Thursday, July 30, 2015

Irishman Creek Station, Mackenzie Country

In 2015 Lake Tekapo School's roll increased. A new student came from Irishman Creek Station off SH8 between Lake Tekapo & Twizel. Before Lake Tekapo School started in 1940, local kids were schooled at Irishman Creek Station.

For some years owners didn't allow public visits to Irishman Creek. With a change of ownership & a new student at Lake Tekapo School, Irishman Creek's new owners were happy to have a Lake Tekapo School excursion at Irishman Creek for the first time in years.

Thursday 30.07.15. A perfect winter's day, frosty, windless, cloudless, with clear views of Mt Cook & the Alps for miles. Parents, staff & students gathered at Irishman Creek below the dam made by Bill Hamilton. Bill grew up at Ashwick near Fairlie then bought Irishman Creek in 1921. Age 13, Bill Hamilton was already generating electricity for his parents' Ashwick Station.

Bill Hamilton was world famous for engineering the first jet boat. He engineered other stuff too, like a mechanical scoop for excavating the dam; a road grader; an ice groomer for a skating rink; WW2 arms, like mortar casings, 303 rifle safety catches, Bren gun carriers... I thought Irishman Creek's Alpine remoteness was a perfect place for arms manufacture. If engineers couldn't hear intruders coming, summer heat or winter cold would get them.

The farmer conducted a tour of Bill Hamilton's Workshop where Bill's inventions were made. We saw a jet boat, various jet boat engines & a road grader displayed in the Workshop, which smelled of ancient grease. We saw various engineering tools, like drills, lathes, a forge & various hand tools. Many men did their engineering apprenticeships under Bill Hamilton's guidance.

Beside the Workshop the farmer conducted us through the noisy Powerhouse, with generator producing off grid electricity for the farm. After constructing the dam, Bill Hamilton piped water from the dam to the generator. Our school students enjoyed seeing the dam inlet pipe causing a small whirlpool in dam waters. On the dam wall, we wandered round the icy dam & saw Bill Hamilton's ice rink below the dam. Bill was a sportsman too, excelling at ice skating, jet boating around the world & overseas motor racing.

We had alfresco lunch by one of the farm houses, which was damaged in recent heavy snows. Freezing water pipes burst, causing flooding in the house, which mucked up the wall to wall carpets. Views from the homestead were magnificent, with Mt Cook in the NW & Mt John, Two Thumbs Range & Mt Edward in the NE.

To finish off the excursion, we returned to Lake Tekapo, where students had an hour's ice skating at the ice rink by Tekapo Springs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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.

See Middle Hut, Mt Hay Station, holiday accommodation (holiday houses).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mt Ardmore South Ridge, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Map ref: BY17 074316. Tuesday 21.07.15. Two kms beyond Mt Hay Station homestead, I parked my car about 10 km along Lilybank Rd below Mt Hay. Since the big snow in June there'd had been light snows, feeding the Alpine watershed around Lake Tekapo. I needed an ice axe to stop me sliding on icy paths, as my macrocarpa walking stick was inadequate for self arresting on ice.

In the crisp, frosty morning, I crunched over frost heave & sidled round the north face of Mt Hay 1174 m, avoiding snow patches, trying to keep my canvas shoes dry. As I wanted to climb the farm track ascending the south ridge of Mt Ardmore 2003 m, I wandered hilly moraine country, keeping Wee McGregor 1146 m on my left, till I came to Edward Stream below Mt Ardmore. Within an hour I'd seen all the mountains found on Mt Hay Station: Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson's SW ridge, Mt Maud's W face, Mt Edward's W face.

Below Wee McGregor's E side, I crossed Edward Stream by a farm fence & began the road ascent on the dry SW side of Mt Ardmore. As soon as the road turned the corner to the E side of the S ridge, I struck snow again, which continued through snow tussock all the way to the summit. The snowy farm track zig-zagged up the S ridge with close up views of Mt Dobson's SW ridge on my right & another Edward Stream tributary below. I'd recently climbed Mt Dobson's SW ridge up to 1300 m, with bone-chilling, icy winds blasting from Mt Ardmore. The higher I climbed the better my views of snowy Mt Maud & Mt Edward in the E.

Looking W in the opposite direction across Lake Tekapo & Motuariki Island, I had views of snowy Mt John, Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Joseph, Joseph Ridge, Hells Gates, Gammack Range behind & NW - Haszard Ridge, Mt Haszard, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak, Mt Fletcher, Mt Erebus, Mt Sibbald & Mt D'Archiac. From S to N, I saw river valleys gathering Alpine waters into Lake Tekapo: Cass River Valley, Mistake River Valley, Godley River Valley, Macaulay River Valley. Mt Cook summit behind the lot was obscured by cloud.

Either side of Cass River near Lake Tekapo W shore, shelter belts showed Glenmore Station below Mt Joseph & Godley Peaks Station below Mt Haszard. On Lake Tekapo E shore I saw shelter belts at Richmond Station below Mt Richmond & in the NE, Mt Gerald Station below Mt Gerald & Two Thumbs Range. At the bottom of snowy Mt Ardmore I saw icy Phantom Lagoon hidden behind a row of low hills.

I followed rabbit spoor up the snowy road, till a fence by rocky outcrops at the end of the road, about 1400 m height. Thereafter Mt Ardmore plateaued a bit before the final steep, snowy ascent. From 1400 m, it was easy so see how ancient glaciers had carved huge trenches between mountains, forming lakes Tekapo, McGregor, Alexandrina & Pukaki & forming roche moutonees either side of Lake Tekapo - Mt John & Old Man Range off the SW shore & Mt Hay & Wee McGregor off the E shore.

From Lilybank Rd, it took me 3 hours to ascend Mt Ardmore S ridge up to 1400 m. It took me 2.5 hours return. Walking distance about 12 km. The afternoon thaw left my return trek muddy below Mt Hay. As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station, permission is needed from owners for walks & climbs. Hill walking fitness, backpacked food, drinks, all weather gear are needed, as the mountains aren't a walk in the park.

Map ref: BY 17 074318. Tues 08.09.15. Over the last couple of weeks I'd avoided Mt Hay, as winter storms were foul. I couldn't even park below My Hay, due to deep snow, roadside.

I did the walk up Mt Ardmore again, crossed the fence at the end of the snowy, zig-zag road & clambered up a top rock to enjoy clear, Alpine views. E side of the rocks was icy snow which made my climb dangerous. (I had no ice axe, just my trusty macrocarpa walking stick to self arrest). W side of the rocks was a glissade of ice shattered, rock shards, which went on several hundred metres up the ridge. So I rejected the idea of ever climbing Mt Ardmore on the W side of those rocky outcrops. On a less icy day I'd attempt to go further up the E side of Mt Ardmore, covered in snow tussock. Snow tussock was a tough, helpful grip if I slipped. But fallen, dry tussock leaves were slippery on rock shards.

As the zig-zag road was icy, I descended straight down Mt Ardmore's south ridge line, sidling by rocky outcrops, to ravines below, like a Merino's wrinkled nose.

Map ref: BY17 086302. Tues 15.09.15. I explored an Edward Stream tributary in a valley flanked by the E side of Mt Ardmore & Mt Dobson's SW ridge: Below Mt Ardmore's south ridge, I wandered along a ravine from W to E & entered the tributary valley via a farm track.

Up valley, the farm track forded the tributary several times while the valley narrowed towards The Knobbies in the distance. At a farm fence the track petered out & the trek up valley became a tiresome rock hop towards the valley head. Rock hopping past prickly matagouri was futile, so I stopped & enjoyed snowy views on valley top sides & the valley head, still thickly covered in snow. Thereafter I returned down stream to my car on Lilybank Rd, via another Mt Ardmore ravine, then sidling past Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. The walk was about 12 kms & took 6 hours.

Fri 25.09.15. Ten days after my last Mt Ardmore walk, a party of 11 Monash University kayakers got into difficulties in a wind storm on Lake Tekapo near Motuariki Island, when a north'easter blew from Mt Ardmore & Mt Hay. Two kayakers died from hypothermia (drowning?) in Lake Tekapo, their bodies picked up by helicopter. Six kayakers were rescued by helicopter from Motuariki Island. Three kayakers were blown across Lake Tekapo & were rescued by helicopter from the W shore near Lake McGregor & Mt John.

I'd experienced potent wind funnels around Mt Ardmore, Wee McGregor & Mt Hay. Those wind funnels would increase E wind speeds over Lake Tekapo near Motuariki Island during a storm. The distance from Lake Tekapo S shore to Motuariki Island was 8 kms. A lot of kayaking.

Likewise a nor'wester howling from Mt Cook & Gammack Range across Lake Tekapo would have an equally devastating effect on kayak paddlers, blowing them to Lake Tekapo's E shore.

AquaNorts ran its business from the beach below the camp site, at the SW corner of Lake Tekapo, out of sight of Motuariki Island 8 kms away.

1. What were AquaNorts kayak owners thinking when they allowed 11 Monash University students on an unguided kayak paddle on Lake Tekapo, known for its icy waters & rapid weather changes?

AquaNorts would've known the wind was forecast to increase that fatal afternoon. In a storm, kayaks would fill with freezing water.

2. How did AquaNorts monitor kayak paddlers going around the corner of the bay beyond Mt John, out of sight of AquaNorts beach site?

Mon 19.10.15. With the farmer's permission, Leah & I viewed Mt Hay Station's sheep shearing in the shearing shed. Several sheepdogs, awaiting duties, were leashed against fencing by the shearing shed. Mt Hay sheep were still sheared using hand clippers by a team of male shearers from Timaru. Unlike electrical shearing, hand shearing left a thicker fleece to protect sheep in unseasonal cold weather. A women's team cleaned, sorted & graded sheared fleeces before baling.

Near the shearing shed we looked at a shearers' hut museum, giving the history of Mt Hay Station, including photos & details of owners, back to the 1850s, with domestic artefacts displayed.

Map ref: BY17 088313. Tues 20.10.15. After the spring thaw, I climbed the zig-zag road up Mt Ardmore south ridge again. Sans snow, beyond the road's end, for about 500 m I sidled past a series of rocky outcrops on top of the ridge, till I came to a saddle with E views of Mt Dobson, Mt Maud & Mt Edward, which had lost their snow. It took me 3.5 hrs to trek from Lilybank Rd to the saddle, which had a good view of my aiming point, a big rock, just below Mt Ardmore summit ridge. The big rock was clearly seen any day from distant Lake Tekapo village.

As it was a clear, spring day, I had sunny W views of snowless Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Lake Tekapo, Motuariki Island, Mt John, Old Man Range, Mary Range. Further W, snowy Ben Ohau Range, Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Mt Joseph, Mt Haszard, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak, with Gammack Range & snowy Mt Cook, Mt Tasman & Mt Lendenfeld towering behind. In the S, I glimpsed Lake Benmore & Benmore Range. In the N, snowy Two Thumbs Range, including Mt Richmond, Mt Gerald, The Thumbs, Mt Chevalier, Mt Ross, Mt Ajax. NW, snowy Mt D'Archiac, Mt Sibbald, The Razorback & Mt Erebus flanking Godley River Valley going up to snowy Mt Fletcher.

Above Phantom Lagoon, I descended Mt Ardmore's steep SW flank avoiding slips, gullies & streams, all converging on a bigger stream, flowing to a waterfall into the rocky ravine below Phantom Lagoon. From the top of Mt Ardmore south ridge it took me 2.5 hours to return to my car on Lilybank Rd beside Mt Hay. The walk was about 13 kms.

In passing, I was amused by a recent The Timaru Herald's scaremongering report that a 25 m high tsunami could be caused by quake landslides from Mt John, Mt Mistake, Boundary Stream banks & Mt Hay. It would need massive quakes for Mt Hay to slide into Lake Tekapo, as Mt Hay, buttressed by lateral moraine hummocks, was 100s of metres from Lake Tekapo shore. Other reported mountains, like Mistake Peak, were closer to Lake Tekapo.

If seismologists opened their eyes they'd see Boundary Stream on the E shore was in a fault going under Lake Tekapo to the W shore, Cass River delta & Cass River Valley. If quakes struck, that E-W fault under Lake Tekapo could cause a tsunami.

Never mind slumping of Cass River delta & slumping of Boundary Stream delta maybe causing tsunamis during quakes. The article didn't even mention the vast Coal River delta at the NE end of Lake Tekapo formed by waters from Richmond Range & Two Thumbs Range.

During quakes, what would happen to Mt Richmond, bracketed by Boundary Stream Fault in the S, Washdyke Stream in the middle & Coal River Fault in the N, all crossing eroded, lateral moraine, hummocks & hollows beside Lake Tekapo's E shore.

There were millions of mountainous places in Mackenzie Country & around Lake Tekapo where landslides, slips & rifts could happen, not just due to seismic faults & folds, but due to erosion & gravity too. The time span over 10s of 1000s of years which seismologists gave for quakes maybe caused by known faults was laughable, as seismologists couldn't predict quakes accurately. Yet media used seismologists' ECan reports to scaremonger. When Christchurch's 2010-2013 quakes shook Canterbury, seismologists hadn't yet discovered faults causing those quakes, but soon afterwards jabbered about crustal faults causing Christchurch quakes.

Never mind Lake Tekapo village, with Tekapo Dam & Tekapo River running through the middle, built on a terminal moraine, a sponge riddled with tarns, subject to liquefaction during quakes.

Tues 27.10.15. Late snowfall around Lake Tekapo. Mt Hay Station's sheared sheep were warm.

Driving along Lilybank Rd to Boundary Stream, about 16 kms from Lake Tekapo village, anyone could see views of Lake Tekapo & surrounding Alps, including Mt Ardmore S Ridge, the pointy hill between Wee McGregor & Mt Hay, Mt Dobson SW Ridge, Mt Edward NW Ridge & Mt John, all of which I climbed in 2015.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.  

See Middle Hut, Mt Hay Station, holiday accommodation (holiday houses).

See Two tourists dead on Lake Tekapo in kayaking expedition (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Lake Tekapo landslide could cause 25m tsunami (The Timaru Herald / Stuff Co).

See Tsunami & Seiche Report, Mackenzie Basin Lakes (Ecan)

See Faults & Folds, Mackenzie Country (Ecan).

See AquaNorts boss sentenced (The Press / Stuff Co).