Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mt Edward, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 075245. 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. Once a week 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, weather permitting.

Mt Hay is on the non tourist, east side of Lake Tekapo. Tourism brings in tourist dollars for NZ, but also brings tourist rubbish & a load of crap. Bus loads of tourists stop at Fairlie & Lake Tekapo for about 15 minutes for queues of tourists to crap at public loos, paid for by rate payers & taxpayers, with little local benefit except for shop keepers & cafes. 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 - fruit peels, paper tissues, plastic packets & bottles. Why don't tourists carry their junk out?

Over the last few months I did 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. 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 hummocks & hollows. 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, sun glasses 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.

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 bites 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 - 700 vertical metres 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 Arm Station, Kirkliston Range, 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, Kaimakamaka, 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 then Hells Gates. Gammack Range towered behind. Northwards across Cass River was Godley Peaks Station, Mt Haszard Ridge & Mt Haszard, then Mt Mistake, which dropped steeply into NW 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, Razor Back, Sibbald Range. NE south of Macaulay River feeding Lake Tekapo: Mt Gerald. NE north of Macaulay River: D'Archaic peak, Mt Chevalier, Mt Ajax, Mt Ross, Electra Peak, The Thumbs, Mt Toby, Captains Peak, Beuzenberg, Stag Saddle, Mt Hope, Braun-Ewart Peak... all 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. Above that lot, I was with the gods. Felt them on my breath too, as the air thinned as it got steeper towards Mt Edward summit bluffs. Those rocky, snowy heights I left for another day.

Walking notes: South to north, Mt Edward west side:

1. Map ref: BY17 038231. 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 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 off my shirt 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 to the Regional Park eastern fence, via grassland on the steep terrace & across dry, hummock country below.

2. Map ref: BY17 047228. 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, moraine 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. The 600 vertical metre ascent took about 1.5 hours. 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 thought the easiest way to summit Mt Edward was to climb one of the two southern ridges from Sawdon homestead, with farmer's permission.

Running out of time, I quickly descended the next west facing slope by the steep border fence to Edward Stream, Mt Hay Station side. My reasoning: If fencers went that way, so could I. Descent time: 1 hour. I returned to the Regional Park, crossing Edward Stream again & via 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 easily seen from a far distance, like Mt John top, rather than close up, while slogging up Mt Edward.

3. Map ref: BY17 051246. 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. Map ref: BY17  067243. 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, a dangerous manoeuvre, then to the first rocky outcrop, about 900 m elevation. 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 rocky outcrop about 1000 m elevation. 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 elevation.

I looked at two sheep staring at me from rocks above & a Himalayan tahr & her kid which wandered by on the same rock. The nanny 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. Map ref: BY17 063258. March 2015. Middle west facing ridge of Mt Edward up to 1300 m: As before 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. Hunters would be hard pressed shooting that wallaby living in an inaccessible, high place.

6. Map ref: BY17 063269. 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 is easily 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 small 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 steep climb past greywacke bluffs to Mt Edward summit. It was 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.

7. May 2015. Edward Stream below Mt Edward northern ridge: After my climbs on Mt Edward ridges, I explored 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 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 from 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, not a good day for mountain views. 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, Mt Maud, 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. The Old Wool Shed area was a vast bog, matrixed by stony islands & streams which I crossed, then slogged westwards over Mt Hay moraine country.

Out of the bog, a farm track took me over moraine hills past Mt Hay homestead, past Roys Lagoon, back to the Regional Park. It rained 2 hours solid, my poncho flapping all the way.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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