February - Were had a slight sleep in, and were away back down the moraine wall around 9am. The route back across to the white ice took us about two hours, and was pretty easy, just following over a couple of smallish hillocks of lateral moraine. When we got back to the ice, we found that what used to be flat white ice had changed to runneled ice. We we no longer going to get the easy stroll down to the start of the moraine that we used to have.

It took us about another two hours to reach the start of the moraine. This too had changed beyond any recognition, and the old familiar route through the pressure ridges around the Hochstetter Icefall no longer existed. It was follow your nose and try and pick the easiest way through terrain. Fortunately, that is something I am particularly good at, and Mark gladly just followed me and let me make the decisions. The going was by no means easy, and I can't really describe the route I chose, but it seemed to follow the lines of least resistance in the glacier, though it took a while.

We eventually reached Garbage Gully, and ascended this up to the slumped shelf, and then up to Ball Shelter. Erosion has actually improved the climb up Garbage Gully, and we managed to bypass the old traverse, that was getting quite hairy the last time I had done it. They have moved the loo at Ball Shelter away from the edge too, as where it was has now fallen away.

We had a break at Ball Shelter, then pushed on down the track to towards Husky Flat. We ran into an English couple coming the other way, and then ran into Danilo further down the track. He had come up from Dunners that morning, and was out stretching his legs, and wanted to get up to the shelter, so we said we'd meet him at the Blue Lakes carpark and let him go on his way.

It was the usual drudgery walking down the Ball Road. We passed another tourist heading up to Ball Shelter for the night. He looked at us, and asked if we'd come from the shelter. I replied, "No I've come from Collingwood." and got a blank look in return. Mark and I wandered off smirking. We walked down to Lower Husky and were passed by a couple in a four wheel drive heading up the road. We hoped that they would be returning soon, so we could hijack the truck and drive out. Just before we were about to reach Celmisia Flat the truck came rumbling back down the road and stopped. The couple offered us a lift down to Blue Lakes, which we gladly accepted. They were from Ohau, but hadn't been up to Mount Cook in years. Apparently they used to do a lot of tramping and climbing around here when they were younger, and were interested to hear what we had been up to. Nice folk.

They dropped us off at Blue Lakes carpark, and we lazed around in the early evening sun waiting for Danilo to return from Ball Shelter. We were feeling quite pleased with our efforts. We had had a full-on ten days, had some great times and some hard ones too, but we'd done it, and here we were safely at Mount Cook. I was looking forward to having a couple of days off before hitting the Copland and the mighty Landsborough, but first we had some decent food to eat and some beer to drink. Danilo really came to the party there, as he had brought up a feast of pasta, pesto, salad and steak, topped off with lashings of strawberries and a huge chocolate cake that he had baked. Thanks dude, it was great : )

Danilo also sugested that I might like to get hold of Dan Allan, Rob Lawrence and Nina Conradi, as they were all keen to join me over the Copland if the dates fell right, and after a few texts and a couple of phone calls I had three people joining me for the Copland. Excellent!

Well I'm wrapt to have reached Mount Cook, but I know that the next stage through to Makarora is going to be just as tough in its own way. Here's hoping that the weather stays as good as I've had it sine the McCoy, and the West Coast is kind to me! Hopefully I'll be able to update my next stage at Makarora, otherwise it'll have to probably be Glenorchy or Te Anau. We'll see. I'll try and keep you posted when I update this next.


Day 25: Arthur's Pass Village - Avalanche Peak - Crow Valley - Waimakariri Valley - Carrington Hut
Day 26: Carrington Hut - White River - Taipoiti River - Harman Pass - Whitehorn Pass - Cronin Stream - Park Morpeth Hut
Day 27: Park Morpeth Hut - Wilberforce River - Moa Stream - Moa Stream Hut
Day 28: Moa Stream Hut - Moa Stream - Unnamed Saddle between Moa Stream and Boundary Creek - Boundary Creek - North Mathias - West Mathias - Centennial Cabin
Day 29: Centennial Cabin - West Mathias - South Mathias - Observation Col - Cattle Stream - Rakaia River - Washbourne Hut
Day 30: Washbourne Hut - Reischek Hut
Day 31: Rest day due to Mark and Rob P not arriving with food drop until midday : )
Day 32: Reischek Hut - Mein's Knob - Lyell Hut
Day 33: Lyell Hut - Lyell Glacier - McCoy Col - McCoy Glacier - McCoy River - McCoy Hut
Day 34: Pit day, McCoy Hut - bad weather, rivers up
Day 35: Pit day, McCoy Hut - beautiful weather, rivers still raging
Day 36: McCoy Hut - Clyde River - Erewhon Station
Day 37: Erewhon Station - Clyde River - Havelock River - Forbes River - Forbes Biv
Day 38: Forbes Biv - South Forbes River - Twilight Col - Separation Stream - Godley Valley - Red Stag Hut
Day 39: Red Stag Hut - Godley River - Rutherford Stream - Armadillo Saddle - Murchison Glacier
Day 40: Murchison Glacier - Tasman Saddle - Tasman Glacier - De la Beche Hut
Day 41: De la Beche Hut - Tasman Glacier - Ball Shelter - Ball Road - Unwin Hut
Day 42: Rest day, Unwin Hut
Day 43: Rest day, Unwin Hut