It was another of those trips that Varsity usually excels in i.e. simple, simply disorganised or something left behind or something amiss. This year was the latter (for variety). The colour scheme was chaotic. I mean, orange tents aren't so bad. Green tents have their merit. But hell what a clash mating an orange tent with a green fly. The signs were ominous. But if that wasn't enough, Owen had orange scants. No prizes for the colour of Derek's. The one difference was that Derek's scants were holy and the fly wasn't (at the start of the trip!).
The aim of the trip was to traverse the Northern and Southern Olivine Ranges from Jacksons River to the Dart. The Olivines first interested me on a climb of Eros with Derek a couple of seasons ago. Then, only the mighty Arawata separated us from the Olivines. The range has a fascinating exploring and mountaineering history. Names like Barrington, Hector, Mueller, Charly Douglas, Park, Colin Todd, John Pascoe - all are synonomous with the Olivines. (Refer to Les and Molly's article in N.Z. Alpine Journal 1971 for a thorough study.)
A night in the Martyr River gave insight into insect life. The sandflies had a great shift system working with the mosquitoes. They take the day shift and the mosies the night shift. No smoko breaks either. I don't think they have a very progressive union - they're working the same hours as in Charly Douglas' days. No doubt due to the fact that the old red guard, the commie worm is still up north somewhere.
I won't bore people with route details since they get monotonous if you're not familiar with the area. No, I will bore you with other trivia. The adjacent range westwards to the Olivines is Red Mountain and the Red Hills range. The Red Mountain - Ultramafics run from the Alpine fault in the Jackson Valley, through Red Spur and on the Mossburn in Southland. They are basically a dunite-peridotite rock. The ultramafic/schist contact on Red Spur is fantastic. It reminded me of the nun crossing a pedestrian crossing - now you see me, now you dont. The vegetation change with the contact was as equally abrupt as the rocks.
With the Arawata on one side and the Cascade on the other we straddled the range, passing many beautiful, idyllic valleys running into the Cascade. Valley of the Flowers, Woodhen Creek conjure the imagination. You imagine cicadias, scent of smoky wood fire, moss and warm snow grass, water, deer. Meanwhile, back on the grey schist, things are running on crackingly. A 13 hour day, the wettest anticyclone I've ever experienced passes by. A problem needed solving one night when 2 keas dropped dead right by our stew which was bubbling away on the primas. Must have been old age. The poor things...why even the wind blew all their feathers away. A funeral was held and they were cremated in curry.page iv page v page vi page 25
Conversations follow the usual whims and cycles of a Christmas trip i.e. a progressive degeneration from current affairs to religion to books to sex and food.
"Why I'll die if I fall below 11 stone" Owen comments. Hence one night, at about 1 a.m. the Tararua biccy rot sets in. Anyone who has been on a Christmas trip will know what I mean. You know..."Let's have ½ of tomorrows biccy...¾...7/8...oomph."
After a gear dry out on Bald Mtn. we traversed a section of ridge which Monteath baulked at in 1953. We attribute this to delicate little chamois tracks which helped us and which may not have existed in 1953. Monteath would have had a stroke if he had seen the rest of the route to Joe i.e. an obviously easy sidle on McTavish Creek side of range. About 6" of newly fallen snow underfoot and a new coating on Haast Range, Aspiring and the Arawata face of Eros looks impressive.
Cedric greets us one night on the radio sched with news of a helicopter rescue in the Upper Pyke. Someone gashed a knee at the Geologists camp. If anyone knows how to boot these geologists out of Red Hills and other areas in Fiordland let us know. Our 22 magnum collapsible rifle couldn't reach the Upper Pyke from our present location. One pleasant campsite was tucked in a little snow grass hollow about 3 feet below the main ridge, overlooking Collins Creek on the Arawata side and Arcade Glacier and Arcade Saddle on the other. Brian Hunt's party crossed the range this season at about this point though much more snow was present then.
Another south westerly front. Subjects discussed in the pit on the 28th were related to the balance between food input, energy output and the part that craps play in the scheme. Enough for a thesis there.
"The old defacation rate drops, I haven't crapped for 3 days." (No prizes for the pum.) I found some great quartz crystals on the way round to Remote (which was sidled high up on the Arawata side - at the head of 10 hour gorge creek). The sidle takes you to a col near the head of the Findlay Glacier which is a gas airdrop site if anyone is interested. Makes a good ski slope too.
A campsite at the head of Hollands Creek was the first site for about a week where the bush was in reasonable distance. Owen complains about his only set of underworked muscles - his jaw muscles. So he and Derek go and shoot a deer. Luck was with us when we had a fine day to climb out of Hollands Creek, sidle the Retreat Pinnacles and climb Toreador after initial stuffing round on bluffs on the last pinnacle. Better to climb the last pinnacle via the ridge and drop to the col before Toreador that way.
The virgin route onto Typhoon from Versephene Col stayed that way so a series of parallel turns saw us glissade off the page 26Col and into the Limbo Glacier. The annual Limbo Glacier teddy bears picnic was held complete with chairs, table and tablecloth. A crossing over Hurricane Col, into the Sealy and up to Invitation Col and thence down to the Trinity Glacier ensured. The Sealy is remote and surrounded by dark, grey massive slabs which head skywards to the equally grey and dismal sky. This overall greyness of walls and ceiling add to its fascination. Even seagulls like the place. Owen is applying to the Geographical Board for a claim as the first person to have a Sealy shave amidst squabbling seagulls.
That air drop was welcome too after 12 days of bitter conditions, unwarranted risks, dropping dead in our tracks, - sheer hell. The next few days was a jumble of festering in wet, whiteout conditions. - Oh yes - and sheer hell. Snatching a fine half day we raced round to the Olivine Ice Plateau and debauched ourselves with another air drop - and another Hutt Valley one as well for good measure. (We didn't flog it.) At this stage, we noticed the bloody brothels that were being run from snow caves on the Forgotten River Col. Sawdust, air drop linings, tins, food and books all left lying around.
The last week of the trip involves being blown off the Col in the middle of the night, sitting for a few days under the Forgotten River bivvy, waiting for the end of the monsoon. It didn't arrive and supplies were getting low so we took off via Forgotten, Olivine Rivers, Fohn Saddle and the Beansburn River. The rain stopped at our very last campsite in the lower Beansburn. The last day saw a hairy Dart crossing and then it was all speed for the Glenorchy pub and Queenstown.
It was a gas 19 days. My last memories are of sun rays intruding on the dripping beech forest, bush robins with no inhibitions about humans, and a 2 hour road walk which caused more footly harm than a 10 day walk. Oh yes, those scants weren't orange either by this stage. Brown and green is a good combination as is Owen Springford, Paul Clark and Derek Daniells.
P.S. I have a log of times etc for trip if anyone is interested in any parts of the Olivines.