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Heels 1974

A Week in the Darrans

A Week in the Darrans

Somewhat overawed by the mental barrier of the Darrans Mystique, the four of us, John Nicholson, Ken Taylor, Bill Taylor and myself arrived at Homer Hut, a liitle unsure of ourselves and wondering if there was anything within our limited ability. Homer Hut, however with its home comforts and a view of the traffic on the Milford Road, not to mention the cars parked out the back, detracted somewhat from the mystique.

The hut being full we camped a few yards away with ideas of climbing Talbot the next day. A perfect morning and we were off to Gertrude Saddle, pausing to admire Black Lake, strangely beautiful in its bare rock setting. Arriving at Gertrude we were struck with an incredible view. Suddenly the backdrop of the Darrans is unfolded page 45before us and peaks such as Sheerdown, Isolation, Underwood and many-others spring up from nowhere. Being solid granite the Darran peaks are strange shapes with magnificent sheer faces. Homer hut and the road seem distant, another world.

The first part of the climb on to Talbot consisted of scrambling over gently sloping slabs which was really enjoyable. This, of course, was an ideal spot for taking fake photos of each other doing difficult looking climbs 2 - 3 feet above fairly level ground. Once over this formidable barrier we headed up to Traverse Pass at the northern end of the ridge through steep soft snow.

A quick bite to eat for three of us while we watched Ken disappear over the first pinnacle reappearing on top of the next. "Piece of piss, come on". Not completely reassured we followed. Gradually we became separated but as Ken was still well in front and reappearing occasionally it was apparent there was nothing of any great difficulty.

The solidarity of the rock gave a feeling of security that made it possible to enjoy the climb and forget the exposure. Once on the top, Tutoko now stood out as King of the Darrans but the whole panorama was an unbelievable sight and it was a strange feeling to look down on a tiny plane a couple of thousand feet below. Back to Homer somewhat wearily, and we slept in the next day and the clag that had rolled in was a good excuse to laze around. We had a pleasant day clambering over some rocks near the hut and amusing ourselves by sitting above the Homer tunnel portal spitting on cars going through.

Deciding to go somewhere further from traffic the next day, we set off up Tutoko valley with the intention of going to Turners Bivvy and climbing Madeline. Thick clag and rain set in and we camped for the night in the valley opposite Limerick Creek. The weather clearing at last at midday we set off again, only for it to clag in again as we passed Leader falls. Not fancying a scramble over wet snow grass' and route-finding in the mist we stayed under a bivvy rock just below the bushline, somewhat disappointed at giving up the idea of climbing Madeline but thinking we might at least get up to Turners the next day.

Blue sky and a sweltering sun greeted us the next day as we worked our way around the bluffs, the south face of Tutoko avalanching continuously. Arriving at the bivvies we could have kicked ourselves for not leaving earlier as we would have had plenty of time to climb Madeline. Bill and I set off anyway to have a crack at it, but with time running out the thought of coming down the bluffs in the dark or spending the night at Turners without sleeping bags did not appeal, so we set off back, spent another night at our bivvy and in pouring rain set off back to the road. The slushy track out from the valley to the road was not exactly enjoyable but the elderly couple standing at the roadside, dressed in street clothes,were not to be convinced that they were not really equipped to walk it.

The few days of good weather were enough to convince us that the page 46Darrans are a tremendous place and I have never before finished a trip with such a strong desire to return as soon as possible.