|Gateway to the Gardens!|
We shall see how it goes, given my time is limited with school teaching these days, but I'll do my best. Chris has even agreed to have a go at writing some posts, so watch that space.
We had a great adventure in the wild west right after Christmas. The weather is so crucial when planning a trip to the West Coast, and we spotted a wee fine gap beginning on Boxing Day. So between a yummy Christmas breakfast at my brothers and a Christmas lunch we madly threw together ice axes, ropes, cookers, tents, boots, packs and 6 days worth of food. Our plan was a trip into the fabled Gardens of Eden and Allah on the West Coast, a magical place and wilderness area notorious for its difficult access and sparkling peaks.
We cut Christmas lunch a little short and drove to Arthur's Pass, our rendezvous with Matt Scott and Lara Prince, as well as Sia Svensden who we had persuaded to be part of our trip. I didn't feel too bad about zooming away on Christmas day, my Mum was leading by example having been off tramping on the Milford, good on her!
A cosy night's sleep at the pass with the trains rumbling by and a reasonable amount of gear faff later and we were ready to leave for Hokitika. We piled into Matt and Lara's wee car and journeyed over to the Coast and the start of the track up the Wanganui River.
|A swing crossing on the way in.|
Last time Chris and I walked in here it was our first ever trip together to climb the Amazon's Breasts on the Bracken Icefield. Then the river was small enough to wade across. Now we needed to utilize the magnificent cable car to cross, we had to turn the big levers to haul Chris up the opposite side, and then he could haul the rest of us across one by one.
|Walking up the Wanganui.|
|Matt and Lara walking in.|
|The monocle zombie!|
The 27th dawned clear and beautiful as we headed up the Lambert River, across the swing bridge which has recently been replaced, and on up the well marked trail onto Lambert Tops. It's a big climb with heavy packs, and we only reached the tops after about 4 hours of climbing. The tops are scrubby at first, then open into some lovely alpine vegetation with tarns and meadows.
|Beautiful forest up Lambert Spur.|
|On Lambert Tops looking down to the tarns where Matt and Lara camped.|
|Ascending the snow saddle.|
|The 'luminous' gorge we had to descend and the snow grass slopes we sidled around.|
Then the light came on again - Chris flashed his light back at the light, which was slowly moving along the dark ridge, shining and then disappearing. "Late to be on the summit", I commented. After a fascinating 15 minutes transmitting signals to the climber, the light suddenly disengaged itself from the ridge and started climbing up into the sky. Oops, Venus was definitely playing tricks with us tonight!
After a squishy night with three people crammed into a two man tent we hopped up to find another clear day on the 28th. Just like the previous two days the clouds seemed to gather around the divide at about midday onwards, spilling from the East but remaining mostly fine on the West - we guessed correctly that the weather was crappy in Christchurch. We climbed up gentle snow slopes to the prominent boulder described in the NZAC "Canterbury and Westland Alps" guidebook. To access the glacier we scrambled up a short steep rock ridge, and looked down to a valley of white. Beneath us was a great bergshrund, but we could see that a little earlier on the ridge there may be a way down.
|Breaking our camp on the ledge.|
|Sia climbs the ridge before the glacier.|
|On the Gardens at last! The small pointy peak in the sun is where we accessed the glacier.|
|Picnic spot on the Garden of Allah.|
|Adam's Col looking back towards Satan Saddle.|
|Sia wonders "where exactly did we come down?"|
|Finally down the bluffs and onto the ice of the broken Beelzebub Glacier.|
|A waterfall on the first flat part.|
We reached the first flat section of the Adam's River in the late afternoon. We had a snack, and then continued down a steeper bouldery section. At the very base of this section Adam's Flat is visible just a few hundred metres away, but the river cuts into bluffs on the true right. The options are an icy ford or a sketchy bluff climb. Chris managed to swim/run the river without a pack, but the fast flowing, turbid afternoon waters and unforgiving rapid directly after the crossing sent off warning signals in my mind - the bluffs it would have to be.
We scouted around till I spotted a climbable route, with a tree directly above it to make an anchor. Chris climbed up with the rope and slings and fashioned an anchor in the setting sun. From that we belayed each other across the tricky section, and I belayed Chris (the pack mule) with each of our packs. Adam's Flat was finally in our grasp after 12 hours on the move. We found a lovely spot in the tussocks and alpine moss just as it got dark.
The sun shone into the tent and woke us, all feeling a bit bleary eyed and achy from the previous day's adventures. A slow start with a bit of time spent brewing a mountain coffee and we were ready to leave the meadows of Adam's Flat.
|Enjoying the sun and a coffee at Adam's Flat|
After a steep exposed rocky section at the top of the gully (where I managed to stumble upon a chamois hangout underneath a large boulder) we made it onto the ridge. Aciphylla Creek has that name for a reason, so we gingerly edged our way down the ridge trying not to get too spiked.
After lunch at a tarn we headed on up the river, past a blue duck! and then to another gully which looked climbable. The Aciphylla Creek appeared to turn into a chasm-like slot canyon that didn't look at all friendly to climb.
|Climbing the scrubby gully from Adam's flat onto the ridge|
|A steep scrabble at the top past the chamois hangout|
A pack of about 6 keas hunted us as we climbed the gully with the clouds coming in from the East and West this time and the odd spot of rain. With tired feet we realised we needed to climb higher again to avoid the gorge. The snow grass peetered out and we finally looked up and saw we were not far at all from the base of the snowy saddle we had crossed only two days previously - it felt like ages!
|Climbing out of Aciphylla Creek.|
|Climbing the final scree slopes to the pass.|
|Descending Lambert Tops in the cloud.|
|Coming down through the different vegetation bands|
|Sia crossing the bridge, just after she slipped and nearly fell in!|
|Reunited in the hut and leaving in the rain.|
The rain came in the night and it was lovely lying listening to it patter on the tin roof. More excited chatter in the morning with our reunited party and we finally got going in the rain. We had the cable car crossing more sorted this time, and enjoyed swinging across the swollen Wanganui River. On the way out we met another big party planning a ten day trip into the Gardens - with a forecast of heavy rain for the West coast we weren't sure about their chances.
|Exciting times on the Wanganui cable car.|
|Clearing after rain as we walk out down the Wanganui River|
|New Year at the pass with the gang|
|Chris tries to impress the ladies with his hot pink lips!|