|Frost formations in the Routeburn Valley|
The pressure was on and we ummed and ahhed about what to do - weather on our side.... daylight not... glaciers not... The Poseidon Ski Tramp was dreamed up. An ambitious trip, we would head down to the Rockburn. A considerable amount of gear flaff and driving later we found ourselves parked at the start of the Routeburn Track. The snowy peaks surrounded us and even mid afternoon the temperature was cold.
We headed up valley, laden with skis, tents, glacier gear and much more. The forest was a winter wonderland with icicles hanging from cliffs and trees dripping with snow. Rocks were layered in thick ice and we precariously teetered across streams to avoid we feet.
|John heading up through the forest to Sugarloaf Pass|
|Georgia examines her 'bogfoot'|
Suddenly moods improved and we set about collecting water and setting up camp. John got stuck in on the fire lighting business. It was as he was reaching to grab a piece of wood that I noticed most of the sole of his boot had detached from the shoe! I pointed it out to John and he was also horrified... this was not the place to have one's boots fall apart!!!
As the fire began to crackle we noticed another cracking sound.. above our heads hung the most humongous icicles, big enough to kill you if they came down. They were beginning to melt from the heat of the fire. We put our helmets on and Chris threw wood at them to bring them down. This game went on for some time (Chris was definitely enjoying himself) until most of the ice had come down and we deemed it safe to reenter our bivvy, although John kept his helmet on. We crawled into our tents after dinner and snuggled deep into our down bags to keep cosy for the night.
|Night crossing just before Theatre Flat|
|Our amazing bivvy rock and fire at Theatre Flat|
Nevertheless we decided to give it a try. John and Chris decided crampons were the way to go with his boots, so he strapped them up tight. We headed up valley into a winter wonderland of frozen streams, beech trees dripping with snow. In places where the sun had never touched the snow felt like icing sugar, it was so light and powdery. The problem was this powdery-ness went right down to the bushes and bogs were one had a habit of falling and getting stuck!
Many hours later we emerged from the last bush and into the open scrublands. Chris proceeded to flip upside down in a huge snow hole in a bank and took some time to right himself skis and all. We stopped for lunch in view of the pass. Despite how close we were we estimated two more hours in these conditions to get there. For the two skiers things might be going to get better from here in, as we could put on our skis and skin up. But for the walkers the snow was just getting deeper.
A chilly wind swirled around us and we examined Johns boots (both of which were now in total collapse). We ate frozen cheese and fish wraps trying to keep warm. Suddenly someone piped up with "Why didn't we just head into the Routeburn? At least there are tracks... and a warm hut..." Within a minute heads were huddled around the maps... "Well, if we walk fast into the night... we might be able to make it to Routeburn Flats Hut by midnight?"
That was all it took and the decision was made for a late night escapade all the way back down the Rockburn, over Sugarloaf Pass and back up the Routeburn. Park Pass and Poseidon Peak was not to be, but we decided that our failed attempt simply leaves great options for a repeat attempt... perhaps in slightly warmer conditions.
|Park Pass in all its winter glory where we turned around|
|Snow clad forest descending from Park Pass|
|Crossing one of the open flats above Theatre Flat, Park Pass in the background|
|A chilly crossing this would have been!|
Finally we reached the cold and deserted Routeburn Flats hut. We created a pitiful fire from wet wood and cooked up lots of yummy hot food. At 2pm we finally crawled into bed and slept very soundly. In the morning we were woken to the sound of voices as a couple of trampers came by. We were amused what they would make of the four sleeping people who were clearly so exhausted from walking the two gentle hours to the hut that we had to sleep in late.
A guided group also arrived and we entertained them with our rather unusual travels. The sun suddenly emerged and we got a photograph of the four of us ready to head up to Routeburn Falls Hut. A short hour walk and we arrived at the Falls Hut. We stashed our gear and bags and headed on up towards Lake Harris on the hunt for some powder to slash.
The valley was absolutely beautiful, a frozen land of white and hanging ice. We enjoyed skinning up valley while John and Georgia made good progress on the track. Lake Harris was completely frozen and we looked up valley were we might have descended if things had worked out differently. After a little mission up a side valley which was catching the late afternoon sun we got our only ski descent of the whole trip and it was a crusty slabby beast... this I suppose is the reality of ski tramping. You have to relish the skiing, no matter how average, because you equally likely could end up doing no skiing at all!
|The mountain gang at Routeburn Flats hut enjoying some rare sun rays|
|Stunning winter-scape at Lake Harris|
|The snow wallowers|
|Skinning up above the valley|
The sun on the deck was a welcome sight in the morning and we enjoyed its rays as we packed up. We then cruised back out to the car, appreciative of the easy track which allowed us to take in the magnificent peaks around us and plot further adventures into this excellent part of the country.
|More sun rays on the Routeburn Falls balcony|
|Beautiful snowy forest and even more sun!|
|Standing on the 'jelly blobs'|
|Crossing the Routeburn|
|Nearly the end of our tramp|
|Ice daggers waiting to drop on an unwary passer by|
Georgia and John were not so sure about the skiing as we whizzed around them, but they slowly got the hang of it and eventually (in the dark) reached the hut. The hut was well stocked with dry firewood and quickly we had a lovely fire going and we luxuriated on the warm bunks. It was the perfect way to end our wintry adventure which didn't quite work out as planned. But then it wouldn't be an adventure would it?