I envisioned New Zealand to be this epically magical place, where we would hike, be completely enamored by unworldly beauty and most importantly climb big southern mountains.
|The Wanaka Tree PC-JDSTYLOS|
Truly, New Zealand has been something of unworldly beauty, just minus the climbing part. I’ve managed to not write any recent blogs because we just haven’t been able to get any Climbing in.
|Hike to Brewster Hut PC-JDSTYLOS|
After Barff, we set our eyes on a route on Mt.Brewster. With weather moving in fast, we were quick to head to the mountain, but in the process didn’t give ourselves enough time to recover from our physical efforts on Mt Barff. We hiked to Brewster Hut at the base of the climb and were taken aback with how tired we felt. So rather than push ourselves to the point of exhaustion we opted to enjoy a beautiful blue bird day at the hut instead of going for the summit.
|Brewster hidden in the clouds PC-JDSTYLOS|
When we arrived back to town we decided to spend a few days resting and took a couple of days to hike to a “local” hut. Meg Hut is only a couple/few hour east hike from the road. We arrived to an adorable quaint shepherds hut only to be surprised to see 7 middle aged guys were spending there weekend away from the family there. They thoughtfully gave us the last bunk and offered one of their’s. What turned out to be not exactly what we had thought it was going to be still turned out to be a good night.
We stayed in Wanaka in hopes to find something else to climb. When that didn’t happen we decided to head North towards Mt.Cook. We took in the eye widening beauty that is Mt.Cook. I’ve never seen such a massive mountain range. We smiled in excitement and pointed out Tasman, Dixon, Cook and her three peaks as they towered above anything nearby.
Along with Mt Aspiring, Mt Dixon was on our list of climbs while we were here. After talking to plenty of people and with such warm weather we had assumed that the climb to Dixon and Plateau Hut (base Camp) were out.
When we arrived to the Mt.Cook visitor center, we initially had planned to ask about some good hikes with beautiful Mountain View’s. After finding and talking to the Climbing rangers our faith was restored in our attempt to climb to Mt. Dixon. We had a short weather window, and cold temperatures that were sure to secure the quality of the snow. With about 95% of climbers flying into Plateau Hut, we were excited to be climbing in. With this probably being the last chance of the year to head up, we left the DOC Center with a jump in our step and a plan in our minds.
After we had packed our food bags, and prepped everything for the following day departure, that night we climbed into bed with big intentions for the following days.
Before I even realized what was happening I quickly started to get cold, sweaty and a fever. We put the climb off for a day and got some rest but soon after our plans for our climb quickly fell down the drain as for the next 4 days I was laid up in bed. I eventually went to the doctor for a prescription to kick my infection.
After so much time lost, the weather warmed up and we threw in the towel and left the Cook area to go on and find new things to do. With almost all the climbs melted out we’ve tried to switch our mindset to get some good hiking in with the time we have left.
We have moseyed our way to the west coast, and between fighting off sandflies and rainy days we found a sunny afternoon to check out the tourist filled Fox Glacier.
After having seen so many glaciers, both Joe and I were fairly unimpressed with the tourist viewpoint of the glacier. With so much receding in recent years, you can barely see any of the glacier anymore. We started to walk down as I watched a guided group step over the twine fence and near a sign that said “guided groups only passed this point”. Even so, my curiosity got the best of me and I started asking questions to the guide.
She quickly reassured me that if you have any sort of Climbing knowledge that we should definitely go check out the glacier. That the sign there doesn’t mean you can’t get up there, mostly just to deter people from doing so. She mentioned the ice climbing possibilities up high and pointed out the gulley to the right that gives access to the glacier above.
I took my new found knowledge and tried to suppress my excitement as I ran the idea passed Joe. We decided that tomorrow morning we’d see if we could get up there and find some climbable ice.
The next morning the clouds loomed above us as we trekked out towards our objective. It was a short work to get to the toe of the glacier. Originally we thought we might have a wicked river crossing to do but after further inspection we decided to gain the glacier true left and traverse across the ice until we met the gulley. We carefully crossed the ice, with stones and gravel melted and frozen into the water ice surface, the travel was overall smooth and uneventful. We made it to the base of the Gulley when suddenly, just like in NZ fashion, it started to rain. The guide from yesterday warned us about one thing, and that was to be no where near that rock Gulley during the rain. So we promptly turned around after an hour and a half of Climbing. We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the car, watching the rain patter against the windshield and decided to give it one more try the next day.
Unlike the day before the sky was cloudless the following morning. With the new found knowledge of the glacier we made it to yesterday’s high point in little to no time. We started up the Gulley and both Joe and I knew this was no place to stop and rest. We scrambled up and over the loose rocks and through streams. Massive house sized boulders loomed above our heads, still sleeping. Carefully not to wake them we climbed swiftly through the rock field to where the white ice of the glacier was now in view. We climbed out of the Gulley and sat on the rocks while we changed our shoes and placed crampons on our feet in preparation for a change in the terrain.
Guided helicopters buzzed above us as they went in for landings onto the glacier. Most of the time when you are on a glacier you feel completely alone in the world. With guide companies bringing clients onto the “accessible only by helicopter” glacier all hours of the day, you feel a bit more like you’re in the city than on a living, breathing, crevassed glacier.
We stayed clear of the helicopters, and made detours around their landing pads. We stopped and said hello to one of the guides who pointed out the best ice climbing areas. He quickly warned us of the rock fall danger near the sides of the glacier but seemed happy to give us any information we were looking for.
We thanked him, and went on our way. Unlike most glaciers I’ve been on the crevasses on the Fox Glacier are mostly filled in. So for the most part glacier travel was relatively easy. We saw the ice climbing locations not to far in the distance. Guided groups climbed away on massive semi vertical sheets of ice. We jumped across small crystal blue creeks that ran across the top of the ice and stepped methodically across the spines of ice walls. Late season conditions made the ice form into magnificent sculptures and shapes of all kinds.
After four and a half hours of hiking, Joe and I decided that even though we hadn’t technically ice climbed anything we were both ecstatic with just getting to climb and play along the glacier. Without the luxury of a 5min helicopter ride back to town we decided that it was probably a good idea to start heading down.
We made quick work of the glacier travel and arrived back to the rocks where we changed our shoes. Before we knew it we were quickly scrambling back down the Gulley. We didn’t dare to look up, only ahead at what move was next. By the time we climbed up and back out of the way of the rock fall danger we both agreed that we were glad to have the Gulley behind us.
We made it back to the car by mid afternoon only to watch dark grey clouds roll into the glacier valley. We were glad to have left when we did. Both of us felt happy and physically felt great. It was so wonderful to feel like we achieved one of our goals.
|Rock throwing competition PC-JDSTYLOS|
With some success we smiled and said goodbye to Fox Glacier and kept making our way North. With rain pouring out of the sky we tried to enjoy some smaller towns along the way.
So, with all of this warm weather we’ve set our Climbing goals aside for this trip and have started working our way north and looking into other fun, outdoorsy things we can find to do! We’ve started re-reading “Training for the New Alpinism” and are taking advantage of the immense playground at our finger tips to start training for next springs climbing objectives. We are both looking forward to going to some places that weren’t originally on the radar!!