Thursday, November 19, 2015

Boundary Stream, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 17.11.15. About 12 kms along Lilybank Rd, I parked my car on Boundary Stream delta flats, near the road bridge, as I wanted to follow Boundary Stream towards the north end of Mt Ardmore on Mt Hay Station.

I wandered across the delta flats to an ancient, moraine terrace, where a stony gully took me up to moraine humps & hollows, characteristic of Mt Hay's sheep paddocks. After half an hour I found a farm track which passed two tarns. There I saw two, rare, black stilts foraging in the water. DOC's Twizel breeding programme of the rare kaki, black stilt, annually released kaki on the west side of Lake Tekapo at Glenmore Station. It was good to see DOC's conservation plan succeeding, with kaki on the east side of Lake Tekapo.

The dusty, farm track crossed moraine terraces above Boundary Stream towards Mt Ardmore's northern gullies & ridges, hunting country. Boundary Stream bed was filled with unsightly, yellow gorze. After wandering across moraine country for 1.5 hours, I reached a moraine hill top below Mt Ardmore. A hut, Hays Retreat nestled between the moraine hill & Mt Ardmore's NW ridges.

Hays Retreat hut overlooked Boundary Stream gorge, which took a sharp turn northwards towards Mt Richmond. Some metres from the hut, a long drop had grand Alpine views. A deer skull hung on the outside of the long drop door.

On the hill top I scoffed my lunch, biltong, mandarin, muesli bar & fizzy drink, while admiring Alpine views around Lake Tekapo: S - moraine terraces, Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Benmore Range. SW - Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo Village, Mt John, Old Mans Range, Mary Range, Ben Ohau Range. W - Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Fork River Valley, Glenmore Station, Mt Joseph, Cass River Valley & Cass River Delta, Godley Peaks Station, Gammack Range, Hall Range. Mt Cook Range was clouded over. NW - Mt Fletcher at Godley River head, Godley River Valley, flanked by Pikes Peak, Mt Erebus & Sibbalt Range, Mt D'Archiac behind. Lilybank Station below Razorback. N - Richmond Station & moraine terraces, Two Thumbs Range, Mt Gerald Station & moraine terraces, Mt Gerald. E - Round Hill ski field, Mt Richmond.

The wander back to my car via moraine terraces & the two tarns took 1.5 hours. The walk was about 9 kms.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See rare black stilt, kaki (DOC).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mount Burgess, Burkes Pass, Mackenzie Country

Tues 10.11.15. A glorious, sunny day with few clouds. We often travelled SH 8 up Burkes Pass 709 m, as we lived at Fairlie & Leah worked at Lake Tekapo, Burkes Pass in between. Driving up Burkes Pass we first passed Albury Range on the left & Two Thumbs Range on the right, including Mt Maud's long ridge in front of Mt Edward. Above Burkes Pass, Mt Burgess formed a long summit ridge, then formed a saddle, transforming into Mt Maud's ridge going northwards to Tekapo Saddle & Mt Dobson, seen from Fairlie. Beyond Burkes Pass village we passed Rollesby Range on the left, Mt Burgess 1430 m on the right.

At the top of Burkes Pass, I parked my car by Burkes Memorial, a stone slab which read:

               MICHAEL JOHN BURKE
                     RAINCLIFF STN
                           IN 1855.
                      -------- // -------


              THIS PASS IS 2209 FEET
                   ABOVE SEA LEVEL.

Burke was a conservationist before the modern word was invented, but his forest greenery was at odds with modern conservationists (tree huggers?) who desired Mackenzie Basin to retain its brownness. How did modern conservationist think high country farmers should manage their stations without tree, shelter belts against Alpine winds?

I wandered down SH 8 about 200 m, climbed through a fence & ascended Mt Burgess up a tussock path, easily seen from SH 8. The tussock path followed a fence straight up a Mt Burgess ridge. Also seen from SH 8, a farm road from Sawdon Station followed another ridge up Mt Burgess, forming a summit road. Later I'd descend that road.

At about 900 vertical metres the tussock path petered out, so I continued following the fence though tussock grassland, up the ridge, to Mt Burgess summit road, about 1200 m. Along the way I saw several patches of alpine, yellow daisies, as well as red berried Pentachondra pumila. I climbed through tussock grassland, spiky spaniards & patches of prickly matagouri.

The higher I climbed the better my view of Mackenzie Country ranges: E - green Fairlie valley between Albury Range & The Brothers Range. SE - Albury Range. S - Rollesby Range & green Rollesby Valley; Dalgety Range with Grampian Range behind. Further S - Mt Nessing, Mt Nimrod & distant Otago Ranges. SSW - Dog Kennel Corner on Burkes Pass. Benmore Range, Mary Range. SW - Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range. W - Mt Edward's southern ridges, a glimpse of Lake Tekapo village & Mt John at the S end of Lake Tekapo. Further W - snowy Mt Sefton, Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, Lendenfeld Peak, towering above Mt Stevenson, Braemar Dome, Mt Joseph & Gammack Range.

From Mt Burgess summit road I had good views of Sawdon Stream going down to Sawdon Station at the head of the valley formed by Mt Burgess, Mt Maud & Mt Edward. Opposite Sawdon Station, Holbrook Station was seen by SH 8. Green patches in the middle & along edges of brown Mackenzie Basin identified high country stations. Tekapo Canal was a green slash across Mackenzie Basin going to Lake Pukaki.

I wandered along Mt Burgess summit road, rising another 200 m to Mt Burgess summit, identified by a big cairn, a rusty, metal pipe sticking out of the top. (Old trig beacon?) Summit views continued: NW - Mt Edward's 2 southern ridges, farm roads going about half way up each ridge. SE ridge obscured Mt Edward's summit view. Below Mt Burgess summit, Mt Maud's long ridge curved NW to Mt Maud's summit ridge. N - tops of snowy Mt Dobson & Sherwood Range, including Mt Fox. NE - Green patches & yellow canola patches on Ashwick Flats & glinting Opuha Dam, Mt Michael, Mt Walker, Devils Peak, Blue Mountain, Mt Peel. It took me 3 hours to summit Mt Burgess from the top of Burkes Pass.

I descended via the farm road, including another tussock ridge, forming the watershed for Bullock Creek below. The farm road descended the tussock ridge towards Sawdon Station, then rounded a rocky spur to pylons below, back to SH 8 & Burkes Memorial. Descent - 3 hours. The walk was about 12 kms.

The following week, two summer snowfalls covered Mt Burgess summit, Two Thumbs Range & Sherwood Range. All weather gear, water & food was essential for Alpine climbs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Fairlie Wander, Gateway to Mackenzie Country

Thurs 29.10.15. A circuit wander I often did around Fairlie, after Leah dropped me off by the Red Stag Restaurant / Rimuwhare, on Main Rd, SH 8, to Kimbell, en route to her catching Richies school bus to take her to work at Lake Tekapo School:

L into Alloway St: Great Alpine views of Dalgety Range & Mackenzie Pass, Albury Range & Burkes Pass, Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson & Sherwood Range, including Mt Fox. As the street was on Fairlie border, I saw sheep paddocks & an alpaca farm. I wandered past Fairlie Museum & housing.

R into Ayr St: Housing & Fairlie Medical Centre.

L into Sloan St: Housing. Mackenzie Kindergarten & High Country Carpentry. During our 2 years' stay in Mackenzie Country we'd seen those carpenters doing lots of building work.

R into Bank Street: Housing.

R into Regent St: Great view of Albury Range. Housing & Bell's housing development at the end. Early days we'd looked at some of Bell's houses as potential rentals, but found them old, relocated houses & pricy. Since then, we'd seen a new house built there & another relocated house tarted up. Mackenzie Country Motors was at the bottom of Regent St, where we had our cars serviced.

L into Martin St: Housing.

L into School Rd: Housing. Mackenzie Rugby Club, Squash Club, Bowls Club & swimming pool.

R into Gillingham St: Housing. Mackenzie College fields, Mackenzie A & P Society grounds.

L into Hamilton St: Housing. Fairlie Early Learners school. Past Gall St, where Leah taught on Fridays at St Josephs Primary. Old Age homes at the bottom of Hamilton St.

L into Main Rd, SH 8: Housing. Gladstone Hotel. Bronze statue of a WW1 soldier standing on Fairlie station platform, awaiting a train to take him to war. (Fairlie station & trains died years ago). The statue was erected in 2014 to commemorate WWI Anzacs. Mackenzie District Council bldgs. Fairlie Hotel & a bronze statue of sheep stealer, James Mackenzie & his sheepdog. Shops, cafes, businesses & public toilets. Tourists buses often parked there for tourists to relieve themselves, then move on to higher things.

R into Talbot Rd: Housing. Great views of Devils Peak & Brothers Range. Fairlie Golf Course. Sewage farm. Ravensdown fertilizers. Heslips Hatcheries. During summer all that organic stuff caused fly swarms.

The Fairlie wander took about 1 hour.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Fairlie WWI Soldier statue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Irishman Creek Station, Mackenzie Country

In 2015 Lake Tekapo School's roll increased. A new student came from Irishman Creek Station off SH8 between Lake Tekapo & Twizel. Before Lake Tekapo School started in 1940, local kids were schooled at Irishman Creek Station.

For some years owners didn't allow public visits to Irishman Creek. With a change of ownership & a new student at Lake Tekapo School, Irishman Creek's new owners were happy to have a Lake Tekapo School excursion at Irishman Creek for the first time in years.

Thursday 30.07.15. A perfect winter's day, frosty, windless, cloudless, with clear views of Mt Cook & the Alps for miles. Parents, staff & students gathered at Irishman Creek below the dam made by Bill Hamilton. Bill grew up at Ashwick near Fairlie then bought Irishman Creek in 1921. Age 13, Bill Hamilton was already generating electricity for his parent's Ashwick Station.

Bill Hamilton was world famous for engineering the first jet boat. He engineered other stuff too, like a mechanical scoop for excavating the dam; a road grader; an ice groomer for a skating rink; WW2 arms, like mortar casings, 303 rifle safety catches, Bren gun carriers... I thought Irishman Creek's Alpine remoteness was a perfect place for arms manufacture. If engineers couldn't hear intruders coming, summer heat or winter cold would get them.

The farmer conducted a tour of Bill Hamilton's Workshop where Bill's inventions were made. We saw a jet boat, various jet boat engines & a road grader displayed in the Workshop, which smelled of ancient grease. We saw various engineering tools, like drills, lathes, a forge & various hand tools. Many men did their engineering apprenticeships under Bill Hamilton's guidance.

Beside the Workshop the farmer conducted us through the noisy Powerhouse, with generator producing off grid electricity for the farm. After constructing the dam, Bill Hamilton piped water from the dam to the generator. Our school students enjoyed seeing the dam inlet pipe causing a small whirlpool in dam waters. On the dam wall, we wandered round the icy dam & checked out Bill Hamilton's ice rink below the dam. Bill was a sportsman too, excelling at ice skating, jet boating around the world & overseas motor racing.

We had alfresco lunch by one of the farm houses, which was damaged in recent heavy snows. Freezing water pipes burst, causing flooding in the house, which mucked up the wall to wall carpets. Views from the homestead were magnificent, with Mt Cook in the NW & Mt John, Two Thumbs Range & Mt Edward in the NE.

To finish off the excursion, we returned to Lake Tekapo, where students had an hour's ice skating at the ice rink by Tekapo Springs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Phantom Lagoon, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tuesday 28.07.15. About 10 kms along Lilybank Rd above Lake Tekapo shore, I parked my car below Mt Hay. I wanted to see Phantom Lagoon below snowy Mt Ardmore 2003 m. Last Tuesday I'd climbed Mt Ardmore's S ridge to about 1400 m & saw Phantom Lagoon in a ravine below, by stony hills flanking Mt Ardmore's S ridge.

Over moraine hills, I sidled past My Hay's N face & joined a farm track to a tarn by two stony, duck shooting hides below Wee McGregor. Climbing moraine hills, I sidled round the N end of Wee Mcgregor. I undulated over more moraine hills till I crossed Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore.

Following a fence, I climbed a steep, rocky slope up the ravine hills to a gap between the hills. Thereafter I descended a rocky defile to Phantom Lagoon. In the N, the ravine closed in the lagoon with steep rocky walls. Opposite the defile where I'd entered the ravine, a small waterfall tumbled from Mt Ardmore, forming a stream below Phantom Lagoon. From Lilybank Rd, It took me 2 hours to reach Phantom Lagoon.

I followed the stream S, rocky ravine walls closing in, to another small waterfall below Mt Ardmore. Ravine rocks were greywacke strata skewed about 45 degrees. In places skewed rock strata were almost vertical. A stream boulder had strata crushed at right angles, like a scrunched paper ball. After about half an hour's wander, the ravine stream disappeared underground & the ravine mouthed by Edward Stream again at the S end of Wee McGregor.

I recrossed Edward Stream & wandered back to Lilybank Rd over moraine hills between Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. My return walk took 2 hours. The circular walk below Mt Ardmore taking in Phantom Lagoon & ravine was about 9 kms. Last week's low snows on moraine hills below Mt Hay, Wee McGregor & Mt Ardmore had thawed, leaving soft ground underfoot.

While I walked, Mt Ardmore clouded over & temperature dropped, so I needed to wear my cold weather gear. By the time I reached my car it was raining. It wasn't a good day for mountain pics as low cloud hung over the Alps all day. Walking & climbing permission is needed from Mt Hay Station owners.

Thursday 13.08.15. Overcast, wintry Alpine views: After snowfalls, I did the Phantom Lagoon walk again in the opposite, anticlockwise direction. Below Mt Hay, around Wee McGregor & in the ravine, powder snow was 3-6 inches deep for 5 hours' walking. I also dodged mud patches below Mt Hay.

I saw 26 sheep sheltering on a north facing slope below Wee McGregor & saw 2 California quails feeding on a Mt Hay N slope. They ran uphill when they saw me, then glided away. Phantom Lagoon was frozen & ravine floor snow was 6 inches deep, so I needed snow gaiters to stop my ankles wetting & sunglasses to alleviate snow glare.

Tuesday 18.08.15. I did my usual trek around the N end of Mt Hay & the S end of Wee McGregor over moraine hummocks to Edward Stream on the E side of Wee McGregor. The day was stormy, a nor'wester blasting over Lake Tekapo. Cass River Valley in the W & Godley River Valley in the NW were blurred by rain. I kept a weather eye out to see if the storm would cross & move down Lake Tekapo.

As last week's snow had mostly thawed I walked in mud & patchy snow, which didn't bother rabbits hopping about. When 3 rabbits saw me on Mt Hay N slope they hopped uphill. That startled a nanny tahr which bolted to the summit.

I wanted to wander the high valley on the W side of Mt Ardmore's S ridge, above the ravine which ended in Phantom Lagoon in the N & Edward Steam in the S. After crossing blasting wind funnels between Mt Hay & Wee McGregor & between Wee McGregor & Mt Ardmore I crossed Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore. My longs, sunglasses & hooded windcheater stopped exposure.

I wandered up the farm track on Mt Ardmore's S ridge & followed it above the ravine till the track ended, about 900 m elevation, by a stream going down to a waterfall in the ravine. Above the road end Mt Ardmore's S ridge soared another 500 m odd, a rocky climb. As the nor'wester scudded rain clouds across the top of Mt Ardmore 2003 m, it was time to return to my car on Lilybank Rd. Just N of the waterfall, I descended a cliff break into the ravine.

The approx 8 km, return trek took me 4 hours. Over my last 7 months' wandering Mt Hay Station I'd endured all the elements - heat, rain, snow, mud, wind.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Middle Hut, Mt Hay Station, holiday accommodation (holiday houses).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mt Ardmore South Ridge, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tuesday 21.07.15. Two kms beyond Mt Hay Station homestead, I parked my car about 10 km along Lilybank Rd below Mt Hay. Since the big snow in June there'd had been light snows, feeding the Alpine watershed around Lake Tekapo. I was thinking of buying an ice axe to stop me sliding on icy paths, as my macrocarpa walking stick was proving inadequate for self arresting on ice.

In the crisp, frosty morning, I crunched over frost heave & sidled round the north face of Mt Hay 1174 m, avoiding snow patches, trying to keep my canvas shoes dry. As I wanted to climb the farm track ascending the south ridge of Mt Ardmore 2003 m, I wandered hilly moraine country, keeping Wee McGregor 1146 m on my left, till I came to Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore. Within an hour I'd seen all the mountains found on Mt Hay Station: Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson's SW ridge, Mt Maud's W face, Mt Edward's W face.

Below Wee McGregor's E side, I crossed Edward Stream by a farm fence & began the road ascent on the dry SW side of Mt Ardmore. As soon as the road turned the corner to the E side of the S ridge, I struck snow again, which continued through snow tussock all the way to the summit. The snowy farm track zig-zagged up the S ridge with close up views of Mt Dobson's SW ridge on my right & another Edward Stream tributary below. On another walk I'd climbed Mt Dobson's SW ridge up to 1300 m, with bone-chilling, icy winds blasting from Mt Ardmore. The higher I climbed the better my views of snowy Mt Maud & Mt Edward in the E.

Looking W in the opposite direction across Lake Tekapo & Motuariki Island, I had views of snowy Mt John, Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Joseph, Joseph Ridge, Hells Gates, Gammack Range behind & NW - Haszard Ridge, Mt Haszard, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak, Mt Fletcher, Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbalt & Mt D'Archiac. From S to N, I saw river valleys flushing Alpine waters into Lake Tekapo: Fork River Valley, Cass River Valley, Mistake River Valley, Godley River Valley. Mt Cook summit behind the lot was obscured by cloud.

Either side of Cass River near Lake Tekapo W shore, shelter belts showed Glenmore Station below Mt Joseph & Godley Peaks Station below Mt Haszard. On Lake Tekapo E shore I saw shelter belts showing Richmond Station below Mt Richmond & in the NE, Mt Gerald Station below Mt Gerald & Two Thumbs Range. At the bottom of snowy Mt Ardmore I saw icy Phantom Lagoon hidden behind a row of low hills.

I followed rabbit spoor up the snowy road, till a fence by rocky outcrops at the end of the road, about 1400 m height. Thereafter Mt Ardmore plateaued a bit before the final steep, snowy ascent. From 1400 m, it was easy so see how ancient glaciers had carved huge trenches between mountains, forming lakes Tekapo, McGregor, Alexandrina & Pukaki & forming roche moutonees either side of Lake Tekapo - Mt John & Old Man Range off the SW shore & Mt Hay & Wee McGregor off the E shore.

From Lilybank Rd, it took me 3 hours to ascend Mt Ardmore S ridge up to 1400 m. It took me 2.5 hours return. Walking distance about 12 km. The afternoon thaw left my return trek muddy below Mt Hay. As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station, permission is required from owners before any walks or climbs. Hill walking fitness & backpacked food, drinks, all weather gear are imperative, as the mountains aren't a walk in the park.

Tues 08.09.15. Over the last couple of weeks I'd avoided Mt Hay, as winter storms were foul. I couldn't even park below My Hay, due to deep snow, roadside.

I did the walk up Mt Ardmore again, crossed the fence at the end of the snowy, zig-zag road & clambered up a top rock to enjoy clear, Alpine views. E side of the rocks was icy snow which made my climb dangerous. (I had no ice axe, just my trusty macrocarpa walking stick to self arrest). W side of the rocks was a glissade of ice shattered, rock shards, which went on several hundred metres up the ridge. So I rejected the idea of ever climbing Mt Ardmore on the W side of those rocky outcrops. On a less icy day I'd attempt to go further up the E side of Mt Ardmore, covered in snow tussock. Snow tussock was a tough, helpful grip if I slipped. But fallen, dry tussock leaves were slippery on rock shards.

As the zig-zag road was icy, I descended straight down Mt Ardmore's south ridge line, sidling by rocky outcrops, to ravines below, like a Merino's wrinkled nose.

Tues 15.09.15. I explored an Edward Stream tributary in a valley flanked by the E side of Mt Ardmore & Mt Dobson's SW ridge: Below Mt Ardmore's south ridge, I wandered across a ravine & entered the tributary valley via a farm track.

Up valley, the farm track forded the tributary several times while the valley narrowed towards The Knobbies in the distance. At a farm fence the track petered out & the trek up valley became a tiresome rock hop towards the valley head. Rock hopping past prickly matagouri was futile, so I stopped & enjoyed snowy views on valley top sides & the valley head, still thickly covered in snow. Thereafter I returned down stream to my car on Lilybank Rd, via another Mt Ardmore ravine, then sidling past Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. The walk was about 12 kms & took 6 hours.

Fri 25.09.15. Ten days after my last Mt Ardmore walk, a party of 11 Monash University kayakers got into difficulties in a wind storm on Lake Tekapo near Motuariki Island, when a north'easter blew from Mt Ardmore & Mt Hay. Two kayakers died from hypothermia (drowning?) in Lake Tekapo, their bodies picked up by helicopter. Six kayakers were rescued by helicopter from Motuariki Island. Three kayakers were blown across Lake Tekapo & were rescued by helicopter from the W shore near Lake McGregor & Mt John.

I'd experienced potent wind funnels around Mt Ardmore, Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. Those wind funnels would increase E wind speeds over Lake Tekapo near Motuariki Island during a storm. The distance from Lake Tekapo S shore to Motuariki Island was 8 kms. A lot of kayaking.

Likewise a nor'wester howling from Mt Cook & Gammack Range across Lake Tekapo would have an equally devastating effect on kayak paddlers, blowing them to Lake Tekapo's E shore.

Gotta ask: 1. What was kayak business AquaNorts thinking when it allowed 11 Monash University students on an unguided kayak paddle on Lake Tekapo, known for its icy waters & rapid weather changes?

AquaNorts would've known the wind was forecast to increase that fatal afternoon. Of course in a storm kayaks fill with freezing water.

As AquaNorts ran its business from the beach below the camping ground at the SW corner of Lake Tekapo, out of sight of Motuariki Island 8 kms away, gotta ask: 2. How did AquaNorts monitor kayak paddlers going around the corner of the bay beyond Mt John, out of sight of AquaNorts beach site?

Mon 19.10.15. With the farmer's permission, Leah & I viewed Mt Hay Station's sheep shearing in the shearing shed. Several sheepdogs, awaiting duties, were leashed against fencing by the shearing shed. Mt Hay sheep were still sheared using hand clippers by a team of male shearers from Timaru. Unlike electrical shearing, hand shearing left a thicker fleece to protect sheep in unseasonal cold weather. A women's team cleaned, sorted & graded sheared fleeces before baling.

Near the shearing shed we looked at a shearers' hut museum, giving the history of Mt Hay Station, including photos & details of owners, back to the 1850s, with domestic artefacts displayed.

Tues 20.10.15. After the spring thaw, I climbed the zig-zag road up Mt Ardmore south ridge again. Sans snow, beyond the road's end, for about 500 m I sidled past a series of rocky outcrops on top of the ridge, till I came to a saddle with E views of Mt Dobson, Mt Maud & Mt Edward, which had lost their snow. It took me 3.5 hrs to trek from Lilybank Rd to the saddle, which had a good view of my aiming point, a big rock, just below Mt Ardmore summit ridge. The big rock was clearly seen any day from distant Lake Tekapo village.

As it was a clear, spring day, I had sunny W views of snowless Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Lake Tekapo, Motuariki Island, Mt John, Old Man Range, Mary Range. Further W, snowy Ben Ohau Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Joseph, Mt Haszard, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak, with Gammack Range & snowy Mt Cook, Mt Tasman & Mt Lendenfeld towering behind. In the S, I glimpsed Lake Benmore & Benmore Range. In the N, snowy Two Thumbs Range, including Mt Richmond, Mt Gerald, The Thumbs, Mt Chevalier. NW, snowy Mt D'Archiac, Mt Sibbalt, The Razorback & Mt Erebus flanking Godley River Valley going up to snowy Mt Fletcher.

Above Phantom Lagoon, I descended Mt Ardmore's steep SW flank avoiding slips, gullies & streams, all converging on a bigger stream, flowing to a waterfall into the rocky ravine below Phantom Lagoon. From the top of Mt Ardmore south ridge it took me 2.5 hours to return to my car on Lilybank Rd beside Mt Hay. The walk was about 13 kms.

In passing, I was amused by a recent The Timaru Herald's scaremongering report about a 25 m high tsunami maybe caused by quake landslides from Mt John, Mt Mistake, Boundary Stream banks & Mt Hay. It would need massive quakes for Mt Hay to slide into Lake Tekapo, as Mt Hay, buttressed by lateral moraine hummocks, was 100s of metres from Lake Tekapo shore. Other reported mountains were closer to Lake Tekapo.

If seismologists opened their eyes they'd see Boundary Stream on the E shore was in a fault going under Lake Tekapo to the W shore, Cass River delta & Cass River Valley. If quakes struck, that E-W fault under Lake Tekapo would maybe cause a tsunami.

Never mind slumping of Cass River delta & slumping of Boundary Stream delta maybe causing tsunamis during quakes.

During quakes, what would happen to Mt Richmond, bracketed by Boundary Stream Fault in the S, Washdyke Stream in the middle & Coal River Fault in the N, all crossing eroded, lateral moraine, hummocks & hollows beside Lake Tekapo's E shore.

There were millions of mountainous places in Mackenzie Country & around Lake Tekapo where landslides could happen, not just due to seismic faults & folds, but due to erosion & gravity too. The time span over 10s of 1000s of years which seismologists gave for quakes maybe caused by known faults was laughable, as seismologists couldn't predict quakes with accuracy. Yet media used seismologists' ECan reports to scaremonger. When Christchurch's 2010-2013 quakes shook Canterbury, seismologists hadn't yet discovered the faults causing those quakes.

Never mind Lake Tekapo village, with Tekapo Dam & Tekapo River running through the middle, built on a terminal moraine, a sponge riddled with tarns, subject to liquefaction during quakes.

Tues 27.10.15. Late snowfall around Lake Tekapo. Mt Hay Station's sheared sheep were warm.

Driving along Lilybank Rd to Boundary Stream, about 16 kms from Lake Tekapo village, you'll see views of Lake Tekapo & surrounding Alps, including Mt Ardmore S Ridge, the pointy hill between Wee McGregor & Mt Hay, Mt Dobson SW Ridge, Mt Edward NW Ridge & Mt John, all of which I climbed in 2015.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.  

See Middle Hut, Mt Hay Station, holiday accommodation (holiday houses).

See Two tourists dead on Lake Tekapo in kayaking expedition (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Lake Tekapo landslide could cause 25m tsunami (The Timaru Herald / Stuff Co).

See Tsunami & Seiche Report, Mackenzie Basin Lakes (Ecan)

See Faults & Folds, Mackenzie Country (Ecan).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Snowy Wee McGregor, Snowy Mt Hay Station, Snowy Mackenzie Country

Thursday, Friday, 18-19 June was big snow time in Mackenzie Country. In Fairlie during a 35 cm snowfall we had a power cut, then we glamped in our lounge for 10 days, while our log burner kept us warm & our hot water going. Although we had kitchen cold water, most of our cold water pipes & the toilet cistern pipe froze, so I was toilet cistern water carrier for 10 days. Due to frozen cold water pipes we couldn't bath for 5 days. We conserved our kitchen cold water for drinking & cooking.

Our laundry outlet pipe froze & I had to replace a cracked elbow joint to stop the freeze. So we couldn't use our washing machine for several days. We kept our electric fin heaters going several days, 24/7, in our bathroom & passage to stop water pipes bursting. Other locals were in the same predicament. Fairlie temperature range for the 10 days - minus 9 C to minus 13 C, the latter recorded at Mackenzie College.

On the Friday after the snowfall I shovelled snow to make paths round the house & to get our car out of the garage & driveway. A neighbour helped me shovel our driveway, as he had a decent snow shovel. I just used our heavy old garden shovel. Thereafter the snow turned to ice due to calm weather for 9 days. Only 10 days after the snowfall did the wind come up & thaw the snow. Twizel, Pukaki & Omarama boasted minus 20 C to minus 21 C temperatures on National News. But Mt Gerald Station at the end of Lilybank Rd & Lake Tekapo recorded minus 21 C too.

As Mackenzie District Council didn't properly maintain Lilybank Rd beyond Round Hill ski field turnoff, the road to Mt Gerald Station was horrendous. Leah taught farm kids who trekked that dirt road daily.

On the Thursday morning of the big snow, a warm nor'wester morning, when Leah tried bussing to Lake Tekapo School, the bus got up Burkes Pass, but the bus driver turned back near Holbrook Station due to Mt Edward winds blasting the bus all over the road. Leah didn't bus to work the following, snowy week, as the school closed for a while & when it reopened Leah had flu, so she stayed in Fairlie awaiting the thaw. She kept local finches, white eyes, blackbirds, thrushes & Australian magpies alive by feeding them daily in the snow.

Tuesday 30.06.15. A beautiful, snowy, nor'wester day, perfect for climbing Wee McGregor 1146 m, Mt Hay Station. After dropping Leah off at Lake Tekapo School, I drove along Lilybank Rd for about 10 km & parked my car about half way along Mt Hay above Lake Tekapo.

I sidled around the north end of Mt Hay over lumpy, moraine country, criss-crossing sheep paths & a farm road. I avoided the road with 10 cm deep snow - tiring. To stop my feet getting wet, I dodged snow patches & walked as much as possible on muddy, stony ground.

After an hour over low moraine hills, I reached the bottom of Wee McGregor, by a frozen tarn. Beyond the tarn rose a small conical hill below Wee McGregor. A week before the big snow, described above, I'd climbed the small conical hill thinking it was Wee McGregor, a steep climb up to about 800 m. A mistake, as I thought Wee McGregor looming behind was actually the southern end of Mt Ardmore. So much for interpreting my Topo 50 map!

Avoiding snow, I skirted the conical hill & began the steep ascent of Wee McGregor, sheep back shaped, with summit ridge lowering from N to S.  It took me an hour to summit, up the side of a long, steep terrace, which eased as I got to the top. I added stones to the 2 summit cairns. I wished I had a captive botanist with me to explain all the Alpine cushion plants I saw. I recognised some, but most were a mystery, even after looking at plant books in Fairlie Community Library. Small Alpine plants I saw on the ground were difficult to identify, even with published pics.

It was windy on top as the nor'wester blasted from the direction of Godley River Valley beyond the end of Lake Tekapo. I put on my wind cheater & snapped 360 degree snowscapes:

SE: Snowy Mt Dobson SW ridge I'd recently climbed; snowy Mt Maud; snowy Mt Edward.

S: Snowy moraine country with icy tarns & braided Edward Stream below Mt Edward, flowing south through Sawdon Station. Snowy Mt Benmore & snowy Otago Alps, deep south.

SW: A glimpse of Lake Tekapo town; snowy Mt Hay (obscuring snowy Mt John & snowy Old Man Range); across Lake Tekapo, snowy Ben Ohau Range.

W: Across Lake Tekapo, snowy Fork River Valley; snowy Braemar Dome; snowy Mt Stevenson; snowy Mt Joseph; snowy Joseph Ridge; snowy Hells Gates; snowy Glenmore Station; snowy Godley Peaks Station; Cass River Valley & delta; snowy Gammack Range behind; snowy Mt Cook summit behind the lot.

NW: N of Cass River Valley - Snowy Mistake River Valley; snowy Haszard Ridge; snowy Mt Haszard; snowy Mt Mistake; snowy Pikes Peak; Godley River Valley at the head of Lake Tekapo; snowy Mt Fletcher at the head of Godley River Valley.

NW: N of Godley River Valley - Snowy Mt Erebus; snowy Mt Sibbalt; snowy Mt D'Archaic, snowy Mt Gerald above snowy Mt Gerald Station.

N: Snowy Two Thumbs Range, including snowy Mt Chevalier & snowy The Thumbs; snowy Richmond Station & Round Hill ski field below snowy Mt Richmond; snowy Boundary Stream Valley; snowy Mt Ardmore which loomed above Wee McGregor.

Scrutinizing snowy moraine country below snowy Wee McGregor I tried to find the Phantom Lagoon below snowy Mt Ardmore. All I saw were stony bluffs by an icy tributary of Edward Stream.

After descending Wee McGregor, avoiding snow patches if possible, on a Mt Hay stony slope I surprised 3 Himalayan tahr. The maned male bolted round the W flank of Mt Hay. The two females bolted straight up rocky Mt Hay & summited within minutes. The sheep they'd accompanied trotted leisurely downhill.

As Mt Hay Station is a working farm, it's essential to get permission from the owners for any walks & climbs on Mt Hay Station. Food, water & weather proof gear must be backpacked, or the mountains will bite you.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Middle Hut, Mt Hay accommodation (holiday houses).