The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 2 (May 1, 1937)
Winter on the Whitehorn Pass
Winter on the Whitehorn Pass.
In May, 1934, J. Lysaght and B. Mason experienced winter ice conditions on the Whitehorn Pass, Wilberforce-Taipo watershed. While descending the steep Cronin slopes, Lysaght slipped and fell some 500 feet, suffering severe injuries to his arm. Mason had no ice-axe, but hacked his way down to his companion with a hunting knife. Thus began a period critical to the safety of both men.
Lysaght was unable to move, and Mason bound him up in two sleeping-bags and left for the Wilberforce Valley, where no help was available at that time. Mason returned the next day and helped the other down the Cronin Valley, both men lying out in the rain that winter's night. They reached the welcome haven of the Park-Morpeth Hut on the following morning, there to shelter for several days. Mason journeyed down the Wilberforce Valley where he met some Mt. Algidus mus-terers who lent him a pack-horse to enable him to take Lysaght to the nearest homestead, Glenthorne.
A Canterbury Mountaineering Club Relief Party en route to the Whitehorn Pass, in winter. (Left to right): Messrs. J. D. Pascoe. A. A. Treloar, H. D. Ingle, B. Stinear, and A. A. Anderson.
When it was known that these two men were overdue, a party left Christ-church and made a speedy trip up the Waimakariri in the dark. The river had to be crossed six times. Five men crossed the Harman and Whitehorn Passes under very bad conditions. No crampons (ice-claws) were available and the leaders had constant step-cutting. The utmost care was taken, the party being roped, and the treacherous ice slope into the Cronin was descended safely. At the Park-Morpeth Hut the relief men learnt of the safety of their friends and made swift travelling down the river to Glenthorne. They had accomplished a winter journey from the Bealey Hotel to Glenthorne Homestead via Harman and Whitehorn Passes in two days, entailing much travel over rough country in the dark, and dangerous ice work. This had been made possible by the topographical knowledge of the searchers who could pick the shortest routes in any conditions.
From this experience it will appear the search parties will face some of the ardours of travel which affect the lost men. The possibilities of accident, the maze of rugged country to be traversed and the heavy packs, all combine to render the search a matter for caution, yet speed which, under winter conditions, are not easy to combine.