Olivine Ice Plateau
Olivine Ice Plateau
On this trip we started with fifteen days food on our backs and took twelve days to get out. The "Olivine Ice Plateau Trip" has a nice ring to it, but we only managed to grovel to the edge of the actual Ice Plateau in mist and murk, peer in white space, then sloth back to our nice dry rock bivvy. It was however our goal. The original plans were healthily ultra-ambitious and the whole character of the 'epic' was, as always, different from the original fourth floor library dreams. Rob Hunter, Lynette Hartley and I wombled separately down to Queenstown camp-ground for the rendezvous by various devious means and spent the evening re-plastic bagging four people food to three people food in the cookhouse.
On February 3rd we caught a bus loaded to the gunnels with bodies and packs. Driven by a total comedian, we headed for the Lake Sylvan track - i.e. access to the Dart River. The 'tramp' was going really well until the bus holed its fuel tank and we were stranded on a bridge for two hours or so waiting for another bus to dump us further along.
Once on our way, the tram lines we were following disappeared and it turned into an African jungle type bramble basn. We came out just before the bluff and as the river was too deep to walk through, we backed up a bit and climbed straight up. Two hours or so later, we were back on the 'beach'. The walk from there, up the Dart and Beansburn to the rock bivvy near the head of the Beansburn was straightforward, but took longer than expected. We met up with four people from the Peninsular T.C. (Christchurch). Rob couldn't stand us any more and decided to escape back out with two of them. While Lynette and I continued on with Norm Gourdie and Sari Lewis for the rest of the tramp. The bivvy rock is a bit down stream of Fohn Saddle. It's a huge rock split in two, has a narrow passage inside linking dark caves, and was good and dry.
We discovered that the next morning our attempt to find Fohn Saddle, a couple of thousand feet above was zonked by zilch visibility with lots of snow flying around -result: return to bivvy and try again tomorrow. The morning was perfect, if not for bulk amounts of ice-coated tall grass. We clambered up and over Fohn Saddle on a "high", spotted Tutoko, and gobbled down lunch on a sunny Olivine ledge. The descent to the Olivine River below wasn't quite such fun and can be conjured up by the words used in Moir's Guide: "Mossy Boulders". We descended at quite a steep angle, and got bluffed by trying to walk by the river too soon. Another hunt for old blazes and deer tracks ensued, along with losing legs between big mossy boulders and clambering among root and rock until the flats at the junction of Olivine and Forgotten Rivers = camp 4 - yeh!
Flat ground, tent up on true right of the Forgotten under beech trees. Mac cheese, salami and veg for tea. From here onwards we had a good spell of four days before the grovel to end all grovels. The Forgotten River originates page 19up high at Forgotten Col., where we were heading. And squeezes through a narrow gorge, just before joining up with the Olivine River, floating bottomlessly through a seven foot gap at the bottom. We splogged over the 'paved' gorge track having dumped half our load under a log to be picked up again after a social visit to the Plateau. We had started tramping with fifteen days food for an originally planned fourteen day tramp -"result, gluttony". Anyway we were soon wandering happily up Forgotten River Flats by the river, in the sun, idly watching peaks on the Ice Plateau appear one by one, as we rounded the corner to face the Col. head on -'Yahoo!!'
Um, yeah, well anyway, it was kinda' warm so we splashed a bit of water hither and thither and climbed straight up the stream boulders to the highest rock bivvy, next to the cliff base. We spent the next two nights there with a close up view of the big wide crevassed glacier filling up the Col. and spilling big waterfalls off the vertical face beneath it. We awoke the next morning to what we thought was the sound of rain but was actually the waterfall falling over the bivvy roof. However all the tops were engulfed in a dense floating white stuff. Bother!!! We ventured out at about 1.20 pm and plugged up across a small snow face towards big slots which sliced out from the glacier, and then detoured right onto a big rock outcrop. Norm disappeared up it, decided there was a way, and we all followed - up a shute, along a narrow ledge and then scrambled over the top, to be let down perfectly on the snow again above the slots. It took about twenty minutes to race up to the high point on the edge of the Olivine Ice Plateau = climax of the trip. "Been there, done that!" We stared into whiteness straining to see some outline of a vast ice plateau stretching out before us, then zap back down with dripping cameras to the rocky outcrop where Lynette was waiting with frozen toes. We were all in the bivvy again by 5 pm. Flash! Lightening ... Thunder!!!! Yahoo! Zap, right at our front door sending Lynette and I to the roof and back! Thunder rolled like a thousand stags roaring simultaneously!!!
For tea we had a gourmet glop to celebrate having reached the "white height" of the trip. That night was clear and heavenly starry with a full moon lighting up the steep wet grass slopes so I could sneak out of the biv in the middle of the night and try to photograph it. Woke to a clouded sky and it rained off and on while we demolished more mac cheese, salami. We scampered back down the river over the gorge track and back to 'base camp', where we retrieved our bagged food safely from under the log. Salami invaded our dinner again. Norm was getting highly wary of the stuff as it kept reappearing in breaky, lunch and dinner! All good stuff. That night was ultra windy, i.e. I kept one arm holding down a corner of the tent and the other in pit keeping warm. The clouds were letting loose with H20.page 20
In the morning the rain stopped earlier than we realised - being under a sky of dripping leaves. The weather was actually A1 so we vamoosed up to Four Brothers Pass instead of trying out some more "mossy boulders" down the Olivine, an escape to the Pyke River and out the 'loopy' Hollyford track via Diorite River, instead of Olivine Gorge.
The pass was wonderful - amazing green shiny asbestos, X amount of orangy rocks strewn around. There was no snow, lots of warm sun and keas swooped all around. We finally followed Norm hairily traversing left across big loose boulders and then cannoned off down a scree shoot to the grassy Diorite Flats. Somewhere there's a blazed trail going down on the true left of the river away from the gorge. Wherever it may be, we didn't find it the next day.
After four hours of crashing downhill, over, under and through bush, vines and fallen trees, trying to follow deer trails, we still weren't down so we stopped for a subdued lunch. Once on the flat ground at the bottom we located the river thinking of following it through the boggy flats of tangled rubbish, but it dissipated away and we were left with a nightmarish, never-ending (well, almost never) wallow through deep bog, getting tangled in vines and attacked by cutty grass, bush lawyer and bastard grass. This was one of our "easy walking out" days! Nine hours later we staggered into a hut and sunk onto mattressed bunks feeling battered and thankful for the mosquito netting in the hut.
Next day Lynette and I raced to Lake Alabaster hut by midday, jumped in the lake and lay in the sun 'til 7 pm!! Bliss.
At the road-end, around noon the following day, an elderly lady asked who was looking after us!
More About Skiing
"Your pitiful flounderings,"
He said with a sneer
"Remind me of tramping I did long ago.
In my youth I was foolish.
I thought that the bush
Was far nicer than cold, sterile snow."
"I'm amazed," I gasped.
"Why did you give it away?
Why spurn the green rivers and trees?"
"Because," he said brightly,
"Now I'm agile and sprightly,
And I can match all this fashion to my skis!"