Saturday, November 25, 2017

Mt Dalgety Summit, Mackenzie Country

Thursday 23.11.17. I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to the top of Hakataramea Pass, 965 m, via Albury, Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Dog Kennel Corner, Haldon Rd, Hakataramea Pass Rd, as I wanted to summit Mt Dalgety, 1752 m. Map ref: BZ17 088921.

Road distances:

* Pleasant Point SH8 tarseal to Dog Kennel Corner turnoff to Haldon Rd: 74 kms.
* Haldon Rd tarseal past Rollesby Range & Dalgety Range to Hakataramea Pass Rd turnoff: 16 kms.
* Hakataramea Pass Rd gravel road over 4 fords past Dalgety Range & Grampian Range to top of Hakataramea pass: 16 kms.

Last Wednesday I'd summitted Grampian Range. Since then, Mackenzie Council had graded Hakataramea Pass Rd, so ruts & potholes were smoothed over.

I parked my car near a closed gate at the top of Hakataramea Pass. There was no track to the top of Mt Dalgety marked on my Topo50 map, so I hopped over a fence & followed another fence E up a tussock ridge to about 1200 m where the fence took a sharp turn N. En route a ram had hung itself by entwining three of its legs amongst top 3 wires of the fence. It hung dessicated by Alpine winds & sun. A horrible way to die with views of Dalgety ridges & valleys each side & Grampian Range W the other side of Hakataramea Pass.

I left the fence & continued climbing, following goat tracks where possible through more tussock, Spaniards & Alpine plants. Notable were Gaultheria snowberries, Celmisia sessiliflora, orange & green Scleranthus, minute Hebes, like whipcord hebes, mat broom & coral broom, Carmichaelia genus. Coral brooms & mat brooms were stunted, foraged by ungulates. I passed a  host of cushion plants on my way up, including Haastia vegetable sheep & Raoulia scabweed covering rocks. There was also Hieracium hawkweed all the way to the top, ravages of over a century of Alpine sheep farming.

On my way up, a series of giant steps up the ridge, I passed several rocky outcrops, vertical ancient sediments, with wind funnels above & below the rocky outcrops. A windless, sunny morn, I had no wind hassles, but had to drink lots of bottled water, stopping dehydration. I saw a bull tahr trotting over scree, hiding behind the ridge. He wore a magnificent, white mane below his backward pointing horns. Other fauna seen: brown skinks scurrying over hot rocks, brown grasshoppers, flies pollinating alpine plants, ladybugs hunting on Donatia hard cushions, a couple of seagulls short-cutting over Haka Pass from Snowy River Valley to Hakataramea Valley.

I didn't stay long on Dalgety summit rocks as I was pestered by flies sucking my sweat. After snapping pics, I sat near the bottom of Dalgety summit rocks, admiring Alpine views & scoffing my lunch - scroggin, biltong, mandarins, water. Views:

NE Rocky outcrops, Dalgety summit ridge to Rollesby Range & beyond to Hall Range incl Mt Haszard & Mistake Peak above Godley River Valley. Snowy Mt Erebus & Sibbald Range prominent. Snowy Two Thumbs Range incl D'Achiac peak, Mt Chevalier, Mt Edward, Mt Dobson prominent. Snowy Sherwood Range & Mt Fox prominent.
ENE Albury Range.
E beyond Hakataramea River, Mt Nessing.
S Rocky outcrops, Dalgety summit ridge, Mt Nimrod, Hunters Hills, Hakataramea Valley.
SSW Hakataramea Valley, Kirkliston Range.
W Hakataramea Pass, Grampian Range.
NW Mary Range, Lake Pukaki & beyond to snowy Ben Ohau Range, Mackenzie Peak, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner Peak, Mt Sealy prominent
NNW snowy Mt Sefton & Footstool prominent.
N Snowy River Valley, Lake Tekapo, Mt John, Fork River Valley, snowy Mt Stevenson & beyond to snowy La Perouse, Mt Cook, Mt Tasman prominent.
NNE Mt Joseph, Cass River Valley, snowy Gammack Range, snowy Malte Brun prominent.


Climb: 800 vertical metres from Hakataramea Pass top to Mt Dalgety summit.
Return distance: 7 kms.
Times: Ascent 3.75 hours. Descent 2.75 hours. A long day.

Essentials: Tramping, hill walking fitness, backpack, map, sturdy shoes, all weather gear, sunglasses, walking stick(s), food, water. Cell phone coverage if cell pointed to Mt John.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Grampian Range Summit, Mackenzie Country

Wednesday 15.11.17. I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to Hakataramea Pass via Albury, Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Dog Kennel Corner & Haldon Rd, as I wanted to summit Grampian Range, 1921 m. (Map ref: BZ17 029891). At Hakataramea Pass, gravel road turnoff, a fence sign read:

                                                   BE AWARE
                                       UNLAWFUL HUNTING
                                   WILL NOT BE TOLERATED
                                            OFFENDERS WILL
                                            BE PROSECUTED
                       FIREARMS & VEHICLES MAY BE SEIZED
                                         MAXIMUM PENALTY
                       2 YEARS IMPRISONMENT $100 000 FINE
                                  OBTAIN PERMISSION FROM
                           THE LANDOWNER / PERMITS (DOC)
                                           BEFORE HUNTING

                        [Ph]...                                               NEW ZEALAND
              SPEAK UP, IT'S ANONYMOUS

Typical NZ cop sign touting for snitches, when cops were thin on the ground. The only cops I saw in Mackenzie Country were cops fining speedsters on SH8. Evidence of hunting / poaching I saw were dead wallabies on roadsides. SH8 farmers told us poachers spotlighted on their farms at night, taking pot shots close to their homesteads. I often saw road-kill wallabies near wooded spots on SH8 & passes.

A road sign read:




Hakataramea Pass, gravel road passed between Dalgety Range E, 18 kms long & Grampian Range W, more than 20 kms long. En route, I crossed 4 fords, streams trickling down to Snowy River below Dalgety Range. A stream crossing the road caused big potholes. 12 kms along Haka Pass, just beyond the 4th ford, a dead wallaby lay on the road, marking a farm track. (Map ref: BZ17 058919). My Topo50 map showed the farm track ascending Grampian Range to a scree saddle at 1800 m. Above the saddle, Grampian summit ridge track spit into a S farm track & N farm track. I would take the N farm track to Grampian summit, 1921 m.

From Haka Pass, I wandered up the farm track, zig-zagging up a steep tussock ridge, streams in valleys both sides of the ridge. Besides tussock grassland & spiky Spaniards, I saw many alpine cushion plants, mentioned in other blog posts. Notable were green or brown whipcord hebes amongst stones & many grey vegetable sheep clinging to rocks on steep slopes. Scab weeds & other cushion plants reminded me of zooanthids in coastal rockpools. Living scab weed branches were supported by dead scab weed branches, providing nutrients for the living.

A warm morning. A lone wallaby hopped down a tussock slope to a stream. Skinks scuttled across rocks. Brown crickets & bigger green crickets hopped about too. A lone falcon soared thermals, hunting while I climbed.

At about 1600 m, tussockland became steep scree, covered by snow patches & sparse alpine cushion plants. I compressed snowballs, sucking them, quenching my thirst, saving my bottled water for later.

From the 1800 m scree saddle, I didn't descend the farm track the other side, as it was still snow covered, making it difficult to pass Black Rocks. Instead, I followed a fence over scree, the last 100 vertical metres odd, to Grampian summit 1921 m. I added a stone to the cairn on the flat top, surrounded by stones & alpine cushion plants, mostly yellow. On the summit ridge I'd passed two farm gates, one bent by foul weather, the other still half covered in snow, amidst scree & cushion plants.

Clouds played above my head, while I admired alpine views: E, Rollesby Range, Dalgety Range, Mt Nessing. S, Hakataramea Valley. SSW, Kirkliston Range. SW Benmore Range, Lake Benmore below. W, Mary Range, Lake Pukaki, snowy Ben Ohau Range beyond. NNW, snowy Mt Sefton prominent. NW, snowy Mt Cook Range, snowy Mt Cook & snowy Mt Tasman prominent. NNE, Mt John & Lake Tekapo. Snowy Mt Stevenson prominent. NE, snowy Malte Brun prominent. Snowy Gammack Range. Snowy Hall Range. ENE, snowy Two Thumbs Range, snowy Mt Edward, snowy Mt Dobson prominent. Snowy Sherwood Range & snowy Mt Fox prominent.

I texted Leah from Grampian Range summit, no problems, as long as I pointed my cell towards Mt John. Any other direction, my texts didn't get through, like aiming my cell towards Hakataramea Valley, a waste.


Climb: 1000 vertical metres from Hakataramea Pass to Grampian Range summit.
Return distance: 12 kms.
Times: Ascent 4.5 hours. Descent 3.5 hours. A long day.

Essentials: Tramping, hill walking fitness, map, all weather gear, backpack, sunglasses, food, water, walking stick(s). Cell phone coverage if cell pointed to Mt John.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dalgety Range Summit Ridge, Mackenzie Country.

Mon 06.11.17. I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to Mackenzie Pass via Fairlie, Burkes Pass, Dog Kennel Corner, Haldon Rd & Mackenzie Pass Rd, the latter 9 kms gravel road to Mackenzie Pass top, between Rollesby Range N, 11 kms long & Dalgety Range S, 18 kms long. Having summited Rollesby Range last week, I wanted to climb to the Dalgety Range summit track, a remote area, far from tourists. The summit track was about 8 kms long with another 3 kms climb needed to summit Mt Dalgety, 1752 m.

Several hundred metres beyond Mackenzie Memorial on Mackenzie Pass, I parked my car at the roadside near a Mackenzie Stream tributary at about 700 m height (Map ref: BZ17 073037) where a grassy farm track marked on my Topo50 map rose to electricity pylons marching across Mackenzie Pass. It was a nor'wester warm, spring morn, so I started my tramp wearing shorts, T shirt, trainers, hat & backpack. Walking stick essential.

After the farm track petered out beyond the pylons, I climbed tussock land & waded though patches of Discaria toumatou matagouri & Aciphylla speargrass till I struck the main farm track zig-zagging up the NW end of Dalgety Range. The farm track climbed E roughly parallel to Mackenzie Pass with grand views of Rollesby Range N & Albury Range E.

When I stopped to catch my breath, turning round I had grand views of arid Mackenzie Basin & snowy peaks: Stafford Range, Ben Ohau Range with Mackenzies Peak, Razorback, Kaimakamaka Peaks, Dun Fiunary, Glentanner, Mt Sealy & others. As usual Mt Sefton & The Footstool were cloudy. Mt Cook further N was clear & snowy, Mt Tasman below ditto. Below those mighty peaks I saw snowy peaks & valleys: Gammack Range, Mt Stevenson, Braemar Dome, Fork River Valley, Mt Joseph, Cass River Valley, snowy hulk Malte Brun above, Hall Range. Looking N across Mackenzie Pass, I saw Rollesby Range with snowy Two Thumbs Range peaks & snowy Sherwood Range peaks beyond.

For a while, Dalgety NW ridge I climbed overlooked Mackenzie Stream SW flowing down a valley & snowy Grampian Range distant SW. As it had snowed last night, the S end of Dalgety Range & Grampian Range summit was sprinkled with fresh snow. En route, a wallaby froze in tussock above me, letting me snap 2 pics. When I said, "Hullo Mister Wallaby," it bounded down hill, joining sheep. I'd encounter 2 more live wallabies on my tramp & 2 dead wallabies, presumably shot at the highest point I reached on the summit track.

After I'd passed 3 farm gates & the top of a slip louring above Mackenzie Pass, the farm track turned sharp S at about 1300 m (Map ref: BZ17 097026) becoming the rocky, summit track winding along Dalgety summit ridge past rocky outcrops & wind funnels. The nor'wester coming off Mackenzie Basin cooled, causing me to become hypothermic, despite having climbed for 2.5 hours. I stopped & put on my winter gear, longs over my shorts, windcheater jacket with hood over my hat, gloves, which soon warmed me.

I wandered the cold, rocky, summit road for about 1 hour viewing alpine plants like Geranium sessiliflorum bronze crane-bill, Carmichaelia crassicaulis coral broom, Carmichaelia monroi dwarf broom, Raoulia scab weed, Celmisias, Dracophyllum prostratum, Gaultheria depressa snowberry, green & yellow Scleranthus, tussocks, Raoulia vegetable sheep at bitterly cold wind funnels. On the summit track I passed three more farm gates & patches of snow which increased towards Mt Dalgety summit, 1752 m.

From the E side of Dalgety summit ridge, I saw Albury Range with green Rollesby Valley below & the tops of Devils Peak & Fiery Peak beyond. E beyond Tengawai River, rolling green hills & farmlands to distant The Brothers hills & the Pacific. SE I saw Mt Nimrod Range & Mt Nessing Range, with a glimpse of green Hakataramea Valley farmlands between Mt Nessing Range & Dalgety Range.

From the W side of Dalgety summit ridge I saw arid Mackenzie Basin & snowy Alpine ranges described above: Stafford, Ben Ohau, Mt Cook, Gammack, Hall... Sprawled across arid Mackenzie Basin were smaller ranges & hills from N to S: Mt John with a glimpse of Lake Tekapo, Old Man Range with Tekapo Military Camp below, Mary Range with a glimpse of Lake Pukaki beyond. SW Grampian Range & Benmore Range. Also a glimpse of Lake Ohau at the S end of Ben Ohau.

On Dalgety summit track I scoffed my scroggin, 3 mandarins & biltong. Water essential, as I was hungry & thirsty after my 3.5 hour climb to a high point on Dalgety summit ridge, 1426 m (Map ref: BZ17 097998). There I found 2 dead wallabies, dessicated & mummified by sun & cold winds. Maybe a hunter had left them there, warning live wallabies, pests in Mackenzie Country. There was still a long way to go on Dalgety summit ridge to Mt Dalgety snowy summit, 1752 m.

I'd planned to tramp to 1588 m on Dalgety summit ridge, where I saw a distant aerial installation. But my Nikon battery expired at the 1426 m high point & the nor'wester was biting, so I returned from whence I came. Tomorrow's another day. I would've needed to tramp another 8 kms along the summit ridge to summit Mt Dalgety, 1752 m.


Climb: 700 vertical metres.
Return distance: 12 kms (incl 3 kms farm track climb, Mackenzie Pass Rd to 1300 m start of summit track & 3 kms along summit track to 1426 m).
Times: Return 6 hours (incl 2.5 hours climb to summit track, 1 hour on summit track to 1426 m, 2.5 hours return).

Essentials: Tramping, hill walking fitness, map, backpack, walking stick(s), sturdy shoes, sunglasses, all weather gear, water, food. Cell phone coverage if cell pointed to Mt John.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rollesby Range Summit, Mackenzie Country

Mon 30.10.17. A sunny day. As I wanted to climb to Rollesby Range summit ridge, 1377 m (Map ref: BZ17 095068) I drove SH8 from Pleasant Point to the top of Mackenzie Pass, 780 m, via Albury, Fairlie, Burkes Pass, 709 m, left at Dog Kennel Corner along Haldon Rd, turnoff at Mackenzie Pass Rd, a gravel road, 9 kms to the top of Mackenzie Pass. I didn't drive the shorter route from Pleasant Point via Albury to Mackenzie Pass, as there was lots of gravel road, dusty & nasty for my old Toyota Corolla.

Mackenzie Pass tops a saddle between Rollesby Range N, 11 kms long & Dalgety Range S, 18 kms long. I wanted to climb from Mackenzie Pass top to Rollesby Range summit ridge, which sloped downwards towards Burkes Pass. My Topo50 map showed a farm track up to the summit ridge. On my drive up Mackenzie Pass from arid Mackenzie Basin, I stopped by Mackenzie Stream to look at the Mackenzie Memorial, a grey, granite pyramid on a plinth beside the gravel road, inscribed in Gaelic, Maori, English:

                                                                    THIS SPOT
                                                            THE FREEBOOTER
                                                           WAS CAPTURED BY
                                                           JOHN SIDEBOTTOM
                                                            AND THE MAORIS
                                                      TAIKO AND SEVENTEEN
                                                   AND ESCAPED FROM THEM
                                                             THE SAME NIGHT
                                                               4th MARCH 1855

Hence Mackenzie Country was named after freebooter & sheep rustler James Mackenzie.

The farm track-zig zagged up a tussock ridge, overlooking a gorge with a stream flowing down to Mackenzie Stream. Wilding pines grew on Rollesby Range tussock slopes. They'd be hard to fell on such steep slopes. From about 1000 m height, Alpine tussocks & speargrass associated with mat plants like Raoulia scabweed & vast mats of grey cushion plants & Alpine plants, like Celmisia & Senecio daisies, Gaultheria snowberries & green & yellow Scleranthus. Dominant plants: tussocks & rust coloured Dracophyllum shrubs with leathery stems & leaves. I saw Hieracium weed amongst that lot too, but not as polluting as Hieracium I'd seen on stations bordering Lake Tekapo.

There was little fauna on the way up: 2 seagulls enjoyed the winds over Mackenzie Pass. I wondered if they've ever seen the sea, inhabiting local lakes & tarns. A wallaby bounded to cover by the stream when it saw me. There was wallaby dung on the farm track & I picked up 4 used bullet cartridges, evidence of hunting. Dried cow dung was in the lower part of the track. There were no sheep on the tussock slopes.

At about 1100 m the track plateaued along the tussock ridge a bit, before curving upwards along the head of the gorge, then steeply zig-zagging to the summit ridge at 1377 m (Map ref: BZ17 095068). On top, the track went slightly below the rocky ridge. At 2 big rocks on each side of the track, I left the track to summit the ridge & found a weather station with anemometer & weather vane, with solar panel electricity supply. Along the rocky summit there were 3 more installations: aerials with solar panels & a tin shed at the 4th installation.

From Rollesby Range summit ridge, grand, snowy Alpine views:

E: Spring green Rollesby Valley & stations. Single Hill Range. Albury Range.
ESE: Distant Pacific. Spring green farms. The Brothers hills.
SE: Mt Nessing Range. Mt Nimrod Range.
S: End of Dalgety Range above Mackenzie Pass. Distant Otago Ranges.
SSW: Dalgety Range. Grampian Range.
SW: Arid Mackenzie Basin & stations. Greys Hills. Benmore Range. Distant Otago Ranges. Stafford Range. Ben Ohau Range.
W: Mary Range obscuring Lake Pukaki. Ben Ohau Range,
NW: Arid Mackenzie Basin & stations. Ben Ohau Range incl Dun Fiunary, Mt Glentanner, Mt Sealy.
NNW: Arid Mackenzie Basin & stations. Mt John. Old Man Range, Tekapo Military Camp below. Cloudy Mt Sefton & The Footstool. Cloudy Mt Cook & Mt Tasman. Braemar Dome. Mt Stevenson. Fork River Valley. Mt Joseph. Cass River Valley. Gammack Range. Hall Range.
N: Two Thumbs Range incl Mt Edward, Mt Maud & Mt Dobson obscuring Lake Tekapo. Mt Dobson ski field road & ski lift seen. Sherwood Range incl Mt Fox.
NE: Spring green Burkes Pass. Rollesby Valley & stations. Single Hill Range. Albury Range. ENE: Distant High Claytons. Devils Peak.


Climb: 600 vertical metres from Mackenzie Pass summit to Rollesby Range summit ridge.
Return distance: 9 kms.
Times: 2.5 hours ascent. 2 hours descent.


Tramping, hill walking fitness, backpack, map, sturdy shoes, sunglasses, water, food, walking stick(s), all weather gear, as Alpine weather changed quickly. I summited Rollesby Range in windless, bright sunlight. On top, wind & clouds arose within an hour. Cell phone coverage if cell pointed to Mt John.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.