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.

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