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:
TO PUT ON RECORD THAT
MICHAEL JOHN BURKE
GRADUATE OF DUBLIN UNIVERSITY
AND THE FIRST OCCUPIER OF
ENTERED THIS PASS, KNOWN TO THE
MAORIS AS TE KORI OPIHI
-------- // -------
O YE WHO ENTER THE PORTALS OF THE
MACKENZIE TO FOUND HOMES, TAKE
THE WORD OF A CHILD OF THE MISTY
GORGES AND PLANT FOREST TREES
FOR YOUR LIVES: SO SHALL YOUR
MOUNTAIN FACINGS AND RIVER FLATS
BE PRESERVED TO YOUR CHILDREN'S
CHILDREN AND FOREVER MORE.
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.