January In The Callery
January In The Callery.
Five intrepid explorers assembled at Franz Josef prepared for their trip into the Callery. Well not quite prepared. Ken having had trouble with his feet was unable to come. Unfortunately he had some of the gear with him - useful items like a tent, a rope and various bits of climbing gear.
This left us with a tent and a fly, no rope except for one Ron had found washed up on the beach at Makara - hardly enough to inspire confidence, and only very basic climbing gear. We did not have any great climbing ambitions but were uncertain of what obstacles we would meet in the course of the trip.
Wandering around F.J. that evening we met Paul Clark, Ian Latham and Co., who had just come over Callery saddle from the Whataroa and hitched a ride with a ski-plane while camped below Elie de Beaumont.
Callery saddle, it appeared, would present problems especially on the Whataroa side. Two to a rope, ice screws, probably harder for us going down.
We spent the night at the Rangers place and learned further interesting details about the Callery. Two bridges had been built by gold miners. The second having been seen from the air in recent years apparently only consists of a few wires and one or two boards, probably unuseable. No one had been far beyond the first bridge since 1936, people having tried but turned back.
We set off the next afternoon (having borrowed a rope) feeling rather uncertain of ourselves. We intended to camp by the first bridge. The track was overgrown and difficult to follow, and there was much cursing as we passed through stinging nettle, crawled under logs and indulged in all the other pleasures of bush bashing.
Just before dark we arrived at a small campsite above the bridge having taken 6 hours for what was supposed to be a three hour trip. Away early next morning and down to the bridge which was an incredible feat of engineering over a fearsome river which had carved a tunnel through the rock that narrowed to a slit above.
After several hours of searching only a few old blazes were found, the goldminers track having been long overgrown. Having had considerable difficulty througn the partially cleared track we were obviously going to have problems bush bashing up the gorge and ran the risk of running out of food before reaching our airdrop in the headwaters where we would have to recross the river.
We decided to continue up a ridge to the Burster range, head for Totara saddle and drop into the headwaters. This involved a couple of days of track clearing using knives, a small axe and brute strength to make it possible to carry our packs up to the top.page 29
Fine again the next day, our track emerged from the bush and we shifted camp to behind Burster. Sidling around Burster we were treated to the tremendous spectacle of Elie de Beaumont and the glaciers through which it feeds the Callery. After pitching camp the pink glow of Elie in the sunset and the occasional roar of an avalanche rounded off the evening with a pleasant thrill of excitement.
The climb down from Totara saddle was steep and slow over loose, slippery slabs of rock, and reaching the river was a great relief to aching knees. Climbing Callery saddle involved scrambling over a mixture of loose rock and ice with water roaring through underneath and then a climb up a snow couloir followed by a steep climb up loose rock. Another pitch through snow led us to the saddle. From there we dropped down to a snow basin marked by long but narrow slots. Ron, Rick and Geoff blasted away at that non-stop for about an hour while I looked at possible routes down to the Whataroa. Not liking the looks of the icefall Paul Clark and Co. had come up we followed a couloir to the left until it became too steep. We crossed a small rock range to another couloir which lead us to face of good rock with an easy track, apparently a water course leading down to another ridge. With speedsters Erica and Ron leading we continued down and arrived at the river without having needed icescrews, ropes or even crampons.
The main problem the next day was crossing the Whataroa. Eventually we found a route which involved boulder hopping and some rock climbing in the middle of the river. After hauling our packs across by rope we finally arrived on the other side 4 hours after first trying to cross.
The trip down to Whataroa started with a bush bash which gradually improved until we were working along good Tauherenikan valley type tracks.
At Butler hut we had another easy couple of days cooking dampers, and doing a short trip up the Butler to the north and south junction in pouring rain - only our second rain day on the whole trip. The weather clearing again, the trip out was easy going through superb bush until we emerged once again to the strangely unfamiliar roar of cars on Whataroa bridge.