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.

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 3 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, norwester 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. whale 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 Takapo, 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 Gamack 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 west 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).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mt Dobson SW Ridge, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

May 2015. The easiest way to climb Mt Dobson's SW ridge is from Mt Hay Station, rising from the east shore of Lake Tekapo. Otherwise its a long trek from Fairlie along SH8, up to Mt Dobson ski field, then westwards across Mt Dobson summit 2095 m to the SW ridge. Permission must be obtained from Mt Hay Station owners for any climbs or walks on Mt Hay Station as it is a private sheep station.

From Lake Tekapo town, about 8 kms along Lilybank Rd, I parked my car at Mt Hay Station homestead. I wandered past farm sheds & more housing, then up a steep farm track to the flats, through sheep paddocks to the lower southern slopes of Mt Hay 1174 m. Mt Hay SW lower slopes, moraine country, must be crossed before one reaches Mt Dobson SW ridge across Edward Stream watershed below Mt Hay, Wee McGregor 1146 m, Mt Ardmore 2003 m, Mt Dobson, Mt Maud 1797 m & Mt Edward 1916 m.

I'd wandered into the watershed, which locals call the Old Wool Shed, on another rainy walk up Edward Stream below Mt Edward. This time I headed straight up moraine, hummock country above farm flats till I found a farm track which took me down to Edward Stream watershed. Since my last wander on Mt Hay Station, first winter snows had fallen leaving a couple of cms of patchy snow wherever I wandered. It took me about 1 hour to reach Edward Stream from the homestead.

I crossed Edward Stream & followed a snowy, farm road zig-zagging up Mt Dobson SW ridge to the end of the road. Easier said than done, as it would be another 2 hours hard slog up the snowy road before I reached the end at about 1300 m. The road crossed terraces after Edward Stream then went up a valley with Mt Dobson SW ridge on the left & Mt Edward, then Mt Maud on the right, with Tekapo Saddle 1387 m joining Mt Maud & Mt Dobson at the head of the valley. Several tributary streams fed Edward Stream which braided southwards past Mt Edward through Mt Hay Station & Sawdon Station towards SH 8.

The farm road was easy at first, but after a farm gate it became steeper, as it passed 3 rocky outcrops above. The fourth rocky outcrop was the end of the road on top of the SW ridge, with the SW ridge continuing another 800 m up to Mt Dobson summit. I'd followed sheep dog tracks & sheep tracks on the snowy road, as the autumn muster was completed days ago.

The end of the road was worth the climb for the views alone: Snowy Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, eastwards behind me. Snowy Mt Dobson above & The Knobbies 2050 m & Mt Ardmore forming a steep valley westwards & below. I didn't stay long as an icy wind blew up the the snowy, western valley, numbing my mittened fingers. Across the icy valley I saw another zig-zag, farm road going up Mt Ardmore's southern ridge, which I resolved to climb another day.

The walk was about 14 km according to my Topo 50 map & took me 6 hours, hill walking fit. Food & water needs to be carried & all weather gear is essential, as the weather changes quickly in the mountains.

Seen from the top of Mt Hay or the top of Wee McGregor, Mt Dobson SW ridge is a rocky ridge with a north facing, warm aspect. Mt Dobson SW ridge sticks out southwards way beyond the southern end of Mt Ardmore. Mt Maud behind looms above Mt Dobson SW Ridge.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mt Edward, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

From our Fairlie rental, every day I see the east summit of Mt Edward, 1916 m. During winters Mt Edward is snow capped. During summers Mt Edward is dry and harsh, upper ridges covered in snow tussock, with dangerous slips & scree slopes going up to the summit. Likewise northwards, Mt Maud 1797 m, Tekapo Saddle 1387 m, Mt Dobson 2064 m, Mt Ardmore 2003 m.

Most school days Leah busses to & from Lake Tekapo School where she teaches. On Tuesdays I drive Leah to and from school. As Leah teaches with one of the owners of Mt Hay Station, situated below western slopes of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson & Mt Ardmore, I'm privileged to wander Mt Hay Station on Tuesdays, weather permitting.

I say privileged as Mt Hay is on the non tourist, east side of Lake Tekapo. Tourism brings in tourist dollars for NZ but also brings tourist rubbish. Whenever I climb Mt John, 1031 m, west side of Lake Tekapo I'm disgusted by tourist rubbish discarded on the path up Mt John - paper tissues, plastic packets & bottles. Gotta ask why sloppy tourists can't carry their junk out?

Over the last few months I've done several walks at Mt Hay Station from Lake Tekapo Regional Park. Time wise I'm limited to about 6 hours walking, after dropping Leah off at school before 9 am & picking her up at 3.30 pm. I park my car below plantation pines & climb over a locked gate at the top of Ebenezer Ln, at the south border fence between Mt Hay Station & the Regional Park.

At the top of the Regional Park, Sawdon Station borders the eastern fence of the Regional Park. Most of Mt Edward's steep SW ridge lours above Edward Stream braiding though Sawdon Station towards SH8. Both sides of Edward Stream have swamps & broken cliffs which must be crossed before any Mt Edward slopes can be climbed. Stream is a misnomer, as it is braided & several hundred metres wide in places. Fortunately whenever I crossed Edward Stream the braided river was ankle deep.

Mt Edward Stream below Mt Edward, is about 1.5 hours walk from the Regional Park over ancient, glacial moraine, broken country - stony hills & valleys. On the stations there're farm tracks going to Edward Stream. I usually walked the farm track from the Regional Park, winding north eastwards, past low hills, tarns, 3 farm gates & fencing, till I reached Edward Stream below Mt Edward's 3 west facing ridges. The farm tracks made it easier to avoid riverside cliffs.

I backpacked all-weather gear (jersey, parka, gloves, beanie) with chocolate bars, biltong, mandarins & 3 litres of fizzy drink for water / sugar content. During hot weather, in six hours I drank about 2 litres, during colder weather, I drank about 1 litre. I also backpacked a poncho, space blanket & plastic tarp for safety against exposure. Tarp rope, matches & whistle too, just in case.

Permission is required from station owners before walking, as farmers don't like their sheep being disturbed. There's also the dangers of mixing walkers with legitimate hunters, or vermin poisoners, or poachers. A pack of farm dogs - some are friendly, some aren't, so beware!

Although easily seen in the distance from Lake Tekapo town or the top of Mt John, Mt Edward is remote. On all my walks I saw no one, just sheep, rabbits & the occasional wallaby & Himalayan tahr on high slopes. For safety, I couldn't afford a locator beacon, but told Leah where I was going according to my Topo 50 map. Cell texting was patchy, as I could send & receive messages on high slopes, but couldn't send or receive texts in river valleys, or near blocking hills.

If I got stuck in a bog or broke a limb, I was on my own. So I was careful where I stepped, as Mackenzie Country is riddled with millions of rabbit holes. Mt Edward's steep, rocky slopes are dangerous due to loose stones from ice shattered greywacke. In winter, I disliked slippery ice & avoided deep snow walks. Crunchy snow, 1 - 2 cm deep, no problem. My strong walking stick was needed as support on steep slopes & crossing streams & bogs. I avoided all slips & there are many on Mt Edward. Hill walking fitness is essential, or the mountain will bite your ass.

The higher I climbed Mt Edward western slopes the better Alpine views. Mt Edward Stream was about 700 m elevation, my starting point up Mt Edward. I tried to be about 1300 m - 1400 m height by midday, then returned as it was about 3 hours walk back to my car. Thus I climbed about 600 m - 700 m before midday. A couple of times I climbed till 12.30 pm, if I thought it was safe to return in less than 3 hours, fast walking on the "flats" closer to Mt Hay homestead. During brief stops I caught my breath, drank & took pics either by cell phone or camera. I scoffed my food while walking as too many stops wasted climbing time. Views depended on cloud cover, wind, or rain. Views from Mt Edward western slopes:

South down Edward Stream towards SH 8: Sawdon Hill west side of Mt Edward Stream. The tapering length of of Mt Edward SW ridge & beyond across Mackenzie basin past Rollesby Range, Grampian Range, Greys Hills to Haldon Station, Waitaki Basin & Otago Alps.

South west across Mt Hay Station & Lake Tekapo to Lake Tekapo town & beyond across Mackenzie Basin to Old Man Range, Mary Range & Ben Ohau range & its mighty peaks: Mt Mackenzie, Razorback, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner & more to Mt Sealy. Mt Sefton was obscured by Braemar Dome & Mt Stevenson.

Westwards across Motuariki Island on Lake Tekapo, Mt Joseph loomed above Glenmore Station on the west side of Lake Tekapo between Fork River in the south & Cass River northwards. Behind Mt Joseph was Mt Joseph Ridge forming part of Hells Gates. Gammack Range towered behind. Northwards across Cass River was Mt Hazard then Mt Mistake which dropped steeply into northern Lake Tekapo. On a cloudless day, snowy Mt Cook & Mt Tasman summits were seen behind Gammack Range.

NW beyond Godley River feeding Lake Tekapo: Mt Fletcher at Godley Valley head, Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbalt, Mt D'Archaic, Mt Gerald & The Thumbs, part of Two Thumbs Range sweeping SE back to Mt Hay.

SE back to Mt Hay: Mt Richmond & Round Hill Ski Field, Mt Ardmore, The Knobbies, Mt Dobson. Mt Maud. Mt Edward, with Mt Hay & Wee McGregor on the east side of Lake Tekapo below Mt Ardmore.

I used Sawdon Hill 1026 m, Mt John 1031 m, Mt Hay 1174 m & Wee McGregor 1146 m, as my climbing markers. When I could see above that lot in the distance I knew I was up with the gods. I could feel them on my breath too, as the air was thinner while it got steeper towards Mt Edward's summit bluffs. I'd leave those rocky, snowy heights for a longer walking day, perhaps never?

Walking notes from south to north along the west side of Mt Edward:

1. December 2014. Sawdon Hill 1026 m, on the west side of Edward Stream & Mt Edward: Sawdon Hill can be seen from SH8 on the way to Lake Tekapo, after driving over Edward Stream bridge. A pine forest is on the left side of SH8 & wilding pines on Sawdon side of the road were recently axed, enabling better views of Sawdon Hill & Mt Edward.

Sawdon Hill is terraced, rising to an undulating summit ridge overlooking Edward Stream. When looking at Mt Edward from Lake Tekapo town one hardly notices Sawdon Hill, as Mt Edward's SW ridge forms a vast wall behind it.

From the Regional Park I wandered Edward Stream farm track on Mt Hay Station, till the first farm gate by tarns, then near the second farm gate I forked right to Mt Hay / Sawdon border fence. I crossed the fence into Sawdon, climbed up to a Sawdon farm road which took me up to the terrace. I wandered across lush terrace grassland, then headed straight up Sawdon Hill to the summit. It was a hot summer's morn, so I took my shirt off on top & admired the views. I added a stone to the small cairn on top.

From Sawdon Hill top I saw a green lagoon below, at a bend in Edward Stream. The lagoon was formed by riverside cliff erosion. Valley tarn waters fed it too.

I wandered down the summit ridge then returned, cross country to the Regional Park eastern fence, via grassland on the steep terrace & across dry, broken country below.

2. March 2015. 1300 m saddle on SW ridge of Mt Edward, which sloped south to SH8: I left Mt Hay river track after the first farm gate & tarns & followed willows by tarns down a shallow valley to the lagoon below Sawdon Hill. By March, summer drought had dried out the lagoon, so I had the option of walking a farm track over a low hill to Edward Stream, or crossing the dry lagoon to reach Edward Stream. I did the latter, looped round eroded cliffs, crossed Edward Stream & negotiated the steep rocky, river bank below a Mt Edward slope on the SW ridge.

Sawdon Station side, one slope south of the boundary fence, I climbed the steep, stony slope, avoiding slips both sides of the slope. Once I was above the slips I sidled past a patch of matagouri till I reached the saddle top by border fences in snow tussock. I looked over the saddle to Dead Mans Creek below & beyond to the SE ridge of Mt Edward, a higher ridge, which sloped south towards SH8 too.

Mt Edward summit northwards from the saddle along the ridge was about 600 m higher, a long way to go. I'd save that for another day with an earlier start. I thought the easiest way to summit Mt Edward was to wander up one of the two southern ridges from Sawdon homestead, with permission of course.

As I was running out of time I quickly descended the next slope by the steep border fence to Edward Stream, Mt Hay Station side. My reasoning: If fencers could go that way, so could I. I descended in an hour. The approx 600 m slope ascent took about 1.5 hours. I returned to the Regional Park via Edward Stream again and the farm road over the low riverside hill.

I saw a horizontal fault line on Mt Edward W slopes at about 1200 m elevation, crossing slope after slope, signified by water seepage & luxuriant matagouri or snow tussock in a horizontal line, hundreds of metres along the west side of Mt Edward. Most of the slips on Mt Edward W side started below that horizontal fault line. God help anyone on Mt Edward should a quake strike, as above that fault line were masses of greywacke bluffs, angled skywards. The horizontal fault line is easier seen from a far distance, rather than closeup, while slogging up Mt Edward.

3. March 2015. Up a triangular shaped, west facing slope by a slip on Mt Edward's SW ridge, up to 1300 m: I left the farm track near the second farm gate, wandered across low moraine hills & found another farm track down to Edward Stream. I crossed Edward Stream by a willowy swamp & found Edward Stream disappeared underground near an island willow.

After following sheep tracks up the cliff on the other side of Edward Stream, I followed the slip crest up the steep triangular face of the slope. Like all Mt Edward lower slopes, the slope I climbed was a series of giant steps over eroded, shattered greywacke. I climbed to a huge rock & admired the view on top. From distant Lake Tekapo town or the top of Mt John, the rock can be seen as a black dot high on the west side of Mt Edward's SW ridge. One of many greywacke outcrops on Mt Edward slopes. After snows, the rocky outcrops above 1200 m are easily seen.

4. February, March 2015. West facing ridge of Mt Edward up to 1300 m: Mt Edward has 3 west facing ridges which form two steep valleys & a couple of tributary streams for Edward Stream. I made two attempts on the southern most ridge.

During February I wandered the full length of the farm track from the Regional Park till the road petered out at Edward Stream below Mt Edward. I wandered northwards along Edward Stream a bit, past willows, till I came to a gully where a tributary creek trickled into Edward Stream. There I had the option of following the creek through prickly matagouri into the valley, or following a farm track between the creek & a long slip carved by the tributary streams on the south side of the valley. Above the slip a plateau went up to two rocky outcrops higher up the ridge.

I followed the steep road over some of the slip. It was a mistake that hot February morning, as the valley boxed me in with a waterfall at the end of the slip. Near the waterfall, I climbed the end of the slip to the plateau, then to the first rocky outcrop, about 900 m. By then I'd had enough February heat & descended to my car via the plateau, Edward Stream & the farm track.

In cooler March I returned & climbed the easier plateau above Edward Stream, through snow tussock on the plateau to the first rocky outcrop, then to the second rock outcrop about 1000 m. I continued climbing over shattered greywacke above a high, hidden slip, till I came through snow tussock to broken fencing of an old sheep corral, 1300 m.

I looked at two sheep staring at me from rocks above & a Himalayan tahr & her kid which wandered by on the same rock. The tahr ignored me. At that point I looked at the other 2 west facing ridges & their steep slopes ascending rocky outcrops & scree to Mt Edward summit. I turned back, as the ridge I was on became steeper & rockier & I was running out of time.

5. March 2015. Middle west facing ridge of Mt Edward up to 1300 m: As usual I crossed Edward Stream & wandered up the matagouri gully, criss-crossing the tributary stream to the middle west facing ridge ascending to Mt Edward summit. A small triangular slip at the confluence of two tributary streams was bordered by matagouri north side & a dangerous, stony slip south side. I scrambled up the north side to begin my climb up the middle ridge. While wandering the top edge of the slip I saw a wallaby bounding up the tributary stream between the middle ridge & the north ridge.

The middle ridge took me up several steep, ice shattered, stony steps till I reached snow tussock overlooking a scree slope between the north & middle ridge & the high slip between the middle & southern most ridge. I stopped briefly for lunch & pics at a small, rocky plateau, about 1300 m. From that point I was above the waterfall beside the big slip & the two rocky outcrops I'd sidled past on another climb up the southern most ridge. (See 4 above). I turned back at that plateau, as greywacke outcrops became more numerous & steeper towards Mt Edward Summit.

On my descent to Edward Stream the wallaby bounded down the northern ridge as if expecting my return. I thought hunters would be hard pressed shooting that wallaby living in such an inaccessible, high place.

6. May 2015. Mt Edward northern ridge, up to 1400 m, the last / first of the west facing ridges, a barrier between Mt Edward & Mt Maud. From SH8, the northern ridge can easily be seen, sticking out westwards at a great right angle to the rest of Mt Edward:

I crossed Edward Stream again by a west bank cliff. The northern ridge fell a couple of hundred metres down to Edward Stream, as a massive triangular slip, about 1 km long at the hypotenuse by Edward Stream. From the gully tributary creek, I climbed the side of the northern ridge, which ascended a series of steps over ice shattered greywacke & higher up through snow tussock. Below 1400 m elevation, I sidled across a minor slip until I reached old fencing at a ridge top plateau, 1400 m.

I didn't continue along the ridge plateau as it started the really steep climb past greywacke bluffs to Mt Edward summit. It was also 12.30 pm, time to turn back. I had lunch & took pics of magnificent Alpine views. Despite fair weather, the west wind blowing from the Alps soon chilled me.

A week later first winter snows, down to 800 m, covered all the Mt Edward climbs I did over the last few months. A month later, 18 June, a heavy snowfall covered Mt Edward & nearby mountains from summits to Lake Tekapo shores. Avalanche time. No more mountain walks for me till spring.

7. May 2015. Edward Stream below Mt Edward northern ridge: After my climbs on Mt Edward ridges & slopes it was time to explore Edward Stream below Mt Edward northern ridge. As usual I walked the 1.5 hour farm track to Edward Stream below Mt Edward. I wandered northwards in the stony river bed, avoiding both sides of Edward Stream, as on the west side there were broken cliffs & on the east side loomed the sheer face of the end of Mt Edward northern ridge.

From the south, low cloud scudded up Edward Stream valley below Mt Edward. Braided Edward Stream was still ankle deep in places, so I zig-zagged over bogs & islands for about 1 km till I reached the end of Mt Edward at what Mt Hay Station owners call the Old Wool Shed, I didn't see an old wool shed, but I saw a vast watershed where streams drained ridges & valleys of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson, The Knobbies, Mt Ardmore, Mt Hay & Wee McGregor.

In the Old Wool Shed area it began to rain so it wasn't a good day for mountain viewing. To stay dry, I fished out my plastic poncho from my backpack. My Topo 50 map showed 3 Edward Stream tributaries: 1. An NE tributary drained waters from Mt Edward, Tekapo Saddle & Mt Dobson. 2. A NW tributary drained waters from Mt Dobson, The Knobbies & Mt Ardmore. 3. A W tributary drained waters from Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore & associated lateral moraine hummocks. In reality the Old Wool Shed area was a vast bog matrixed by stony islands & streams which I crossed as I slogged westwards over Mt Hay moraine country.

Out of the bog, I found a farm track which took me over moraine hills past Mt Hay homestead, past Roys Lagoon, back to the Regional Park. It rained 2 hours solid on my return.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

CERA, No Unauthorised Access, No Dumping, Post Quakes Disaster

Although we'd lived in Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo & Fairlie for over a year, we regularly returned to Christchurch for Leah to deal with professional matters & for us to visit our sons. I kept up with post quake Christchurch by following the news & visiting Christchurch suburbs when time allowed.

Saturday 28.02.15. While Leah lectured teachers in Ashburton, I drove to Christchurch to see our sons. Luke showed me various residential red zone, demolition sites near Avon River, where he'd done salvage jobs - Kate Sheppard Rest Home, New Brighton & various house demolition sites in Bexley.

CERA had left New Brighton & Bexley red zone a mess with overgrown demolition sites & trashed roads. Demolition disaster upon quake disaster. South Brighton Bridge was finally repaired by SCIRT, but Pages Rd Bridge was still patch repaired, like New Brighton roads.

CERA wasn't saying what the Crown would do with approx 8000 red zone, residential properties, mostly beside Avon River, CERA had acquired from citizens under quake duress.

Saturday 28.03.15. While Leah attended a function at Seabrook Mackenzie Centre, London St, celebrating the first 10 years of Jean Seabrook Memorial School there (Leah taught there the first 9 years) I took a closer look at the residential red zone along Avon River where I'd taken 1000s of pics during quake times. I drove the following red zone roads & environs, both sides of Avon River: Avonside Dr, Avon Loop where Jake had lived pre quakes; River Rd; Dallington Tce; Glenarm Tce, Locksley Ave, Kingsford St, Queensbury St, Avonside Dr...

Suffice to say most of the houses & commercial bldgs in the red zone had been demolished by CERA. A few houses still had to be demolished. They were boarded, fence cordoned & danger taped, some with asbestos warning tapes.

Tress & shrubs had been left alone by CERA, but most of the red zone was overgrown, Some areas had been mown & some areas fenced off to give a pseudo parkland effect, but most of the residential red zone along Avon River was unfenced. The following white & black sign was attached to red zone fencing:

           NO
UNAUTHORISED
       ACCESS

   NO DUMPING

                  CERA

Like Pages Rd Bridge, Swanns Rd Bridge was just patch repaired & neglected by CERA / SCIRT, although good citizens of Christchurch were expected by CERA / SCIRT to still use those bridges. What a disgrace more than 4 years post 22.02.11 quake! SCIRT had repaired abutments at Stanmore Rd Bridge & Avondale Rd Bridge. There were detours along Dallington Tce & Avonside Dr, as Gayhurst Rd Bridge was in the process of being repaired by SCIRT.

All red zone roads were in appalling disrepair - huge potholes, loose shingle & flooding in places where high tide, Avon River leaked under so-called stopbanks.

CERA had evolved new orange & black signs to stop people entering some red zone areas. The signs stood on some red zone roads with obstructing fencing across roads. The signs read:

   AUTHORISED
VEHICLES ONLY

PEDESTRIAN CYCLIST
   AND AUTHORISED
VEHICLE ACCESS ONLY

For information
0800 ring CERA
info@cera.govt.nz

                              CERA

At Horseshoe Lake, I ignored a couple of those signs on Kingsford St, as I wanted to see the red zone at the end of the road, where I'd snapped pics post 13.06.11 quake. On the way I passed 2 NZDF jeeps & a Unimog parked on a side road.

At the end of Kingsford St, I was confronted by two camouflage-uniformed soldiers toting automatic rifles. I signalled a turnabout sign & drove off. Gotta ask why CERA allowed war games in the red zone still? (A couple of years ago cops had played cops & robbers at Horseshoe Lake red zone too). And deputy mayor Buck was in denial that Christchurch didn't look like a war zone. Tramp the residential red zone Buck!

By New Brighton Rd / Locksley Ave junction, a blue & white CERA sign by a red zone fence read:

                        CROWN OWNED LAND
                           CLEARANCE IN THE
                      RESIDENTIAL RED ZONE

Where possible we will keep significant planting. We are
aiming to create a safe and attractive area that is easy
to maintain until decisions are made about future land use.

                                                                                CERA

Sunday 29.03.15. When we picked up firewood at Luke's salvage yard, Dyers Rd, a broken-down car was parked under gum trees by Bromley oxidation ponds. A black Staffordshire terrier was locked in the car. A note on the car window read:

BROKE
BROKEN
HOMELESS

Luke told us the car had been there a couple of days & an Irishman slept in it. He was a construction worker & had fallen on hard times during Christchurch rebuild. So much for CERA's rebuild! He was an eloquent man. Leah gave him food.

Before we left for Fairlie, Luke showed us rimu flooring & wooden arched windows salvaged from Isaac Theatre Royal, Gloucester St, after the theatre's makeover.

Content Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Tourism body Christchurch looks like a war zone (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Construction site look reflects rebirth Vicky Buck (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Bexley suburb returns to nature (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Army exercises upsets Christchurch red zoners (The Press / Stuff Co).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mount Hay by Lake Tekapo, Mackenzie Country

Mount Hay is a vast sheep station on the east side of Lake Tekapo, bounded by Boundary Stream & Richmond Station in the north, Mt Ardmore, 1989 m & Mt Edward 1916 m in the east, Sawdon Station & Lake Tekapo Regional Park in the south. In the middle of Mount Hay Station is Mt Hay itself, 1174 m & next to it Wee McGregor 1146 m, below soaring Two Thumbs Range.

Since our arrival at Lake Tekapo over a year ago, I'd mingled with tourists climbing Mt John 1031 m, rising above the opposite shore of Lake Tekapo & from its heights plotted my route up Mt Hay, from a distance. Leah worked with one of the owners of Mount Hay station who welcomed me to wander Mount Hay Station.

I did a couple of Mount Hay recce walks in December 2014, to a lateral moraine ridge above Edward Stream below Mt Edward & in Sawdon Station, up steep Sawdon Hill 1026 m, also above Edward Stream.

Tues 10.02.15, 9 am. Although drought time, it was time to climb Mt Hay. After dropping Leah off at Lake Tekapo School, I parked my car at the bottom of Ebenezer Ln, off Lilybank Rd, in the Regional Park. I wandered through a pine forest to Mount Hay Station gate, then wandered between 2 dry, stony hills past a dry dam. I wandered round a hill on a farm track & continued along the farm track towards dry Mt Edward. There'd been little rain over the past couple of months so the land was dry.

As my average tramping speed is about 3 km / hour, I gave myself 6 hours to complete Mt Hay climb & return circuit, before fetching Leah at 3.30 pm after school. From my Lake Tekapo Topo 50 map, I guesstimated my return trek to be 20 km, about 12 miles.

Continuing towards Mt Edward, I passed through a farm gate & passed several dry tarns beneath willows. Sheep, ducks & Canada geese scratched for water in the dry tarns. When I'd passed that way in December, the tarns were full. Later on I saw filled water troughs for sheep.

At the second farm gate, I changed direction away from Mt Edward & headed cross-country towards Mt Hay. There were brown rabbits of course, bounding away from me every now & again. Despite ubiquitous Pindone poisoning signs, like the rest of Mackenzie Country, Mount Hay Station was riddled with rabbit warrens. I'd seen them on Cowans Hill at Lake Tekapo, at Sawdon Station & Balmoral Station when I'd climbed Mt John. Wherever I wandered in Mackenzie Country, like Alice, I had to beware of falling down the rabbit hole.

After passing sheep at the east end of Roys Lagoon, a glacial kettlehole, I wandered below a lateral moraine ridge on Mt Hay southern slope, up a small lateral moraine. It was stony, with occasional large rocks on top, bulldozed by ancient glaciers. By one of the bigger rocks I found an A shaped rock shelter, big enough for a couple of sheep to shelter from stormy weather. I wondered who'd placed the floor stones in the shelter. Ancient Maori?

I came across another farm road & followed the stony road through glacial, dry, hummock country to a stony saddle on the east side of Mt Hay. Beyond the saddle, the road disappeared in the distance to the east of Wee McGregor up a Mt Ardmore ridge. Further east-nor'east, I saw Mt Maude 1797 m, Tekapo Saddle 1387 m & Mt Dobson 2095 m, merging northwards into the Two Thumbs Range.

From Mt Hay saddle I climbed the stony west ridge, which undulated at first, then swept nor'westwards up to Mt Hay summit. I wouldn't have liked to be on that exposed ridge when the nor' wester blew from Mt Cook summit, across Mt Stevenson, Gammack Range & Hall Range in the west.

Magnificent, 360 degree views on top of Mt Hay: East & west peaks already mentioned. Further south west, Ben Ohau Range looming above Old Man Range, Mary Range & Benmore. Further nor'east, Round Hill ski field below Mt Richmond. Looking northwards & nor'westwards, more peaks - Two Thumbs & Mt Gerald above McCauley River. Nor' westwards - Mt Chevalier, Mt Sibbald, Mt Erebus above Godley River. Both rivers fed Lake Tekapo. At the head of Godley River I saw distant Mt Fletcher. At the edge of the Hall Range, Mt Mistake loured above Lake Tekapo.

Southwards I saw farm bldgs & shelter belts & beyond to the Regional Park & Sawdon Station. In front of Mt Hay, westwards across Lake Tekapo, I saw Motuariki Island & behind the western shore, Cass River delta feeding Lake Tekapo from western ranges.

Of course, every day at work Leah saw many of the peaks around Lake Tekapo. Some of her students came from stations around Lake Tekapo.

I'd summited Mt Hay in 3 hours. A couple of aerials fastened to poles were on top, one had a solar panel facing west. There was also a pyramid structure made from metal rods on top.

On the summit, amongst low-lying, sparse, Alpine vegetation, I saw scattered, green, vegetable sheep & scattered mats of tiny, yellow daisies, 2 species. There were also stunted matagouri & porcupine bushes on the summit. Brown skinks scuttled on the ground too.

From Mt Hay summit a tussock slope went down behind the stony ridge, Down the tussock slope, I followed a fence back to the ridge, where the fence crossed the ridge. I retraced my path down the ridge to the saddle again.

I walked the gravel road a bit & descended Mt Hay lower, south western slope through matagouri. On the flats I passed mobs of sheep in various paddocks. I wandered past a hill bounding the western end of Roys Lagoon. I greeted a bloke driving a truck, laying new shingle on farm roads. I crossed a hot, dry valley, eroded by overgrazing & rabbit warrens & crossed a hot, dry tarn back to my car. My return trek took me 3 hours.

Caution. Mountains are unforgiving. Permission from station owners & hill walking fitness is essential. A cloudless day, I got sun burnt, as most of the natural terrain is treeless & desert like. I walked in closed shoes, shorts, shirt & hat. I backpacked water, food, longs, jersey, all weather parka, plastic mackintosh & space blanket. I cell phoned Leah from Mt Hay summit & took cell phone pics. On steep bits a walking stick would've been useful for support & fending off prickly bushes. During my 6 hour tramp I drank 1.5 litres Coca Cola (for sugar content & water) & a half litre water. I still felt dehydrated afterwards. As the station has stock paddocks, I crossed many fences & farm gates.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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

Mount Michael, Allandale near Fairlie

We know South African expats who own a hilltop house on Mt Michael, close to Farm Barn Cafe, about 8 kms drive from Fairlie. Backing the house, a new stand of Oregon Pine, Psudotsuga menziesii was planted below a mature stand of  Pinus radiata, If a fire ever started in the pines, the house would go up in smoke. The hilltop house had panoramic views - Mt Fox in the west, Devils Peak & Blue Mountain in the east.

Mon 09.02.15. I parked my car by the hilltop house on Mt Michael, as I wanted to walk along the flat top of Mt Michael to 2 Telecom cellphone masts, about halfway along the top. At the back of the house I climbed through the Oregon pine plantation. Some of the topmost Oregon pine plantings were dried out by a wind funnel caused by the mature Pinus radiata trees. Grass was flattened on top too, giving a crop circle effect - swirled, flattened grass.

I climbed over a fence at the top & sidled along another fence by the pines, overlooking red deer in the steep paddock below, until I reached another fence to be climbed, by a paddock spotted with gorse. Thereafter the walk was straight forward, through paddocks, past 2 hilltop pines, to a wooden stock pen. near the Telecom gravel road.

Alpine views were magnificent with Fairlie centre stage, part surrounded by low Brothers Range east, higher Albury Range west & Mt Michael itself north east, about the same height as Brothers Range. In the distance below low cloud, I saw a helicopter whopping above the gravel road going up Middle Valley from Raincliffs. I was higher than the helicopter. In the north, Opuha dam was low due to low summer rains.

It was harvest time below with golden wheat fields & hay fields drying out, both sides of Mt Michael, some fields already harvested with hay bales dotting the landscape. Beyond low ranges, south eastwards were high Alpine peaks: Mt Nimrod on the way to Timaru, Mt Nessing closer to Faitlie. Albury Range obscuring Mackenzie Pass between Dalgety Range & unseen Rollesby Range.

At the other end of Albury Range, westwards I saw Burkes Pass winding towards Mnt Maude & distant Mt Edward. Most days, Leah bussed Burkes Pass to teach at Lake Tekapo School. Viewing northwards across Tekapo Saddle, I saw Mt Dobson, Mt Ardmore, then Mt Fox Range, snowless in sunny February. In the north was Butlers Saddle & High Claytons going east to Blue Mountain, Devils Peak & Mt Walker. We twisted past those last 3 mountains, on our drive down Mt Michael, whenever we drove to Geraldine.

Upon reaching the stock pens. I went up the gravel road to the Telcom masts & enjoyed the views both sides of Mt Michael. I didn't go further along Mt Michael top, as I didn't want to disturb sheep in one of the paddocks,

I quickly returned to my car at the hilltop house, as Pacific low clouds scudded up the valleys, both sides of Brothers Range - Middle Valley & the valley going down to Timaru. Half an hour later, by the time I got to my car it was raining. The first decent rain, after hot & dry December - January days.

Content copyright Mark JS Esslemont

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Raincliff Forest Tracks

Flanking Middle Valley Rd, Raincliff Forest is about 17 kms from Fairlie, in hilly farmland below Southern Alps.

At Raincliff Forest carpark, a Blakely Pacific Limited sign board stated:

Originally planted around 1890 this 84 hectare forest is a managed unit now owned and operated by Blakely Pacific Limited.

It is Blakely Pacific's intention that harvesting and replanting will continue to recognise and preserve the unique character of this forest.

The forest contains a wide variety of exotic trees and you are invited to wander the marked walkways throughout this area...

The sign board showed the following Raincliff Forest tracks:

Hoare Track 60 mins
Mackay Track 40 mins
Johnson Track 15 mins
Burnetts Track 10 mins
Burkes Track 10 mins

Below Middle Valley Rd, a dirt road, Leah & I wandered part of Hoare Track, near Raincliff Stream. We also wandered Burnetts Track & Burkes Track which joined Hoare Track. Although a hot summer's day, mature forest gave us shade. Bobbing fantails entertained us in the understory when they flew around us checking us out.

Some mature, exotic trees we noted in Raincliff Forest:

* Redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum
* Norway spruce, Picea abies
* Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa
* Monterey cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa. Our old walking sticks are homemade Macrocarpa, so we were looking out for fresh windfalls. Prunings we found had lain around a while & were brittle, useless for good walking sticks.
* Oak, Quercus
* Ash, Fraxinus excelsior
* European larch, Larix decidua
* Radial pine, Pinus radiata
* Birch, Pendula
* Gum, Eucalyptus
* Oregon pine, Pseudotsuga menziesii
* Alder & Crack Willow along Raincliff Stream

Kiwis moan about wilding pines in Mackenzie Country. I thought pines were attractive & useful for windbreaks, inhaling carbon & stopping soil erosion. I hated all the Crack Willows polluting NZ river banks & lake shores. Why didn't Kiwis get rid of polluting Willows & replace them with native river trees?

An exotic / native mix of understorey plants in Raincliff Forest:

Exotics.

* Sycamore, Acer pseudplatanus. One of the exotics I loath as it's a prolific seeder.
* Holly, Ilex
* Gorse, Ulex europaeus, some pest sprayed
* Ivy, Hedera
* Blackberry, Rubus fruticosus

Natives.

* Pittosporum eugenoides
* Pittosporum tenuifolium
* Fern species
* Broom, Carmichaelia
* Bush lawyer, Rubus cissoides
* Broadleaf, Griselinia littoralis
* Cabbage tree, Cordyline australis
* Whiteywood, Melicytus ramiflorus
* Wineberry. Aristotelia serrata
* Five finger, Pseudopanax arboreus
* Pepper tree, Horopito, Pseudowintera colorata

Tracks were well maintained, shared-use tracks with MTBs. As it was a hot, nor'wester day we had Raincliff Forest to ourselves.

Four days later we returned to wander Raincliff Forest tracks above Middle Valley Rd. We wandered the other bit of Hoare Track & Mackay Track, which formed a slender figure 8 walk. It took us about 2.5 hours, much longer than the recommended times on the carpark board. Presumably those times were for MTBs. Sometimes an MTB track parallelled the walking track, avoiding many wooden stairs up steep slopes. Besides tall forest trees, there were magnificent views of distant Fox Peak & Devils Peak, seen from the western extremity of Hoare Track.

Content Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.