Blogging again and the Gardens

Gateway to the Gardens!
It's been a while since a tale has been told, but I have really missed recording the adventures of Em and Chris on the blog. More than anything, I like to record the stories for myself. It's great to be able to look back at the fun times and mad adventures we've had over the previous year. Although we got up to heaps of adventures last year most of them have sort of faded, hence my decision to blog again.

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.
The Wanganui was running very high, not from rain, but snow melt. We boulder hopped up to the crossing point at the Cable Car to Hunter's Hut.

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.
Our packs were feeling heavy and when we reached the hut at about 8 pm we decided this was a sensible stopping point. Unfortunately on the way up Lara had lost her glasses, so she managed to fashion this wonderful glacier monocle from strapping tape and a spare lense at the hut. It's still sitting at Hunter's Hut, so if you forget your glasses it's all yours!
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.
At this point our party faltered and we ended up making the decision to split - Matt and Lara would camp at the tarns and head back down to Hunter's Hut the following night. Chris, Sia and I would continue into the Gardens, along to Adams Col and down to Adams Flat, then back to Hunter's hut in two days time to meet back with Matt and Lara. We felt sad to have divided, somehow defeated, but it is important in the mountains to be clear about your feelings and ambitions, which don't always align perfectly with every other member in the group.

On Lambert Tops looking down to the tarns where Matt and Lara camped.
Ascending the snow saddle.
We continued over a snowy saddle towards Mount Lambert, then veered left towards the looming walls of Lambert Chasm (my name) where the Lambert glacier tumbles down into an engulfing gorge which is the upper Lambert River. First we descended a gully with many luminous boulders (luminous: a very large rock which is sitting right above you and looks like it might tumble and crush you if you breath too loudly; Chris and I coined the word  on the trip as we encountered them quite often) were Sia had a wee "I am not sure if I shouldn't go back with Matt and Lara" moment, but, determined girl that she is, continued on.

The 'luminous' gorge we had to descend and the snow grass slopes we sidled around.
We sidled round some hairy snow grass slopes that had unforgiving drops, doing a little pack shuttling on the way. Just as the sun was setting we found ourselves thankfully on easier slopes and picked a flat spot for our tent. Chris and Sia constructed a great rock wall while I cooked tea. In the dark we sat looking across at the mountain range across the valley and sipping hot chocolates. I saw a bright light right on the mountain top which suddenly went out. "It must be a climber!" we exclaimed.

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.
We climbed to a different point and found an easy route onto the glacier. In a brisk wind we roped up and Chris belayed me down the slopey section past some crevasses onto the flat expanse of the Garden of Allah. Great icefalls tumbled down on either side of the glacier, but right in the middle was cravasse free and beautiful - it really did feel unreal to be in that remote Garden. We walked roped up to Satan Saddle, the clouds rolling in and then dispersing again to give magnificent views of Kensington and Farrah Mountains.
On the Gardens at last! The small pointy peak in the sun is where we accessed the glacier.
There was less snow as we dropped down towards Adam's Col and Ice Fall lookout where we stopped for lunch. A great prow of rock poked up like a gate overlooking the broken spires of the Beelzebub Glacier. We found a lovely warm sheltered spot for lunch and wished we could share the spot with the rest of our party - camping at Adam's Col would be magical and Angel Col and the Garden of Eden were right there for the taking. However, we had agreed to meet Matt and Lara the following day, so these delights would have to wait for another trip.

Picnic spot on the Garden of Allah.
Adam's Col looking back towards Satan Saddle.
At 2.30 after crossing the foot of the Garden of Eden we started the tricky descent off the bluffs and down to Adam's flat. There was some time spent scouting a route - we chose the solid rock further to the left of the glacier, rather than the loose and luminous rock filled descent recommended by the guide. After several hours of route finding and careful down climbing down the steep rocks we found ourselves back on the ice. We cramponed down the lower Beelzebub, enjoying the afternoon sun and the magnificence of our setting.

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.
Sheer rock walls dominated on either side of the valley, the broken Beelzebub piled down one side of the head of the valley and the ice cliff at the tale of the Garden of Eden the other. Once upon a time these two glaciers meet, and one could walk all the way down them to Adam's Flat! Hard to believe right now. I couldn't help wondering what the Garden's might become if the glaciers disappear.

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
We crossed the river (which was running much smaller in the morning) and then headed down river. If you walk out via the river to Hunter's Hut it is described as a hard, full, two days walk. This didn't appeal, so we decided to attempt the route back onto the Lambert tops.

We located a scrubby gully that looked like it would give us access onto the ridge above Aciphylla Creek. It was scrubby and steep as we climbed up and up, overlooking the Adam's River. Poor Sia had sustained painful blisters along the way, and was finding the climb very sore.

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.
Because of the clouds the snow was firmer, so we put our crampons on and headed up the snow to the saddle. Sia breathed a great sigh of relief to be back in familiar country. From the saddle we had a big descent down the Lambert Tops and into the forest. We rocketed downwards, weary but keen to get to the hut before it got too late.

Descending Lambert Tops in the cloud.
Coming down through the different vegetation bands
By 11 pm we reached the bottom of the forest and crossed the slippery swing bridge over the Lambert River. I caught my breath as a tired Sia lost her footing on the bridge and nearly tumbled 100 metres down into the raging torrent below!
Sia crossing the bridge, just after she slipped and nearly fell in!
Reunited in the hut and leaving in the rain.
Once safely across the river we wandered down, knowing the Hut was close by now. We sung and hummed and caught site of an elusive glow worm. At 12.30 we were greeted by the site of the hut, and a happy-to-see-us Matt and Lara. We exchanged tales while we cooked up some dinner - they had spent a lovely night on the Lambert Tops, climbed the snowy saddle, and then come down and done a day trip up to the Blue Lookout.

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
The weather cleared as we neared the West Coast and we trotted along, eager for the road end. We had a real adventure in those mountains, but as is often the case I came out feeling like I really had just wetted my appetite for West Coast adventures, it is such an amazing area and I wondered when the next time the weather, holidays, and other commitments would coincide to enable another visit.
New Year at the pass with the gang
We drove home via delicious Indian in Hokitika (since when could you get vegetarian Indian in Hokitika???) and spent two days basking on delicious food while the rain came down in Arthurs. Funnily enough we spent most of that time pouring over climbing guides and maps to scheme our next adventure. So our journey had come to an end, the weather was poo, and it was time to go back to Christchurch. Next stop - mountain bike orienteering in Auckland and Rotorua!
Chris tries to impress the ladies with his hot pink lips!


Nice! Exciting to read about your adventures again!
Anonymous said…
Great adventure Em. Keep it up.
david said…
Great Adventure Em; lots of good pics.
Frances said…
Amazing stamina - I'd love to camp up there too but think I had better go in by helicopter
Anne said…
Love reading your trip blogs Emily - always so adventurous.

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