Monday, November 30, 2015

Mt Richmond, Richmond Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 24.11.15. I parked my car at the gravel pit, about 16 kms along Lilybank Rd, as I wanted to climb Mt Richmond south ridge to the scree line, about 1700 m. Map ref: BY17 104392. The gravel pit was already about 800 m above sea level overlooking Lake Tekapo.

Although Alpine ranges on the west side of Lake Tekapo were rainy, Lake Tekapo & Two Thumbs Range on the east side of Lake Tekapo had no rain. In the east it was an overcast, nor'wester day, cool & perfect for climbing.

On Richmond Station, it took me 2 hours to cross grassy, moraine country, with Boundary Stream on my right, & the north end of Mt Ardmore straight ahead, while I rose 200 vertical metres, over undulating, hummocky country & ancient moraine terraces to a double boundary fence at the last moraine terrace. En route I passed a tarn near a pine tree & crossed several small streams, tributaries of Boundary Stream.

In a valley between the last moraine terrace & the bottom of Mt Richmond, I crossed a DOC path, signified by marker poles with orange, plastic sleeves on top. By that stage I was about as high as Mt John, approx 1000 m.

My ascent up Mt Richmond south ridge to scree at 1700 m rose 700 vertical metres in 5 giant steps through tussock land, Spaniards & Alpine cushion plants. On top of the fourth giant step I sidled east, past a rocky outcrop, as I was nervous of lightning strikes due to low cloud over Lake Tekapo & Mt Richmond. My sidle took me up the fifth giant step to scree & patches of summer snow. My ascent up Mt Richmond south ridge took me 2.5 hours, up the 5 giant, tussocky steps.


S: I had clear views of Wee McGregor & Mt Hay.
SE: On my way up, glimpses of Boundary Stream & the gorge below Mt Ardmore.
E: North end of Mt Ardmore, The Knobbies & Stoneleigh Saddle. On Mt Richmond scree, I was almost as high as Stoneleigh Saddle in the east.  
SW: Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo, Mt John, a rainbow over Old Mans Range, rain on Ben Ohau Range.
W: Rain on Braemar Dome, other end of the rainbow over Mt Joseph, rainy Cass River Valley, rainy Gammack Range & rainy Hall Range. I was higher than Mt Joseph & could see over the top of Mt Joseph to Joseph Ridge & rainy Hells Gates. Mt Cook Range was obscured by rain cloud. Glenmore Station & Godley Peaks Station by Cass River Delta.
NW: Rainy Godley River Valley & rainy Macaulay River Valley. Glimpses of Mt Erebus, Razorback, Mt Sibbald, Mt D'Archiac.
N: Mt Gerald Station, NE end of Lake Tekapo. Two Thumbs Range, clouds clearing in the east.
NE: On my way up, glimpses of Mt Gerald & Round Hill ski field, N end of Mt Richmond. Mt Richmond rocky summit ridge.

I didn't stay long on Mt Richmond scree, as it was drizzly & time to get off the mountain. My descent & return to my car on Lilybank Rd was quicker - 3 hours.

Walk Summary:

Lilybank Rd to bottom of Mt Richmond: 4.5 kms. 2 hours walking time. 200 vertical metres rise.
Ascent of Mt Richmond: 3 kms. 2,5 hours climb time. 700 vertical metres rise to 1700 m scree.
Descent to Lilybank Rd: 3 hours.
Total distance walked: 15 kms, Total walking / climbing time 7.5 hours. 900 vertical metres rise.

Fitness, all weather gear, food, water, map & emergency gear are essential. Permission for walking / climbing must be obtained from Richmond Station owners as it is a working sheep station.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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. Map ref: BY17 073368

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 & Sibbald 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. Map ref: BY17 109194. 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 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? Never mind wilding pines.

I wandered west 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 River & Tekapo Canal were green slashes 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, climbing about 720 vertical metres.

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. Permission from farmers also needed.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.