The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 12 (April 1, 1928.)
A Day on the Bealey Glacier. — (Contributed.)
A Day on the Bealey Glacier.
Aethur's pass on the east, and Otira on the west side of the Southern Alps, are rapidly becoming popular holiday resorts. Many people are now making a practice of having an extended holiday at one of these places, where, amid peaceful surroundings and the rugged beauty of the Alps, one may spend a glorious and restful time. These are ideal places for the jaded town dweller who seeks to regain mental and bodily vigour.
Those who are able to afford the time and the money to spend several weeks in such ideal surroundings, are perhaps in the minority; but there is no reason why the majority should not also be able to enjoy, in part at least, the beauties and health giving atmosphere of Arthur's Pass. By running week-end excursions the New Zealand Railway Department has, as it were, brought these resorts within reach of all. With commendable enterprise and a desire to serve the public, the Department has, in the last few years, run a large number of excursions either to Arthur's Pass or Otira, and they have proved immensely popular. It is safe to say that these excursions have been the means of introducing many people for the first time to the beauties of Nature that lie practically at their back door.
A few weeks ago the Department (which tries to vary the excursions as much as possible), ran a train to Arthur's Pass—the excursionists' objective being the Bealey Glacier. (Most of the famous glaciers of New Zealand are situated in parts of the country not readily accessible. Time and money are required to read them, and the pleasure of visiting them is, comparatively speaking, the privilege of the fortunate few.)
In the Bealey glacier the people of Christchurch and Canterbury have one of the grand sights of Nature that can easily be visited in a day. The walk from Arthur's Pass to the Bealey Glacier is not a very difficult one for people who enjoy average good health and activity. The distance is between four and five miles. For the first two miles one follows the old coach road through the Otira Gorge, and at a spot indicated by a sign post, a track branches off through the bush to the glacier. This is the most beautiful and most interesting part of the walk. The track winds through virgin bush which, to lovers of Nature, is a source of pure delight. The last portion of the walk is up the bed of the Bealey River, which, at this spot, is a foaming mountain torrent rushing noisily along over its stony bed. There is a rugged beauty about the river in its upper reaches which one misses when it emerges on to the more level country lower down. After the walk along the edge of the Bealey River the glacier itself is reached.
The glacier is situated in a valley at the foot of majestic Mount Rolleston, which towers its huge mass thousands of feet above.
Whichever way one looks, the view from the glacier is magnificent and awe inspiring. Mt. Rolleston forms a superb background, and several waterfalls (some quite close to the glacier and others far up the sides of the mountain) add beauty to the scene.
Walking on the glacier is easy, and, even, if one slips, the snow is quite soft and no serious consequences follow. Such falls merely add to the fun of the outing. A fascination of the glacier is that, on the surface, one can enjoy winter sports in the middle of summer.
The day of the excursion mentioned was warm and sunny—an ideal summer's day—yet the excursionists page 33 were able to indulge in snow-balling and tobogganing to their hearts content. The tobogganing provided the greatest fun, and the fact that there were no proper toboggans available, added to, rather than detracted from, the enjoyment of the experience. Pieces of board, corrugated iron and linoleum were used as toboggans, and some even dispensed with these primitive vehicles. For an hour or two the fun runs fast and furious, and those who fell on the way down appeared to derive as much amusement from the mishap as the onlookers.
The journey back to Arthur's Pass was made in time to catch the train, which left at 5.20 p.m., and arrived at Christchurch at 8.30 part, with a tired but happy band of excursionists who were unanimous that they had had a wonderful time.
A word of advice to those who go on future excursions to the Bealey Glacier may be acceptable. It is advisable to wear a stout pair of boots or shoes, preferably nail studded. This will assist in walking over the glacier and also through the bush. If the day is sunny the glare of the sun on the snow is apt to prove trying on the eyes. A pair of dark glasses therefore will add to one's comfort in this direction. A walking stick will also be found useful. Those who wish to set off for the glacier immediately on arrival at the Pass should take their lunch with them and have it on the way up. A cup of tea may be obtained at Springfield, where the train stops for about ten minutes.
In conclusion, a trip to the Bealey Glacier, or indeed any of the excursions that the Railway Department from time to time runs to Arthur's Pass or Otira, can be safely recommended to those who wish to spend a day amid the scenic beauties of the Southern Alps.