Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Mt Arrowsmith (Attempt)

Finished my marketing exam and I was keen to celebrate finishing the uni year with a trip to the mountains. Myself and Elisha zoomed past Mt Somers and onwards to the track start of the Cameron valley.
4.5hrs later we arrived at Cameron hut just as it was getting dark. The travel was easy but tiring. I light rain started to fall and night came however we still decided to get up at 6.00am to give Mt Arrowsmith a crack. We were here so why not. The pre bedtime passed yarning to fellow hut people whom Elisha knew funny enough. Small world.

It was lightly drizzling in the morning, however we had breakfast, put on our harnesses and snow gear and set off into the darkness. A quick prayer for our safely and we were off travelling quickly over the moraine and rocks heading up towards the South Cameron glacier. We roped together as the terrain go steeper and if there was a chance of carvasses. The landscape was very unique and different to what I had previously experienced. Much steeper and grander.

The weather packed in completely as we reached the bottom of South Cameron glacier so decided to turn back. Walk back to hut and out to car. Sweet place to explore. Will definately be back!!

Tramps: Elisha Nuttall, Caroline Bellamy.
Date: Nov 11, 2015

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Mt Rolleston-Rome Ridge

“Pumped to get out of the city and climb a mountain”! Saturday evening the four of us, Hamish Cumming, Chris Sillars, Alan Williams and I drove through the falling snow in Porters and onwards to the CMC Lodge, Arthurs Pass. There had been talk of climbing Mt Rolleston via Rome Ridge for sometime. With the weather not looking ideal we were still keen to give it a crack.
After a quick pub snack and an intense P90X core session in the hope of getting some fabulous abs we were all tucked up getting some shut eye before our 4am wake up call. Consumed by deep sleep, warm and content, Hamish’s alarm activated, jumping us all right awake. With no time to waste a good 4am breakfast was hastily arranged, my body complaining about eating so early in the morning.  There was quite a variety of breakfasts from oats - pizza - toasties - rice and tuna. Yum Yum.
Vivaldi melodies set the mood on our quick drive to the start of the Coral track giving us the motivation we needed for the steep climb ahead. We loaded our day packs full with snow gear, leaving only one or two layers on for the heated climb. The rooted, wet track weaved up through the beech forest at a steady climb. Before we knew it we  approached the bush line just as the sky started to lighten. Low misty cloud hovered over the surrounding mountain ranges (looking across to Temple Basin) with the faint sunrise light filtering through, illuminating the snowy undulating Rome Ridge. A brisk morning wind kept us moving into the unknown, low cloud obscuring our route. Packed snow covered with a fresh layer of soft powder snow gave a little but was pretty good to walk on.
All three guys had been up Rome Ridge to Mt Rolleston before and knew the route well so I knew I was in good hands and ready to take on what was ahead. As the terrain steepened we all stopped and put on our crampons and harnesses.
Hamish finding a way through soft snow. Just before the gap (need to drop down on left)
The ridge became much more technical as we navigated steep icy sections and gullies. My semi rigid boots were not ideal for front pointing and a lot of pain was inflicted on the achiles tendons. Dealing with this distracted me from the sheer drops surrounding us. Having the two ice tools and crampons I felt secure however the thought of how far I would fall if my crampons or ice tools failed was a bit terrifying. You had to make sure each ice tool and crampon point placement was solid and secure, able to hold your weight. It took a lot of concentration. Hamish being so helpful cut ledges for me to rest my ankles so they did not fail on me half way up an icy wall. It was tough work.
Chris leading...
The solo movement of the ice axes and foot work was quite thrilling, especially on the steep icy sections allowing you to go straight up without hesitation and no protection.
We took a little detour before the ‘gap’ missing the left side diversion, and continued to follow the ridge which became exposed and dangerous. Chris being keen went straight in, testing out the route while navigating small rock outcrops. We all followed, soloing, taking our time carefully picking our way up the ridge above the sheer drops. Reaching a large cliff we realised we were meant to drop down to the left and bypass this technical section of the ridge. Haha time to practice our down climbing. I very carefully made my way down the ridge we had come up. Some awkward footwork made some pretty scary climbing. Only for crazy people.
We all made it down alive and continued up and around the left reaching the gap with ease. The ‘gap’ marked the steeper ascent to the Low Peak of Rolleston. Avoiding the ice covered rocks we negotiated the steep gullies before reaching the steep ridge leading up to the peak. The snow was becoming very crusty and slab avalanche prone so we really had to make sure our foot work was secure as the crusty lose snow would break away. The few last sections were super icy and steep. Not able to look up to see how far to go, you just had to keep moving, staring at the solid ice wall in front of you hoping a rest was coming. The solid ice allowed fast travel with only front points and picks. The ridge crest made a good spot for a small rest before the last climb to the Low Peak.
One last push and we stood on the plateau of Low Peak, engulfed in cloud with the sun trying to push its way through. It was an awesome feeling to have reached the top (2212m). I was fully knackered from the full body climbing. It is quite cool what you can get your body up and how high you can climb.
Low Peak Rolleston with very little visability 
We proceeded onward down-climbing the Otria slide. A steep and direct route obscured by cloud. A bit of bum sliding was also added into the mix. Approaching the bottom the sun started to peak through and we were able to see some of the surrounding mountain peaks that looked liked some awesome climbing (across to Mt Philistine).
Otria Valley walk out.
A pleasant walk out the Otria valley brought us to the Arthurs Pass road where we hitch hiked back to the car in no time. A well earned feed was consumed at the fantastic Bealey Pub. Great tasteful music was supplied to keep us all awake in the car ride home. Despite the cloud cover my face got very burnt and is now peeling… beautiful times.
Awesome trip though! Highly recommend especially for those starting out in mountaineering. It is a great route with some fun climbing and good challenges that are not overwhelmingly exposed. I definitely will be back on a clear day!
Date: Sep 20, 2015
Tramps: Caroline Bellamy, Hamish Cumming, Chris Sillars, Alan Williams

Monday, 1 June 2015

Mt Murchison (attempt) Arthurs Pass

6.00 pm on a bone chilling Friday night in mid July we all slipped and stumbled our way up to Carrington Hut. Keen we were...braving this cold. The Waimakariri river was filled with rocks blanketed with snow illuminating the path for the five of us as chat broke up the long 4hr valley walk. Guided by Venus and a little sneaky GPS we made it to Carrington Hut on a pretty direct route sticking to the river the whole way.
Klondyke corner Arthurs Pass

Carrington hut was very big and very cold and very empty. With a hot drink and sleeping bags lofting we gradually warmed amongst the -10°C air temperature surroundings. Up nice an early, Barkers Hut up the White River was the destination. As the horizon lightened, the clear sky came alive and we got the first view of how low the snow was. It had filled the Waimak valley as far as we could see. Absolutely beautiful and a unique view of Mt Rolleston was visible from the hut.
Snowy view up the White river...

We were not to leave right away though… my boots had completely frozen solid overnight inside the hut, as well as Kate’s and Sam’s shoes and gaiters! The shoes eased after some manipulation however the boots were very stubborn and after 30 min of pain to the feet from forcing them in water had to be boiled to defrost the boots. Much better! Incredible how cold it can get! Even the mice weren’t out that night.
Four of us set off to Barkers hut and Brandon decided to stay at Carrington another night with his 308. to see out his chances with getting a deer or chamois. A fire for that night was defiantly on the list.
We all hit rather deep snow just after leaving before heading out to the river bed again where the crisp morning air would refreeze our gaiters straight after crossing the river. I had been part way up the White River before in Autumn however with all the snow it was a completely different place, a winter wonderland that sparkled in the warm morning sun. There were huge snow flakes/ frost crystals in the valley which were quite usual and parts of the river had frozen alongside the banks.
We knew at this stage the trek up to Barkers was going to take over the recommended 4 hours because of conditions so we decided to leave Mt Murchison for tomorrow to give us of Saturday to get up to Barkers Hut. Crossing impressive avalanche debris and viewing the many frozen waterfalls up the white river the snow started to get deeper and deeper.
A very comical bunny rabbit tiring to scramble up a snowy bank only succeeding after about 6 attempts made us laugh. Felt sorry for the little guy. Approaching the head of the valley we encountered a nice steep climb up to the hut. The first ridge required a bit of mixed climbing before we reached some steep soft powder snow. When it was your time to lead you were guaranteed to build up a very large sweat. It was tough work.
Barkers Hut engolfed in pow
The last ridge was very icy so we put on our crampons just as we reached the hut. After a good effort of getting the hut door open and about 15mins of breaking through ice with an ice axe to get water, we all took in the awesome views from the hut with not a breath of wind to disturb them. You were able to see right down the White Valley and apparently could see the Waimakariri Falls Hut as well. Such a cool spot for a hut although apparently in high winds.It can be pretty scary (feels like a magnitude 7 earthquake) as it is pretty exposed. They have lost the toilet a few times! Defiantly well secured down now haha.
View from Barkers hut at dusk
Three of us hopped into our sleeping bags at the early hour of 4pm- at least they will be warm by the time we go to sleep! The brave Hamish with his non suffering dry warm snow boots decided to check out the route up to Mt Murchison while it was still light and pug in some tracks. While Hamish was hard at work the rest of us played find the avalanche transceiver in the hut which didn’t quite work… too many metal things around... Quick peaks of the incredible winter sunset were made by those brave enough venture out into the very cold and clear alpine night. Kate even had to put crampons on to get to the toilet. Not many places you stay you have to do that haha.
All being a little concerned for Hamish he finally came back well and safe and a hot dinner was consumed before the 7.30 pm weather report (reporter quite humorous), which was looking pretty damn fine! Barker Hut was ten thousand times warmer than Carrington! I guess being smaller alpine hut and out of the valley it held much more heat. Actually got too hot during the night... in mid winter!
After a great sleep Hamish and Sam and I were up at 5am ready for Mt Murchison with Kate staying at Barkers as she was feeling a little under the weather. It was truly cold outside with the sharp chill of frozen snow piercing through our layers. With snow shovels, probes, avalanches transceivers in place and harnesses, crampons and helmets on we were ready to go. Not really knowing what snow conditions to expect I was nervous but ready, feeling good and motivated to do anything that came our way. Hamish plugging the previous night made the first part much much quicker- a nice way to ease into the day… You could not see the big drops hidden beneath the morning darkness, almost keeping you most focused. Before we knew it we were plugging/ slipping/ on all fours going up very soft snow. Slowly but steady we climbed up to White Glacier. The sun had started to rise so we stopped for a bit to take it in, trying to ignore the painful cold feet. The sun was so warm in contrast to the harsh cold surroundings.
A crispy sunrise on way on to Mt Murchison
Travel across the White Glacier
We roped together for the next section of the glacier in case of any hidden crevasses, With Sam leading quite a fast fit pace it was quite an effort to keep in time. We soon reached the base of Mt Murchison and decided on going up a side gut leading to the summit. It was hard to tell what the snow conditions were like so a bit of risk was involved whether there may be avalanche risk or be very hard dangerous ice. With Hamish already been to the summit in summer he warned us the top was also very exposed and would take time. Time we did not have unfortunately. The plan was to pitch the route up the ice however we just did not have enough time. The short days of winter catch up on you before you know it. Instead a quick trip to the Kahutea col to see the views down the Wilberforce river and onwards to Mt Cook made the snow plug totally worth it. The still clear day made it prefect conditions.
Gearing up for glacier travel
At the base of Murchison before the climb gets steep and technical
An icy climb to summit ridge,,
View of Mt Murchison behind.
It took us about 4 hours to get up to Mt Murchison and only 1.5 hours back down to Barkers. Greeted by Kate who had done some awesome sunrise photography, we all enjoyed lunch in the sun taking in the views before packing up for the long walk out.
Coming back down filled in White glacier
Leaving a cutc printed trog in the hut we were ready to go…. yea... took us about 20mins of hammering and heaving the door before it finally managed to shut. Hopefully the next people can actually open it! Again following our tracks from the previous day we made good time, also seeing many fresh animal tracks made us realise how much life is here despite the cold. About 2 hours out from Barkers my feet began to thaw out and were incredibly painful to walk on. It was so intense I could barely swallow. Panodol was taken and with 7hrs walking to go I just had to push through it.
Looking down to Barkers hut
Everyone was feeling good though and we approached Carrington Hut before dark. Brandon had a great few days out seeing a few hind, getting fairly close but not quite able to get a shot. But even just seeing the animals in their natural environment was pretty awesome.
Nina Dickerholf and her team just left the hut before us also going back to the car park. We weren’t the only crazy winter adventurers. With a few a snacks consumed and layers applied we were off. Again the intense evening hues reflected in the Waimakariri river and lit up the surrounding snowy peaks before gradually retreating into darkness. After crossing the river numerous times, at 8.30 pm the car park was in sight and we had caught up with Nina. Lucky that, as being so cold our vehicle would not start. Might have had to spend another night in this coldness haha. We jump started it and were off!!
15hr day done and dusted. Great trip guys! Highly recommend this trip, Barkers hut is awesome and in winter for those who are brave enough!
Unfortunately, I did end up getting frostbite and have been to the hospital twice so far. Its not too pleasant and I won’t get feeling back in my toes for at least another 2 months. Take care of yourselves out there.
Date: Jul 10-12, 2015
Tramps: Caroline Bellamy, Hamish Cumming, Sam Stephenson, Kate Wootton
Location: Barker Hut, Arthur's Pass

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Tara Tama Traverse West Coast
Participants: Caroline Bellamy, Hamish Cumming, Alastair McDowell, Philip Sültrop and Phil Wallace
After dinner at Darfield we arrived 9.00pm Friday in Arthurs Pass, where all the fun began. With our five packs loaded and ice gear secured we began our way towards Rocky creek hut on the pleasant warm night it was, pumped and excited for what was to come. We estimated a 2-3 hour walk in…. well…..
A snack and rest after some intense bush bashing
We gradually climbed through lush greenery up onto the ridge and followed the track down to Rocky Creek where torrents of water gushed furiously past. Apparently it had rained the previous week on the West Coast and the rivers were very high, not to mention the snow melt. It was going to be a long night! Time to get saturated. We navigated following the river and used the track where we could find it which was quite challenging in the dark. With a mix of slippery rocks, torrents of deep water, difficult terrain, at 1am we were starting to tire and needed to get to the hut to be sure we knew where we were.
Emerge above the wall.....
However with some great nav skills of Alastair and Hamish we knew the hut was not to far away…. hopefully.
Best sight of the night… the hut!! At 3am we all piled into the hut, boots and clothes dipping, relieved to have finally made it. With a big couple of days ahead of us we had a quick snack (can’t go to sleep hungry!) and doubled up the bunks with one on floor and one outside.
Sleeping in to 8.00am we quickly set off into the clear sunny day continuing up rocky creek. Looking up at the dense green bush and rocky guts we knew we were in some rough, wild and exciting country. As we reached a left fork in the creek we followed it up into a steep rocky gut where we heaved each other up careful not to drop rocks. ‘Phew, that was hard’! We ventured into the dense bush leading up to a side ridge. A huge amount of arm strength and good foot holes was needed as we scrambled up, grabbing and dislodging plants while slipping on muddy steep ground. At the top of the ridge we were pretty much tree climbing!
Note to all adventures: Always wear long pants when bush bashing in West Coast otherwise legs will get very scratched. It was rough stuff.
Beautiful ridge travel in evening light
With a view from the ridge we could see the creekbelow us was clearer than the bush and lead up towards
Scotty’s Saddle. Woo thats where we want to go! We all followed the steep rocky creek until the very end,
gaining some good vertical. One last push up the steepest most challenging part to the saddle rewarded us
with amazing 360 views across the ranges, especially the nasty looking narrow Razorback ridge. The rolling
tussock saddle decorated with tarns glowed in the sun, with hardly a breath of wind to disturb it. It felt really
good to work so hard for something and then be rewarded with something so beautiful.
Views to the West
Stunning light
Transalpine reflection.. model Alastair Mcdowell
The West Coast sea and lake Brunner reflected in the warm evening sun as we trekked along the saddle, scouting out our campsite for the night. We choose a tarn below Tara Tama so we were able to get up onto the mountain nice an early on Sunday. A well deserved hot dinner was consumed warming us from the inside. As the sun disappeared we knew it was going to be a cold night. One biv bag, one 1 person tent, a fly with walking poles and 5 people. Probably should have brought a tent. Lucky the weather was flawless with clear skies (incredible view of the stars), no wind …..and no warmth. It was very cold!!
Sunrise heading up Tara Tama
Early at 5.00am the West Coast birds chirped us awake. Everything was frozen… and sparkly! The fly and everything under it was frozen. Bivvy bag froze to sleeping bag and there was so much condensation in tent a lake had pretty much formed. A very memorable experience. As our bodies defrosted with a warm breaky we turned out frozen socks and laced up frozen boots. We set off in the dark with much anticipation for the sunrise and summit! The crunchy hard icy snow held our
weight with ease as we approached our assent of Tara Tama with the faint lightening of sunrise.
Alastair on ridge heading to summit
Crampons strapped on and ice axes ready we steady followed the snowy ridge avoiding the large rocks that we would detour or climb over. It took quite a lot of concentration in the more technical areas where with each step you had to be very sure. Learned some great snow craft tips on the way up and was able to practice then as we progressed. Perfecto!
Gradually the sun rose above the low cloud and lit up our mountainous surroundings. A breathtaking moment. Absolutely out of this world. The warm morning sun filtered through the clouds and there was not a breath of wind. It felt so remote and wild….
Onward to the summit we progressed up, down and around the not too technical ridge. Great for beginners. Reaching the summit at 10.00am the terrain flattened off and again 360 views of mountainous ranges were visible on the clear day that it was. We had all reached the summit safely! Woo it felt great! It had taking a lot of hard work but it was totally worth it. The reward cannot be put into words. The weather was perfect for a summit, we were very lucky.
Summit of Tara Tama
However a successful ascent comes with a safe decent so after refuelling we traversed Tara Tama and went down the other side, practicing our down climbing and ice work. The snow had started to soften so we had to be careful with the more experienced in our team testing out some different routes before we proceeded, finding the safest way. We choose a grassy/ snow gut to decent down to the river below which was very direct and steep. Steep enough to do a complete summersault lol. Before we knew it we were back down at Dunn's Creek with the unrelenting force of gushing water.
Coming out at Dunns creek
Rehydrating, and saying goodbye to the Tara Tama range we approached Dunn’s Hut around 2.00pm. Looking at the maps we realised we had a good 17km to go. With some of Phills ginger nut cookies we were off. We quickly made tracks following the Dunn Creek out to the Taipo river reducing our time. The high river levels sent Hamish swimming and Philipp taking a slip in the freezing white water brrrrrr!! A lack of sleep was defiantly taking its toll with vision becoming blurry and food supplies running low.
Cable way across the Taipo river
We kept moving at a good pace crossing the Taipo river on an awesome cableway before bypassing Dillion's hut. At one point the track became very difficult to find once it had gotten dark however with some help from local West Coast hunters we made it back to the car at 9pm. We had managed a 14 hour day and were still standing, oh yea!! Great fitness endurance training. Thanks Hamish for driving almost 3 hours and staying awake! The rest of us didn’t.
The trip was an amazing chance to explore remote Rough West Coast terrain. We were faced with many challenges which make it that much more exciting and rewarding. One for the coolest things about tramping I love is how primitive life becomes. Everything is simple, eat, sleep, move and take in everything around us.
Living in the moment! Big thanks to Alastair for organising the awesome trip. Bring on more Wild West Coast
Here is a link to a mean video Alastair has created of our trip,
Got some great inspiration for my paintings....