A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about mountains

Cradle Mountain National Park

From Walls of Jerusalem we went on to its sister park, Cradle Mountain, which adjoins it. Cradle Mountain is home to the famous Overland Track. Similar in fame to the Milford Track, it is longer and harder. We opted not to do it because it required reservations made almost a year in advance. Instead we took what is probably my favorite day hike of the entire trip. For lack of a better description I'll call it the Crade Lake Traverse.

70aab580-0d3e-11e9-ad5b-535760879cb3.JPG

Most day trippers stopped here on a rock outcropping with a nice view of the lake.

large_946ac730-0d3e-11e9-ad5b-535760879cb3.JPG

Others, mostly "the young ones," decided to try the climb up Cradle Mountain.

large_2d41cda0-1e8d-11e9-ae68-89153009218e.JPG

I actually considered it, but it would have been a long day with lot of vert. Instead Bill and I opted to walk around Cradle Lake along the top of a big plateau above tree line.

Bill with Cradle Mountain in background
large_IMG_0058.JPG

Top of the plateau
large_8ec8ade0-1e89-11e9-9688-3fff348a1972.JPG

large_22638400-1e8d-11e9-ae68-89153009218e.JPG

Other small lakes visible on the plateau
large_4e0fa160-1e8d-11e9-ae68-89153009218e.JPG

Another view of Cradle Lake from above
large_6df9f2f0-1e8d-11e9-ae68-89153009218e.JPG

Parakeets above the lake
large_45476680-1e8d-11e9-ae68-89153009218e.JPG

The great thing about this hike, aside from the expansive views, was that there was practically no one there. I think we saw one other couple the entire day. It took about 5 hours with plenty of stops on a picture perfect day, unusual in these parts.

Posted by jonshapiro 08:20 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes mountains postcards foot Comments (0)

Walls of Jerusalem National Park

From the Bay of Fires we made the rather long drive to the edge of Walls of Jerusalem. Continuing on to Lake Rowallan, we drove down a remote dirt track following a river until the road ended at the edge of the lake. There we found a secluded camping spot with only one other set of campers a hundred yards or more away.

The lake had a ghostly feel to it because of the hundreds of tree trunks that stuck up above the water line, presumably because the lake was damned at some point flooding the area.

large_IMG_0284.JPG

The sunset was beautiful.

large_IMG_0286.JPG

The next day we found the marked track that led up to trappers cabin and then to Herod's Gate and Dixon's Kingdom. It was a long slog up to the alpine wilderness.

Forest view on the way up
large_09b79c00-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

One of many alpine lakes.
large_160924b0-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

On the way to Herod's Gate
large_3d5606a0-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

Passing into Dixon's Kingdom
large_4d1b5950-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

Another shot of Dixon's
large_426be7e0-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

Unfortunately I didn't quite make it all the way to the Wall of Jerusalem. It was a long way back and it was getting late. I was however, rewarded with the softest moss you can imagine, and hung out there eating a bit of lunch.

large_19f221e0-1e70-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

.
With these views:
large_456fb530-1e70-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

large_57b08c00-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

We spent another night at Lake Rowalllan, but unfortunately someone had seen fit to take our camping chairs and our previous spot. The new folks claimed they had seen nothing and perhaps someone else had come along and assumed we had left for good. At least, that is the most positive spin. At any rate we found another decent place to camp and luckily we hadn't left much of value other than the chairs.

Next day we looked for another place to hike. As there were no other marked trails we headed up a steep logging road which eventually petered out. We continued bushwhacking higher and then came upon another road, very steep which appeared to lead somewhere. Eventuallly we got to the top of something, and to a cell tower. Looking down we could see the river that we had followed on the way to Lake Rowallan.

large_2aa098e0-1e6c-11e9-b4d7-1be871e213ba.JPG

We decided to take advantage of the tower and make calls to our respective wives after being incommunicado for several days. Ironic that we had just wandered up there by accident to a tower in the middle of the wilderness.

Posted by jonshapiro 10:48 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes mountains postcards foot Comments (2)

The Milford Trek

Now without wheels, we took the bus to Te Anau, a couple of hours from Quenstown in Fiordland. We spent the night in a simple backpackers place, before taking the boat across the big lake to Glade Wharf. From there it was an easy two hour walk to the first DOC hut. We had full packs as the huts, though expensive, served no food and had no bedding. Each of the three are spaced a day's hike apart and sleep 40 in bunk beds. Everyone of the hikers walk in the same direction, and so by the second night we all got to know each other.

Starting out, the weather was perfect. It seemed auspicious, in this ,the wettest part of New Zealand. The trek often sees over 200 days of rain and the lush vegetation in the valley reflected this.

large_IMG_0187.JPG

large_IMG_0205.JPG

The next day was overcast, but the rain held off. This time it was 4 or 5 hour walk to the next hut.

large_IMG_0190.JPG

large_IMG_0193.JPG

The terrain is rugged with huge rock walls forming the edges of the valley. Snow could be seen higher up. Once again, the hiking itself was relatively easy.

Small streams cascading down the sides of the mountains
large_IMG_0194.JPG

In some places the path was rocky
large_IMG_0196.JPG

The next day marked the crux of the hike. It was by far the longest day, 6-to 8 hours, and involved considerable climbing up to the top of Mackinnon Pass and even more vert on the way down. The weather was not looking promising and we discussed what it was going to be like with our fellow hikers and the ranger. In the morning, the skies were leaden, and it was already starting to rain as we ate our breakfast. The ranger indicated that a major storm was brewing, and there was some discussion of holding us over in the hut for another day. In the end, the decision was made that it was a go, most likely because the trek was fully booked and another group was waiting to get into the Mintoro Hut that evening.
Little did we know what was in store for us. The rain was not too terrible as we started out, somewhat later than usual because we had to wait for the ranger's decision. As we continued toward the pass it got steadily heavier, until it became a continuous sheet of monsoon moisture. The many streams crossing the trail began to fill up with all the water, and became difficult to cross because of how swiftly they were flowing down mountain. When we got to the top of the pass after a few hours, the wind was blowing close to hurricane strength and the rain was now ice and sleet blowing sideways. It was difficult to stand, especially when gusts blew up the sides. We eventually made it to the emergency shelter where a number of other hikers were already holed up. It was steamy inside with all the wet bodies. By now both Bill and I were soaked despite our fancy assed rain gear that cost a fortune. And, my pack cover had blown off in the wind so at least some of my spare clothing was also wet. I was shivering, but managed to put on a few dry items and my jacket, which luckily was synthetic, as down would have been completely useless.

After resting up for 20 minutes or so, we continued on our way, barely able to open the door in the shelter because of the wind. Luckily, we had crossed the worse part of the pass and were soon heading down. Gradually the wind let up a bit, but the rain did not. If anything it came down harder. Visibility was nil, the rocks were incredibly slippery, but the worst part was the more or less continual stream crossings which were now raging rivers, some over thigh deep. One slip in the stream, and you'd fly down the mountain without any chance of rescue. Our poles were life savers. Bill and I stuck together, but the 40 or so other hikers were strung out over various parts of the trail each going at their own pace. At one point, we cane to a particularly difficult crossing. In front of us were a younger couple ,and after the guy managed to cross over, jumping part of the way, his girlfriend followed. In the middle of the stream she slipped, almost fell in, which would likely have been fatal, but he reached back just in time to grab her arm and pull her to the other side. It was a very close call, and probably only one of many that we did not see. After hours in the drenching rain, we came to a sign which said trail closed and pointed to a nearby shelter. We had no idea what was going on, but found that about half of the hikers were already inside. It was cold, but there were a few hot drinks to be had. As the day wore on, more hikers arrived, some of whom were practically hyperthermic. The saving grace was that the temps were not colder than they were. Once off the pass, my guess would be the high 50's. Ten degrees colder would have been a very serious situation. While we waited in the shelter there was discussion about a couple of hikers who were at the head of the line and walked past the shelter. Apparently they got there just before the sign went up, warning us to go no further. Continuing on, they got to a river that was impossible to cross, but when they tried to retrace their steps the water had risen even higher on a different stream and so they were effectively trapped. While we waited inside for hours, they were forced to hunker down in the rain and wait for rescue. Luckily they didn't panic, and realized that trying to get out on their own without knowing the way might prove suicidal. Eventually, rangers did manage to get to them and brought them back to the shelter. We were all very happy they made it. Another close call.

One of the few pics I managed to take that day
large_IMG_0204.JPG

Although we had some blankets and a few meager snacks and drinks, we noticed that there was a fancy hut about fifty yards in front of us. This hut and a few others like it, were for guided hikers who paid big bucks for the priviledge of staying in fancy digs with all meals provided. You'd think they would have invited us inside since it was warm and they had plenty of food, but the powers that be seemed to have no interest. Eventually a few of our own more intrepid crew snuck over and pretended to be reporters as they peered in the window taking pictures of the lavish spread and wine. That seemed to do the trick and eventually we were all invited in. By then of course, dinner was over and so the riff raff could be contained. The chopper arrived shortly thereafter, which they probably knew, and we were ferried, a few at a time to the next hut.

Helicopter dropping us off by the hut. Of course, by then the rain had practically stopped
large_IMG_0199.JPG

On arrival, the grumpy hut master told us that over a foot of rain had fallen in 11 hours, something that hadn't been seen in many years. Of course we were all relieved to have made it, but really they should have kept us back in the previous hut. Anyone of us could have been seriously injured or worse.

The next down was sunny and clear, but they had to send for another helicopter to fly us over a huge landslide that obscured the trail and was impossible to cross. They didn't bring us all the way back, but simply dropped us on the other side of the slide where we could hike for another few hours to Sand Fly Point.

Inside the copter
large_IMG_0207.JPG

Second drop off point
large_IMG_0209.JPG

We had to hightail it back to make it on time for the boat to take us back over Milford Sound and the bus to Queenstown. The waterfalls were still flowing forcefully but we didn't have to cross any.

large_IMG_0211.JPG

View of landing spot in Milford Sound
large_cca64ac0-0a37-11e9-b917-853d71fbc04a.JPG

The Milford Trek proved to be far more of an adventure than anyone of us had bargained for. Perhaps it was a fitting end to our time in New Zealand. It was on to Melbourne, and then the final two weeks in Tasmania.

Posted by jonshapiro 16:39 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains backpacking Comments (2)

Hokitika and Surrounds

After a couple of days in Craigieburn we went back over Arthur's pass to a small town on the west coast, Hokitika. After searching around for a proper camping spot we found this unique place on a bluff over looking the ocean. It certainly was not wilderness, but as it turned out, it was an ex-mental hospital complete with extensive grounds, staff housing, and of course, the main wing of the hospital. It was bought on the cheap by a New Zealand couple who had the idea of turning it into a resort. Well, resort would be a stretch, but they did turn it into a backpackers hangout. The place was fairly run down, but no matter, it was full of young people from all over. Some were staying inside in small rooms that had been part of the hospital, while others were camped out on the main lawn. A few had campers like ours which were spread throughout the grounds.

A portion of the main hospital building
large_5de748c0-0611-11e9-90f9-27748def31e1.jpg

Campers on the lawn overlooking the ocean
large_74c578a0-0611-11e9-90f9-27748def31e1.jpg

There was a large kitchen where we cooked our dinner, and yes, hot showers to our everlasting delight. Shortly after we arrived a cold rain had already started and it got harder as the night wore on.

It was still raining the next morning, but seemed to be letting up as we ate breakfast in the main dining hall. The forecast was for improving weather so we decided to head on to our next hike, maybe an hour away. This was the Toaroha Valley Tramp as they say in Kiwi. We were told about it by the ranger at Arthur's pass as a place with possible hot springs and very few people. When we arrived at the trail head it was still drizzling, so we sat in the van for a while hoping for the best. Eventually the sun did come out. This was to be two day venture into the Cedar Flats hut, a 3 or 4 hour hike, or so we thought. Because of all the rain, sections of the trail were flooded and we had to ford numerous streams. Not wanting to get our boots wet, we stopped often to take them off and wade across in our sandals. All of this took a lot of time. After an hour or so, we came to a juncture that indicated a high water trail that went up higher in the forest. Since it was so wet down below, we figured this to be our best bet. It turned out to be a highly rugged path that was poorly marked, but slowly we persevered, seeing no one. In spots it was also damn slippery and muddy as it went up and down the steep hillsides of the canyon, staying away from to Kokataki River down below us. In the late afternoon we got to a spot where the trail just seemed to disappear. No markers could be seen, although there was a small cliff leading down from where we stood. Bill got out his gps app and we tried to figure it out. Surely it couldn't lead down that cliff. We must have been there 10 or 15 minutes when a family came by. There were two teenage boys and a couple that looked to be in their 40's. We chatted with them as they seemed to know what they were doing, especially George who was a helicopter pilot with the conservation department. He laughed when we told him that it seemed much more than 3 or 4 hours to the hut especially because of all the time we wasted taking off our boots.

"You don't take them off. Just wade on through. They're going to get wet anyway."

He seemed to think the trail did indeed lead down the cliff, and scrambled down to take a look. Sure enough, there was a marker down below hidden in the trees. We helped each other down with some difficulty, and then hiked together for a while until it became apparent that Bill and I couldn't keep up. We said we'd meet them in the hut in a couple of hours. Unfortunately that was not to be.

Despite not taking off our boots again, we made slow progress through the steep and dense terrain where route finding was a continual issue. True, we didn't start hiking until about 1:30 PM, but figured that gave us plenty of time because it didn't get dark until close to 9. Well now the light was already beginning to fade in the dense forest and we seemed to be nowhere near the hut, but we plodded along. There were more streams to cross despite being on the high route, and we didn't stop to take our boots off. As the light continued to fade we both wondered where the hell the hut could be. How much further? And then, suddenly, or so it seemed, the light went out entirely. We had already put on our headlamps, but unfortunately I had lost my good one on Mt. Cook, and only had a very small one that was practically useless. Bill would go ahead 10 or 20 yards and shine his lamp back towards me so I didn't slip on the boulders and wet ground. Once again the trail seemed to disappear into one of the numerous streams. We got out the gps to try and figure out the way, but that slowed us down even more. Both of us began to think we might have to spend the night out. Yes, we would probably survive without a tent, but it was starting to get cold and it would be damned uncomfortable. Every time Bill got out the gps I worried that we were wasting more time since it was still very difficult to find the trail, but I kept my mouth shut. Whatever we had to do, we certainly had to stick together. By now it was close to 10:30 and we were both feeling somewhat desperate. Above all, we didn't want George to have to come out looking for us as he probably would if we didn't show up. Finally, wading down another stream, we saw a trail marker, and then in he distance a narrow suspension bridge leading across the river to Cedar Flats and the hut. Crossing the bridge was the coup de grace. It was a one person bridge, extremely narrow and shaky, dangling some 20 or 20 feet across the raging river. Bill went first and then shined his light back so I could cross. And just so you know, I am actually afraid of heights so this was not an easy crossing for me and I had to take it slow because of how shaky and slippery the bridge was. Obviously, I did eventually make it ,and the hut was right there as we stumbled in, exhausted. Our 3 to 4 hour hike was more like 8 or 9, almost two hours of which was in the dark. George and his family seemed quite relieved to see us.

Just another Bill and Jon adventure.

Bill crossing back over the bridge the next morning. It doesn't look particularly threatening in the light of day
large_IMG_0167.JPG

The water levels looked to be much lower the next day, and so we decided to take the low route back. Route finding was still quite difficult, as was all the boulder hopping we had to do to stay out of the water. It didn't take quite as long as the previous day, but it still wasn't easy.

large_IMG_0170.JPG

[i]An example of the rugged terrain[i]
large_IMG_0171.JPG

Posted by jonshapiro 11:08 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains postcards foot Comments (3)

Craigieburn Forest Park/ Lake Pearson

After Mt Cook, our plan was to spend a few days at Arthur's Pass but the closer we got to top the more the weather deteriorated. The east side of the island is generally drier than the west and the pass marks the transition from one to the other. This was quite noticeable in terms of the vegetation which was considerably more lush and green the higher we climbed. We stopped in the ranger station to check about the weather in the coming days and indeed it looked to be rainy and very windy for the better part of the week. The east side appeared to be a much better bet, and so we drove back down and managed to find a fairly secluded spot near Lake Pearson. There were plenty of other campers on the lake shore, but further back far fewer. We spent a couple of nights there and hiked during the day.

Views from our camping spot near Lake Pearson
large_ab989ac0-0548-11e9-8fee-d962e6423cbc.JPG

large_92dbdc50-0547-11e9-b79d-e1a2ed416f20.JPG

Our first hike was a few hours up to Helicopter Hill. We started out in the forest and were almost run over by a group of kamikaze mountain bikers near this spot. The tell tale red marker denoting a mountain bike trail should have tipped us off.

large_IMG_0165.JPG

The 360 views from the top of the hill were superb.

large_4adabe90-0546-11e9-a175-cf7b16868e28.JPG

large_IMG_0155.JPG

large_60217b00-0545-11e9-b662-3dae082a4e50.JPG

It was extremely windy cooking dinner that night, and because we were now in our Wicked Van there was no place to cook inside. We had to make due with a one pot butane stove which kept blowing out. Finally we managed to rig something up behind the tire of the van and managed to cook our lamb burgers. You have to make do with what equipment you have. As Bill would say, "It is what it is."

The next day was also clear and warm and we ended up, more or less inadvertently, hiking up to the Cheeseman Ski Field. Starting out in the forest, we came up to a steep and what felt like a road to nowhere.

large_4c64c480-0547-11e9-b79d-e1a2ed416f20.JPG

But rounding the bend here is what we saw

large_IMG_0158.JPG

large_IMG_0145.JPG

The only lifts were poma style up some rather steep terrain. Falling off the lift, easy to do, would not be an option unless you want to slide down backwards several hundred feet. This was bare bones skiing where even getting up the road would be an adventure with snow and ice. There was nary a condo in sight

We sat on the floor of the porch outside the lodge and ate lunch. It was difficult to stand in the nearly gale force winds

Posted by jonshapiro 10:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes mountains postcards foot Comments (4)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 17) Page [1] 2 3 4 » Next