By Gaylene Wilkinson
February 2-9, 2019
The scenic drive into Erewhon is a great start to a trip. Many dusty tourists, including super-smiley tandem cyclists, shared this ‘Lord of the Rings’ wonder with us. We packed in a paddock amidst curious, slobbering Clydesdales, before eating the last cherries and waving goodbye to Diane, who generously drove us in.
Sure, the Clyde River is a long gravel bed, but the grandeur of bluffs and ranges on either side is enough distraction to keep the eyes entertained. We settled to camp at the bush edge above the confluence with Lawrence River well before dark, setting a new precedent for Geoff’s glacier trips! We actually maintained this ALL trip, with rock lounging time, casual, sun-lit tent site exploration, and relaxed meal times. An unfortunate boot mishap, saw Geoff, Jane and Pete F heading back to Jane’s car at Erewhon just on dark. They will confirm that you can get down from the Lawrence River to Erewhon staying on the true left (no river crossings), but you don’t want to! They were back by 9am next morning, very weary.
Continuing up-river on Day 2, we met a couple of American girls who had been inspired by Otago University Tramping Club to go to “The Gardens” via Perth Col. They’d turned back from a deep river crossing in the Frances River. We tucked them under our wings for the day, allowing them to continue onto their goal (big smiles all round). There’s a good campsite, tucked out of the wind, in the rocks above the Frances Lake outlet. Complete with a wee dining amphitheatre, our second evening was spent chatting beneath sheer rock walls. A balmy night, sleeping out was definitely an option.
Next day, it was on up the Frances moraine, and not too long after lunch, we were onto snow and ice – the Frances Glacier. Yippee!! I love donning crampons and crunching steps. The route onto the neve was straightforward, well to the true left. A colourful lot we eleven were, meandering across the Frances Neve. The standard route up onto Lambert Col looked very icy, and I reckon most of us were quite happy to have a route up an obvious looking gully checked out. Geoff and Jane scrambled up, and it wasn’t too long before we had a thumbs up, with a possible campsite offering as well. Perfect! Another early finish, with a good gravel campsite tucked in on the east side of Lambert Col, with running water and sheltered from the westerlies which were picking up. Good thing it proved as the site was to become our home for three nights.
Day 4 was completely clagged in; pit bound, and showers. For some, morose, unwell, full of doubt about the future of the trip. For others, well, an opportunity to practise some French language skills, of course. By evening the sky cleared, allowing stunning sunset views beyond the Col, across the Lambert Neve to Mt Lambert, Satan Col, Newton, Tindall, with Stoddart to the north. Magnifique! What a day tomorrow promised to be!
Unfortunately, Day 5 was a repeat of Day 4. C’est la vie. Thank you so much to Callum and Gary for braving the elements to cook dinner on these days, and to Tony for tent delivery service. Trips need people like you :). Route discussions, indistinctly heard from neighbouring tents, indicated that we would no longer be able to complete our planned route around the flanks of Mt Stoddart to the Lord Range and the Wanganui River for a West Coast exit. Nobody complained about the alternative: – a traverse the Garden of Allah, cross the Garden of Eden and exit via Perth Col, coming back out east.
There was great excitement and gratitude that Day 6 dawned beautifully clear. Sun’s up, let’s GO. A fluey bug meant a couple of the party were low on energy, but with some gentle shunting of gear we were all on Satan Col by lunchtime. Low, swirling cloud provided mystical mountain scenes, but thank heavens it burned off again to give uninterrupted views for the rest of the day. We floated down the Garden of Allah, craning in awe at the high peaks to either side, especially the Tears of Allah rock route, climbed a few years back. Wow. Downed packs for an hour on the western side of Adams Col in order to pop across to Icefall Outlook for expansive views to the Beelzebub, Arethusa and Angel glaciers and the precipitous drop down into the Adams River. This is impressive country, on such a grand scale. There is a massive difference between the ice on the map and the reality, with a large amount of glacial recession. The last scramble of the day led us up to our camp at Adams Col. This time sunset views were down the length of the Garden of Eden.
The morning began with a crunchy start. We sat enjoying the morning sun, sun-proofed, photographed, attached crampons, removed excess clothing. A relaxed group set off across the frozen Garden of Eden towards Baker Peak. From summit, one can appreciate the full length of the Garden of Eden, from Mt Tindall right down to the Great Unknown. Flowing east, below sheer bluffs, lies the Wee McGregor glacier, with Perth Col at its head, and the Colin Campbell Glacier flanking Baker Peak. After this peak experience, it was time to engage the quads to start losing altitude. Perth Col, where we were thrilled to see evidence of the US lasses visit, down, Wee McGregor, down, Colin Campbell moraine, down, Frances Lakes, a swim, Frances River, a couple of medical issues right down to McCoy Hut to camp.
The tricky thing about changing our route was the transport arrangements. A van was due to pick us up at the Wanganui River, midday Sunday. It was now Friday night, and we had no way of communicating our change in plans. After some discussion, it was decided that four of us would leave McCoy Hut, very early the next morning in order to drive Jane’s car (thank goodness for that car) back to Christchurch, alert our second generous driver, get the van and drive back to Erewhon to meet the rest of the party. Well done to Raymond and Gary for this big day’s effort. The rest of the party had an easy start, despite Doug being up at 6am all fired up for his first cuppa, and an unhurried day of walking.
Another fantastic PTC glacier trip. I have oodles of gratitude to Geoff and Gary for making it happen, and thank all trip members for their welcome and good company (again!)
We were: Geoff Spearpoint (leader), Gary Huish, Jane Morris, Raymond Ford, Calum McIntosh, Aarn Tate, Doug Forster, Peter Umbers, Peter Fullerton, Gaylene Wilkinson, and Tony Lawton P GW