02.20.16

South Westland

"yo are you interested on coming on a south westland trip?- fmc scholarship."

I had never explored much of South Westland save for the Gillespie Pass circuit, so it didn't take me long to agree to this venture in August 2015.  The scholarship was confirmed in November, so I hastily arranged some time off work and began to organise my food and gear for the 18 day trip starting in Makarora up the Wilkin River and taking a round-about route around Mt Aspiring finishing in the Matukituki River.  The final list of participants was only finalised a few weeks before leaving, two of whom I had either not met or barely knew, but in my experience people that are willing to go on 18 day trips in the mountains are generally fun humans to hang out with.

I had learned a few lessons from my last long trip, and I was keen to try out a few things on this one based on those lessons.  Instead of wearing shoes and carrying a heavy pair of mountaineering boots (which worked great for that trip), this time I bought a lightweight boot to wear all the time as we were not going to be spending much time in the show or doing any technical climbing.  I took crocs instead of jandals, as they are lighter and better to wear around camp.  I swapped the blow up mattress for a Thermarest ZLite sleeping mat, because of its robustness and the large amount of camping below the bush line, and its dual purpose as something to sit on.  I significantly reduced the amount of clothing, pots, first aid gear and anything else I deemed unlikely to be useful to save weight.  By the time I had finished optimising my gear I was able to comfortably fit 13 days of food, a 70m rope and a light rack, a bulky Exped Waterbloc 800 sleeping bag, cooker, fuel and all of my other kit into a 75L Macpac Ascent, which probably only weighed about 25kg.

On February 1 all 5 of us somehow piled into an aged Toyota Corolla Wagon and raced down to Wanaka, with a few brief stops to iron ourselves out a bit.  We had an interesting encounter with an enthusiasitc fruit seller in Fairlie where we bought bags of apricots and cherries (without having to leave the car!).  Before long we found ourselves in Wanaka to fuel up, before heading over to the coast to drop some food with Waitoto River Safaris who kindly agreed to drop it off up river for us in a weeks time.  We got back to Makarora just before dark and set up camp for the night, ready for a big first day ahead.
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01.17.16

Honeycomb Hill

Honeycomb Cave is located in a specially protected area near Karamea, requiring permits to visit.  In order to get a permit, your group of no more than four must be led by someone who has been through the cave three times before, and all must be NZSS members so it can be quite a performance getting all the right people together.  Fortunately for me others had done all the hard work, and all I had to do was turn up!

As we had a large group spread over two days, I spent a day doing all the tourist stuff: Box Canyon and Crazy Paving caves, the Oparara Arch and the Moira Gate/Mirror Tarn loop.  We saw many spiders and egg nest thingies hanging from the ceiling in Box Canyon cave, apparently one of the best places to see them.   The whole area is very scenic, so many photo stops were made to try and capture the surrounds.  Unfortunately the big contrast on bright days and the enormity of the arches makes them quite tricky to photograph.

Moira Gate

Moira Gate

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11.15.15

Harwoods & Corkscrew

I finally decided it was time to chop my 200m Harwoods rope into something more useful, but thought I should do one more trip on it before doing so.  So it was on Thursday night that two of us drove up to Canaan Downs during the night, arriving shortly after midnight.  Around 2am I heard our third group member arrive (who was new to caving) and settle in for a somewhat cold (zero degrees!) night.

At the crack of dawn, I got up, and rigged a rope up a tree with a rebelay so that our Harwoods virgin could acquire the necessary skills for the trip, and after a few hours and some breakfast I declared everyone fit for purpose and we headed down to the hole.  This time we decided that the last person would rig the rebelay (last time it was rigged first), in the interest of saving a bit of time.  I went first down the rope, as I wanted to get some good photos of the others to make up for my poor results on the previous trip.  The trip down was largely uneventful, with everyone managing to keep their nerves under control.

Descending Harwoods Hole

Descending Harwoods Hole

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10.29.15

NZSS AGM Weekend 2015

Well it's not often one gets three days of clear weather on the coast, but that's exactly what we had this year for the NZSS AGM.  Despite the temptations to make the most of the weather and go climbing, I did end up going caving for all three days.  Saturdays mission was to Cataract Pot, with the aim of doing the (short) through trip to Myopia.  Finding the Cataract Pot entrance was straightforward enough, so we dropped a rope down the 40-something metre shaft, then tried to find the Myopia entrance.  Unfortunately we did not have the map with us, and as it turned out we were not looking in the right area, and thus didn't find the entrance, so we went back to Cataract Pot and dropped down what is an absolutely stunning pitch, with the water streaming down and sunlight filtering through from above.  Once on the deck we explored the muddy and sandy passages of the cave, and then traversed the awkward hand line into Myopia.   Myopia contains a large chamber of clean rock, littered with large blocks on the floor, it is quite awesome.  Because we were unable to drop ropes in from Myopia, we escaped back out the same way, jugging up what seemed to me a very bouncy rope which was slightly unnerving.

Sundays plan was to do a trip through Mahjong cave, with possibly another if time allowed.  As it turned out, Mahjong turned out to be quite elusive to find, but as we found a number of other interesting looking shafts we dropped in those for a look while our leader pondered on Mahjongs location.  A number of the shafts were much too deep (40-70?m) for our rope, so I'll definitely be heading back to check them out at a later date.  Eventually the eureka moment arrived where the location of the cave was remembered, and into the depths we went.  Mahjong is quite a small cave, only taking an hour or two to completely explore but it has a handful of pretty things to look at, notably a large curtain on the upper level and a stream of milky calcite.

Curtain in Mahjong

Curtain in Mahjong

With the amount of time we spend looking for the cave, we hadn't time to do another so it was off to the BBQ back at the CCB where I was somehow nominated for the Arch Nana award, but luckily there were plenty of other cave idiots to put me out of the running.

Monday saw yet another mission to Te Ana Puta, with the aim of once and for all trying to find all the rest of the cave.  Unfortunately for us it was high tide, and although we explored quite a lot of passage that we hadn't been down before, none of it seemed to match up with the survey.  We got down to the see entrances, but were unable to link them up with the cave we had explored from the south.  I think one more attempt at low tide ought to do it!

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09.20.15

Rome Ridge 20.09.15

It seems I manage to get up Rolleston at least once a year, and for my 7th or 8th trip up Mt Rolleston (3rd? via Rome Ridge), we had chosen a stunningly rotten day for it.  Well I suppose it wasn't that bad really, but it was blowing a stiff breeze and the visibility varied between 10m and 100m.  Not what I would call optimal conditions at all.  We headed up to Kennedy Lodge the night previous, and had a good spontaneous P90X session before bed.  We started early, but not ridiculously so, and were well on our way up the hill by the time it was light.  As we got higher up the visibility seemed to get worse, at times it was quite a challenge to see where you were stepping, the snow blending in with the cloud leaving us unable to glean any definition of the terrain.  Progress was casual for our group of four, and we only had a slight hiccup just before the gap where we neglected to drop down around the bump in the ridge, and ended up climbing up a nasty steep section of the ridge only to have to down climb it moments later.

This is where we should have gone down, but not being able to see we ended up continuing the ridge to the gap

This is where we should have gone down, but not being able to see we ended up continuing the ridge to the gap

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08.24.15

A Very Important Mission to the Lewis Tops

Today I skinned up and along the Lewis Tops. Then I excavated a curling arena on a frozen tarn. If other people joined me on my trips then this sort of childish shit probably wouldn't happen.

Masterpiece

Masterpiece

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08.16.15

Ice and Mixed 2015

Well Ice & Mixed 2015 was fantastic yet again, this year I was not very organized and decided it would be easiest to jump on one of the clinics so I wouldn't have to find a climbing partner.  Arriving on Wednesday I got in a days skiing on Thursday, and on Friday we headed up to some slabs above Lake Alta and had a go at a couple of routes, getting our every placement and decision critiqued which was quite refreshing and I learned a surprising amount. On Saturday we headed up to the base of Telecom Tower, intending to climbing Fridays Fool. However we knew there were a few groups planning to do that route, and upon passing Saturday Morning Special with nobody on it, we opted to do that instead.

Queens Drive

Queens Drive

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08.4.15

Takaka Hill Sarex and Corkscrew Cave

After being convinced that I ought to attend a cavesar sarex on Takaka Hill, I left Christchurch at 11pm after having attended Alan Davis's standup gig (excellent), and headed north.  I made it to Ngati Moti before deciding that I was a danger to myself by continuing to drive any further, so I pulled over at 4am for a nap.  3 hours later and nap complete, I nipped up to the Ngarua Caves carpark to meet up with the 50 or so cavers that had come to attend the sarex.

Credit: Jonathan Carr

Credit: Jonathan Carr

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07.13.15

(Almost) Mt Murchison

We, an optimistic group of 5, headed off to Klondyke late on Friday with 4 of us intending to climb Mt Murchison and 1 catching a ride up to do some hunting in the vicinity of Carrington Hut. It was pretty cold with snow right down to the road making for a pretty wobbly drive down the carpark track.

The snow in the riverbed caught everyone by surprise, with everyone going arse over breakfast time at least once in the first 5 minutes. We wandered up the river, using stars for direction for a time before getting out the compass and GPS for assistance. It was slightly more challenging finding the optimal route up the wide Waimak valley than I was expecting with no moon out. After about 40 minutes of walking up the riverbed Brandon queried how much longer before we got to the track as his feet were getting sore in his barefoot shoes! Needless to say a footwear change was hastily arranged upon receiving the news that it was riverbed all the way. Carrington Hut was reached in good time, and following a quick brew we were all in bed, struggling to stay warm.

We started at a fairly casual hour on Saturday, heading for Barker Hut. Caroline's boots required defrosting with hot water before they would accept her feet. The soft powder snow made for relatively slow going, adding on a couple of hours to the regular journey time. Because of the snow and our late start we had little time to get any further than the hut. While the others attempted some transceiver practice, I headed up towards Mt Murchison to plug some steps as I knew the snow was too dry to freeze over night, hoping to make our morning a bit easier.

Barker Hut Photo:Kate Wootton

Barker Hut Photo:Kate Wootton

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06.1.15

Queens Birthday Caving 2015

This year I was excited to attend my first Queens Birthday cavers gathering over at Charleston. There would be almost 100 people from all over the South Island in attendance, cavers and their families of all ages, shapes and sizes. While the forecast wasn't fantastic, it certainly wasn't as bad as it does get on occasion over on the West Coast, and the caves on my agenda weren't prone to flooding anyway.

On Saturday morning, 6 of us headed to Hollywood, a gated cave that requires a permit from DOC due to the many delicate formations and bones within. After a quite tight and prolonged section of dry rift passage we opened up into Streamway One, and traveled the most often taken route out to Elvis the Pelvis, Streamway Two, through the Sacrilege Passage back to the entrance passage. At one point you are required to delicately pass a floor to ceiling straw only 1cm or so in diameter - how it has survived this long I have no idea - I certainly felt like a clumsy elephant and was nervous just being next to it. Although it was saddening to see all the damage to formations in the Sacrilege Passage, it was nice to be able to at least have the privilege to have access to view the remaining formations.

The view from Hollyood entrance

The view from Hollyood entrance

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