Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mount Hay by Lake Tekapo, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 049306. 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, 2003 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. Map ref: BY17 038231.

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.

After passing sheep at the east end of Roys Lagoon, a glacial kettlehole, I wandered up a lateral moraine ridge below Mt Hay southern slope. 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 & across Lake Tekapo.

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 Chevalier, Mt Ajax, Mt Ross, Razor Back & Mt Gerald above McCauley River. Nor' westwards - 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 the NW end of Lake Tekapo.

Southwards I saw Mt Hay 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. Shelter belts showed Glenmore Station south of Cass River & Godley Peaks Station north of Cass River.

Every day at work Leah saw those peaks around Lake Tekapo. Some of her students came from stations around Lake Tekapo.

I'd summited Mt Hay in 3 hours, about 400 vertical metres. 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 scab weed & scattered mats of tiny, yellow Raoulia daisies, covering rocks. There were also stunted matagouri & porcupine bushes on the summit. Brown skinks scuttled on the ground.

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 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.

Permission from station owners & hill walking fitness is needed. 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 my walking stick was useful for support & fending off prickly matagouri & briar roses. During my 6 hour tramp I drank 1.5 litres Coca Cola (for sugar content & water) & a half litre water. I was still dehydrated afterwards. As the station has stock paddocks, I crossed many fences & farm gates.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Mount Michael, Allandale near Fairlie

Map ref: BY18 297206. 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 cell phone 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 Fairlie. 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 Mt 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, Stoneleigh Saddle, Mt Richmond, 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.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.