Tag Archives: Adventure

EPIC’s of to a Playground in Godzone

Plenty of rain in this area of NZ

Off to the Tararua Ranges just north of Wellington New Zealand.  How cool is that?  After 4 years living in Sydney and having the Blue Mountains as a playground I’ve managed to wrangle 3 days out of my work schedule and then also convince Hugh to join me.

The objective – Southern Crossing, the most commonly completed crossing of the Tararua Ranges from West to East.  This route is well summarised in “Footprints of the Tararuas” as-

“the most common of the range crossings.. this crossing like any other on the open tops, can however become difficult and dangerous in storm conditions.  Equipment must be first class and experience must be sufficient to deal with survival conditions”.

Now there’s a challenge and for the two of us, who would definitely be considered by our wives as “gear freaks”, there’s no reason not to accept it.

So, come the morning of Friday 8th March we will be making our way north from Wellington destined for Otaki Forks, from where we’ll commence the walk.

And from there…?  Well the more time I spend reviewing the route(s) in the area on the map the more convinced I become that we have two possible options.  For simplicity let’s call them –

Option A:  (Almost) Standard Southern Crossing, and,

Option B:  Southern Crossing via Tararua Peaks

I started looking for options when a friend’s facebook post identified that the Department of Conservation (DOC) are commencing demolition of Kime Hut, our intended first night’s accommodation, commencing on 4 March – now how’s that for timing?

Ladder at the Tararua Peaks

Manning up and carrying a tent is the obvious solution but doing this means we miss out on the experience of staying in various huts in the DOC.  There’s 30 plus huts in the area.  These huts originated from the deer culling and possum trapping days and, while many of the originals have been replaced by new constructs, they are all a welcome sight at the end of a day’s walking.

Now back to the options.

Option A requires the tent and sticks to the stock standard Southern Crossing route.  For me that’s a return to the Mt Hector, Dress Circle and Mt Aston areas that I found so enjoyable on previous trips.  The down side is the walk down Marchant Ridge which I never found to be that exciting.  I heard it said that it’s up hill whether you are completing it  heading North or South!

Option B.  In 2008 I walked with friends around a circuit that included the section from Junction Knob to Bridge Peak.  The weather was crap but that just made the trip more enjoyable as we ploughed on through the wet alpine grasses and cloud hugging the hills.  Not much of a sales pitch but this route takes us along the main Tararua Range for approx.  15km and along the way we take in Tararua Peaks, the Ladder, Maunguhuka Hut before overnighting at Mid Waiohine Hut.

Maungahuka Hut just breaking through the mist

How to choose?  Both present us with a great walk in the Tararua’s.  Maybe we need to toss a coin at Bridge Peak and make the decision as we go.

Or maybe the weather will make the decision for us – if it’s wet Option A it will be as it provides the best escape options and we can’t afford to miss our flight back to Sydney and work on Monday can we?

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Record Temperatures – let’s try Canyoning!

Forecast heatwave, with record temperatures across Australia. What else would you do but make a trip through Fortress Canyon in the Blue Mountains?

7 am and we are out the door, first stop a coffee and then on out into the Blue Mountains National Park. After 20 minutes we’ve made the turn off that will take us down into the valley and in a further 20 minutes we’ve reached the first signs of Fortress creek that will lead us out to the Grose Valley cliff line.

After a quick wardrobe change we are now kitted out in wetsuits and continuing on our way. The first hour is spent following the creek that is slowly growing in flow as side tributaries add to the water volume. There’s a nice 2 metre “jump in” that leads into the first swim for the day. From here on it’s a mix of wading and swimming along the stream between the narrow sandstone walls that reach skyward before we reach the days only abseil.

Anchor chains on the wall make for an easy set-up by Hugh while the rest of us are putting on harnesses and then it’s one by one over the edge, dropping approx. 6 metres before continuing the swim toward the exit.
Exiting the canyon to the view over the Grose valley is … – well you just got to either go there to behold, or check out our photos that we’ve posted. It’s incredible!

With such a fantastic view it’s hard to tear ourselves away and so with the temperature climbing we take an extra 45 minutes to rest and hydrate before commencing the 75 minute walk back to the cars.

With the temperature well over 30 degrees, the 150 vertical metre climb was never going to be enjoyable, so it’s “pole-pole” (slowly-slowly) to the top, all the time making sure that we are continuing to drink plenty of water. Approx. an hour and a quarter after leaving the canyon exit we are back at the cars. It’s been a hot, slow slog back and we’ve drunk approx. 15 litres of water between the 5 of us.

Where in the world is Hugh? (originally posted 4 October 2012)

I’m in Bishop USA!

Bishop is warm. 97 degrees (36C) warm in fact.
We have just got back into town after spending the last few days up in the High Sierra climbing on The Incredible Hulk. Without really recovering from Half Dome we drove to the Twin lake trail head near Bridgeport then packed our bags and bashed up the valley into the High Sierra.

On my last trip to Yosemite and surrounds I spent some time walking in this area, The Saw Tooth range a couple of valleys over, and it was what 1st drew me into spending time in high places. It was terrific to be entering the vertical scenery as a participant rather than as an observer this time.

The Incredible Hulk is just that, an Incredible Hulk of buttress of granite that dwarves everything else in the valley, it draws the eye from way down the valley and cries out to be climbed. As we walked further and further up the valley features, splitter cracks and corners, started to distinguish themselves from the rest of the rock.

After 2 1/2 hours of walking we crested a rise and the entire monolith came into view. so to did camp which I set up whilst Dunk did a trip up to the creek to collect some water. This left me with some time to consider our rock and to become very excited about the 5.11 climbing we would be doing the following day.

5.30 am the alarm is ringing. I hit the off button and Dunk and I make noises about getting up.

7.30 am, no alarm this time but we seem to wake simultaneously with an urgency that showed our sub consciences knew we had well and truly over slept. Still, relatively, it is a short route right? we are both getting good at climbing in the dark… we drink a lot of coffee to blow out the cobwebs and hit the scree to the base.

What followed was 6 or 8 pitches of quite good climbing, broken by a block of three 5.11 pitches of the best climbing I have ever been fortunate enough to look at much less climb on.
The 1st pitch, my lead, and 50m of the best stemming and finger locking I have ever been on. Unfortunately this was the 1st purely free climbing I had done in some time, and ended up in some weighting of the gear high on the pitch.
The 2nd pitch, Dunks lead, shorter but with some ridiculous moves off the belay. It backed off after the initial hard moves into a more sustainable hand crack to the belay.
Pitch 3 5.11- or 5.10+, another 50m wonder and my lead again, the long pitches and big run-outs (which I manage by back cleaning) are starting to take their toll. Still I am keen to get this pitch free and fight hard all the way up to the belay which I flop onto in such a dazed state that it is almost a surprise when Dunk arrives and collects the gear for the next pitch.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a bit of a blur, easy climbing with difficult route finding along a loose-ish ridge-top to the summit. We hit the summit right on dusk, a beautiful time of day, shot a quick vid then searched out the descent. A hundred meters or so of scrambling, 30m abseil, and an hour of scree bashing (in climbing shoes) later we were back at the packs.

The following morning was not exactly a bucket full of laughs. Neither of us were well hydrated, neither of us were recuperating as well as we were at the beginning of the trip, and neither of us were enjoying the constant intake of Ibuprofen and coffee needed to keep us up and running. Never the less, Coffee and Ibuprofen were on the menu for breakfast before heading back up the scree to climb Red Dihedral.

I took the 1st couple of pitches, having a hard time until shoulder warmed up enough to be confident about it holding my weight. Dunk took the crux, then I punched it though to the top. Another classic climb, this time with a much faster descent, shoes and daylight helped here…

Being back in Bishop licking our wounds, hanging around in the pool, and packing our gear before the flight home has provided the opportunity to reflect on the trip. For 2 guys who’s only goal was to get up The Nose in a push, we seem to have got a quite a bit done. Maybe we could boulder for an hour or so tomorrow before driving into LAX…


PS. There’s more photos in an album on our face book page