Monday, October 28, 2013

Labour weekend gardening

The last of the posts are in

The bottom most board is new- it closes a gap that really annoyed me

The bottom most board is in on the upper walls

Renga Regna lilies in blossom

Cat in a bag

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nelson Lakes and heading home...

We had to get back to Picton to catch the ferry and another lot of bad weather was hitting the west coast – so the last few days of the holiday we headed east and decided to try our luck with weather at St Arnaud and try to do a walk in Nelson Lakes. The clouds were pretty low, so instead of heading up high we walked along the east side of the lake through some beautiful beech forests to the Lakehead Hut where we had lunch. This is part of the Te Araroa - the New Zealand version of Lands End to John O'Groats (or for the American's reading this - the Pacific Crest Trail). I think my mid-life crisis might have to be walking the South Island section of the Te Araroa track... anyone interested in joining me - only 1300 km or so..? 

Just as we were getting back to St Arnaud the rain started...  Story of the holidays – a few hours of nice weather followed by a lot of rain....very frustrating as you couldn’t plan to do anything for more than a couple of hours, but I think we managed to make the most of the nice spells. We will definitely have to go back and revisit the west coast again and do some of the more adventurous stuff....may be we just have to wait until there is a good weather window and then just go...

Lake Rotoiti on Saturday morning when we had to catch the ferry home

Thursday, October 17, 2013

West Coast Road Trip - Haast to Karamea

We spent the next day in Queenstown, doing our washing, visiting a couple of the smaller wineries, Mt Rosa and Brennan in the Kawarau Valley and giving our legs a break. Before setting off to the west coast on Sunday.....We had previously tried to visit the west coast during the summer of 2010? And had ended up retreating east to Hanmer Springs to escape the wet weather.... The forecast for the upcoming week wasn’t looking promising either. We weren’t sure we would get through to the west coast over Haast Pass, which had been closed regularly over the last few weeks due to bad weather causing rock falls and washing away 100 m of the road.

Lake Hawea
As we headed down Lake Hawea towards west coast the sky grew greyer and it started to rain... but we made it through the Haast Pass – just!... the road was closed by the time we got to Haast and remained closed for the next few days.  We spent the next day hanging out at Fox Glacier while the heavens emptied on the west coast. We briefly visited the Department of Conservation office to find out if there was anything that we could do in the pouring rain. But almost everything was closed due to flooding. We did go for a very wet walk around Lake Matheson – but with no views of Mt Cook today....

Blue Pools on the way to Haast Pass

Thunder Creek Falls

The next day we woke to some clearer weather and managed to make it up towards Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The Rangers were just opening up the tracks again after the floods. There were lots of lumps of ice and the rivers were raging. The sun even came out a couple of times... Because the rivers were still very high and the clouds were still pretty low, we couldn’t do any tramps that were more ambitious in this region.

What's left of Fax Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier (the upper part anyway)

So we continued north and went to check out the Hokitika Gorge – which instead of being a beautiful blue was a muddy grey.... and as it wasn’t raining late afternoon, so we camped beside Lake Kaniere (although it did rain overnight and Aaron wasn’t happy).  The next day we revisited Punakaiki – the pancake rocks. Late morning the sun decided to join us again and we walked along charming creek walkway, an old railway line along a narrow gorge. Then we drove up to Karamea and had dinner on the beach at the end of the Heaphy Track. The final day on the west coast we visited the impressive limestone arches of the Oparara Basin near Karamea.
Waterfall on Charming Creek Walkway

Oparara Arch - 200 metres long and 37m high

Obviously we are slightly jinxed when it comes to the west coast weather – although when an area gets up to 7m a year of rain (16m maximum recorded in one river catchment) it isn't too surprising that you experience some - but I think we got slightly more than our fair share for the 4 days we were there! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ski Touring

Monday morning we rocked up to Aspiring Guides in Wanaka to start our tour and met the other participants – Matt from California and Jonny from Melbourne and of course our guide Stefan. We had been keeping our eye on the weather forecasts, which weren’t looking great for the next few days and thus we weren’t too surprised when the planned trip up to the glaciers on the west coast of the South Island was abandoned.

Plan B for the ski tour was to head up into the Pisa Range (further inland and more sheltered from the weather), but no glaciers. So we went through all the gear we needed and packed up for the short helicopter flight in to the Rob Rosa Huts. These are 2 small private huts with a loo with a view... which were to be our home for the next few days.
In the helicopter - Aaron's first time so he was very excited

The helicopter taking off after dropping us and our gear off at Rob Rosa Huts

Our home for 4 days - Rob Rosa Huts

Our loo with a view!

The view from the top of the valley
Once we had arrived, had lunch and sorted out our gear, we skinned up to the high ridge of the Pisa Range to explore. We got some great views down on to Wanaka and the lake and across to Mt Aspiring. The ski back down to the hut was tricky with some ice and a lot of wind crust - where we were just breaking through – and the odd patch of soft snow. Unfortunately this knocked Aaron’s confidence as he struggled with the skiing.

Tuesday the weather was pretty cloudy with flat light. We had a slow morning in the hope that the a conditions would improve, but mid morning we set off to the top of the ridge and skinned up to the top of Mt Pisa, then down to the Kirtle Burn Hut for a late lunch before returning. It was icy. Both skinning up and skiing down were hard. The weather cleared enough for the helicopter to find the huts and we were joined by another guide – Whitney and a client Alex (a mad Belarussian from New York).

Kirtle Burn Hut

On Wednesday the weather finally came to the party and after a small dusting of snow on Tuesday night we had a glorious clear day and we skied down from the top into several different bowls along the ridge, making the first tracks in the fresh snow. This is what we came for!!

Aaron's turns in the snow

Skinning up

Skiing down
The nice weather window was short lived and Thursday the weather closed in again. We decided that rather than sit around in the hut all day we would head out, skiing down the valley and hiking up and over into the Kirtle Burn. We then headed down the track to the Snow Farm, until the snow ran out and we had to hike the last 4 km out. It started snowing heavily just as we got to the Snow Farm carpark, where we got picked up and taken back to Wanaka for the evening.

Early start gave us a stunning sunrise

Friday was the last day of the tour and we headed up to Cardrona Ski Field (officially closed for the season the weekend before). We skinned up behind the ski field to the top of Mt Cardrona.  The conditions were pretty good with soft fresh snow over spring corn snow, and we did several runs down the bowls either side. This is the snow we had hoped for when we booked a spring ski tour.
Helen standing on the top of Mt Cardrona

On Friday Aaron had had enough of skiing, so he went for a walk up Isthmus Peak between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.

So the ski tour wasn’t quite what we had hoped for as we didn’t get to go up on to the glaciers. We did get a few days of good skiing in and we brushed up and practised some of the essential mountain skills; using avalanche transceivers, self arresting with an ice axe, roping up to walk on a glacier and making snow anchors to rescue people out of crevasses. And we met some nice (slightly crazy) people....

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The last of the snow...

As we had only got out one weekend on skis this year we thought we would head south to try to catch the end of the ski season. We had booked a week of ski touring on the glaciers with a guide, so the couple of days before the ski tour we thought we better get some practise in and remind ourselves how to ski. On the way south we spent a day at Mt Hutt Ski field, which has amazing views down to the braided Rakaia River crossing the Canterbury Plains, even as far as Banks Peninsular. Several of the runs had some great names... but it got a bit soft and heavy by mid afternoon so after a few tumbles we gave up around 3pm.

View from Mt Hutt skifield of the Canterbury Plains with Banks Peninsular volcano in the top left corner

Aaron at the top of Mt Hutt - which of the runs to go down? 

We also practised skinning up hill in the Remarkables, heading up to Lake Alta and then up to the col between Alta and the Wye Valley. Skiing back down was harder than going up as by the mid afternoon the snow was also pretty heavy.
Aaron skinning up the slope

To get our tramping legs back we did a short 3 hour hike up to Diamond Lake and Rocky Knob. We got some great views over Lake Wanaka, although the surrounding mountains were all bathed in cloud. Aaron enjoyed taking lots of photos, practising using his new camera.
Looking down on Lake Wanaka

Aaron practising using his new camera