Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Passes walk, New Zealand (prelude)

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don't much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.

Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Five Passes walk, New Zealand

Day 1

Saddle up.

First 15 minutes on the Routeburn.

Then up to Sugarloaf Pass.

Top of the first pass.

Ian, steady-foot. 
Senior trail guide and all-round good bloke. Engineer, captain, 15 years New Zealand army. 
Mountaineer and wilderness instructor for the military.

Jamie the fleet-footed. 
Trainee guide and porter. Engineer, 8 years British army. 
Mountaineer. Pack weighs 25kg at the start of the walk.

Graeme the sure-footed. 
Retired headmaster and experienced tramper and mountaineer. 
Veteran of 18 expeditions in New Zealand.

Van the light-footed. 
Aircraft engineer from New York living in Tokyo. Soft-spoken, experienced tramper. 
Prefers mountaineering.

And you know me. 
Underprepared. Two left feet. Overweight pack. Little experience. No idea. Scared of heights.

First campsite. We meet up with two Belgians doing the walk the other way (counter-clockwise).

Day 2

Theatre Flat.

Now this is what you call a rock bivvy.

Hot drinks..

.. and a weather update.

Top of Park Pass.

Then back down through the tussock.

Second campsite.

Day 3


Traversing scree.

Then back onto boulders.

Red ultramafic rock.

Climb up to Cow Saddle.

Top of the third pass.

Tutu berries. 
These berries here are really poisonous. 

No don’t touch them! Doh! Go wash your hands. 
No, I’m serious. Wash your hands.

The Olivine Ledge with the Olivine Ice Plateau just beyond.

Climb to Fiery Col.

First glimpse of Fohn Lakes at the top of the fourth pass.

Welcome to Wonderland.

Third campsite above Fohn Lakes.

Day 4

A stroll to the Fohn Saddle.

Ian takes us up along the ridgeline.

The fifth pass.

It’s a steep 500m descent from here. 

One last shot before packing away the camera.

Down the bottom.

Picnic by the rock with tablecloth and satellite phone.

Cheese, salami, crackers, and relish.

Did someone say cheese?

Well! Isn’t this luxury!

Big avalanche. Big clearing. 

Fourth campsite in the Beans Burn Valley.

Day 5

A wet day.

A relatively easy walk until we reach the clearing where the Beans Burn meets the Dart River. The rain gets heavier (but not enough to stop us crossing the Burn). With a dicky ankle slowing me down Ian insists on a “load redistribution” before we start the hard slog along the trappers trail beside the Dart. 

He takes my camera. 

And my Thermorest.

And my Neutrogena hand cream, my moisturiser, my shampoo, my hairdryer, and my angry eyes. 

If you are wondering what it’s like tracing a trappers track beside a fast-flowing river - it’s a lot like this.

I get my camera back.

The weather clears a bit.

But not for long.

Lake Sylvan.

Back in Wanaka the annual Agricultural & Pastural Show is in full swing.