I (Sp) am back in New Zealand for a few weeks and filling it with some hiking, climbing and enjoying the country.
The great thing about NZ “tramping” is that there are lots of tracks, fantastic views and a great hut system. The bad thing is that there are lots of biting sandflies, rain and nothing is easy. But sometimes rewards are directly proportional to effort.
With my brother-in-law Martin I did a two day hike up to kiwi Saddle hut, up Mount Patriach and down to John Reid hut and out down Chummies track. The huts here are small 6 bunk ones, basic but shelter and no need to carry a tent. We awoke to cloud and gloom but after hiking for less than an hour were out and on top of it all with cloud filling the valleys and perfect clear blue skies above. More of a route than a track along the tops, but easy to follow in fine weather the route gives views from one side of the South Island to the other.
No wind, warm temps and easy hiking along the open tops made it a day to remember. The 3000 foot descent is also something to remember too. Classic NZ, straight down the fall line and wasting no time about it. A few steps axed out of the dirt here and there to give the illusion of security. Would not be called a track in the USA and the Park or Forest Service would close it and warn people away. Here it is go ahead, but know the risks and look after yourself. And people do. We even saw a family with two 7 and 11 year old girls doing the trip. “Good on ya”
The Wet West Coast
West side of the South Island has always had a reputation. Annual rainfall here can be up to almost 60 feet of water. The forest is rainforest and often a battle to get through. Rivers come up and people are stranded for days. A bridge on the main highway washed out here three weeks ago after over two feet of rain in six hours.
So getting around is a problem.
With a flight to catch in a few days I could not afford to get stuck so I took a short hike up to the Mt Brown hut, a short but steep four hour hike. In the 1960s and 1970 the NZ Forest Service built a lot of backcountry huts. Over the years these slowly deteriorated, but as is the case with government departments everywhere there is little money available these days to maintain them. Consequently there has been a move to allow local clubs and interested people to maintain them. This is the case with Mt Brown which was completely rebuilt by a group of locals from Hokitika using some materials from an old nearby hut and then lots of new materials flown to the site. It makes for the perfect place to go quickly with few of the problems of the west coast.
The hut even has it’s own Facebook page.
Had the place to my self except for a curious weka. A perfect sunset with the sun slanting in under leaden skies and a small coal stove to chase the chill away.
Doesn’t come much better.
Mt Owen aka Moria Jan. 2013
Owen is the high point of Kahurangi National Park and also had a moment of fleeting fame as one of the settings for Lord of the Rings. Even has a summit dragon.
More importantly it has a wonderful new hut and spectacular limestone karst terrain and is about an hour from my sisters home in Motueka.
About 3-4 hours for the roadhead to the Granity Pass Hut. I got there under clear skies and since you do not want to miss any such opportunities in NZ I headed on up the peak. The route follows rolling tussock covered hills and then into eroded rock with flat slabs and deep slots. Someone went missing here a few weeks ago and has still not been found. From the top views are from one side of the South Island to the other with clear blue skies, but within 30 minutes of getting back to the hut rain set in and has not stopped yet. But a big part of NZ tramping is walking in the dripping forest amidst the sound of bellbirds and tuis. Just got to learn to love it.
Tapi is the highest point in New Zealand outside of the main Divide and I have wanted to climb it for over 40 years. So I connected with an old friend Penny, from the old days of university back in the 1970s, and she flew down from Auckland and we made a quick trip since the forecast was fine for a few days.
It is in the Kaikoura Mountains on the east side of the northern part of the South Island and in the rain shadow of the biggest peaks so although a dry environment there are sill rivers to deal with and the approach is 22km up a river bed with 70 to 80 river crossing in knee to waist deep water and a climb of 1000meters to a pair of small huts.
The huts are typical small NZ mountain huts, sturdy shelter from the storm with bunk ,mattresses and amazing views. The NZ hut system is just wonderful.
From here it is about 1500 meters to the summit up rock and 35 degree snow. We topped out in moderate winds but not a cloud to be seen anywhere. Views down the range to the higher peaks and the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean. Do not get too may days like this in NZ.
My wife Chris and I want to tell you what a fabulous experience the Whitney Cottonwood trip was. Much better than we hoped it would be. It was one, if not the best, vacation experiences we have ever participated in. Our leaders, Aaron and Jessica were marvelous–patient, caring, helpful, knowledgeable, and good-humoured. In addition, they are terrific cooks. We never expected to eat so well! We can’t say enough good things about them. And Max Kozak the packer was a delight as well.
In addition, we want to thank you for all the terrific advice and help that you provided to us before departure. We had a feeling that SMC was a very competent organization from the way you handled your job and we were not at all disappointed. We would recommend SMC trips to anyone. It was an all-around job well done by everyone and we are so glad that we took part. We wish we were back in the Sierra!
Boundary Peak is the high point of Nevada and we get a number of people who are doing all of the high points of the 50 states wanting to do it. This was the case with Jayme and Don Holcomb.
This was a warm up before Whitney, but with no good trail and the dry desert air this might actually be harder.
We stayed at SP’s Nevada place just on the other side of the highway the night before and got a dawn start up the trail, watching the sun come up over the ranges tot eh east.
We were 4.5 hours up and 2.5 down which is a great time and along the way we saw a band of mustangs which was great end to the day.
We have been working with Rock Creek Pack Station to set up the JMT in stages as a pack supported trip. This allows people who want to do the JMT but do not want the heavy packs to spread the journey out over four years and to have a relaxed memorable vacation along the way.
This year our first section was from a start at Kearsarge to a finish at Onion Valley. Along were Geoff Snyder, Donna Smith, Mardi Swords, Martha Moore, Phil Moore and SP as hiking guide. We also had a full time cook Andy and packers Mark and Terri.
The trip started with some ran and thunderstorm activity that nearly shut us down on ourWhitney climb, but we hung out in the tent as lightening lit the summit up and hail hit the tent.But it cleared enough to give us time to get up and down. Climbing Whitney had been cook Andy’s goal since Day I. So in cowboy boots, cowboy hat, leather canteen and a slicker he headed tot he top getting lots of stares from REI equipped hikers. But we all made it in near record time.
From Whitney on we had great weather, fantastic scenery and thanks to Andy fantastic food.
This is the trip for anyone who wants a really relaxing holiday.
Next years section is from Onion Valley to Bishop Pass.