Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Phantom Lagoon, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 064329. 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 clockwise, 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 put on 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.

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