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Heels 1978

Extracts From A Diary

Extracts From A Diary.

Thursday,19th Jan.1978: At last we're in the bush - just Monument Hut in the Hopkins River, which runs into Lake Ohau. Long journeys. Spirits are very high and optimism abounds concerning the weather. We haven't started tramping yet - ferry, train, bus, and finally Landrover brought us here.

Friday: It's been a terrible day. That is, beautiful weather and splendid place but I am unfit and could scarcely cope with my pack. We're now in Erceg Hut and hope to attack the dreaded and much-discussed Charity Col tomorrow.

Saturday: Well we made it! Snow in perfect condition, soft but not slushy, crampons for the last stretch. What a grunt and on the top we were light-headed with tiredness, relief and the bliss of a cold lemon-drink. Discussion, as we're all worried about whether our air-drop will be at Harper's Rock - we sent it off rather late - so feel we must press on and find out. To the Landsborough tonight? We decided No, and careered down for a brief swim in the stream below, then on to a campsite which we lined with ferns. The atmosphere tense at dinner, as some want to hurry and some don't. Ouch, my sunburn!

Sunday: A late start caused upsets and meant that we tramped through the midday heat of yet another scorching day. Marilyn feeling lousy with flu', so we stopped in this beautiful camp-spot near a glacial tarn, all tumbled grass-covered boulders, beeches and snug bivvy-spots. Lazed, swam, washed, read all afternoon.

Monday: We rose at the appointed hour and set off briskly, past streams with delightful names like Repulse Creek, Echo Stream, Romping Water...by midday we were on beautiful flowering terraces above Rubicon Torrent, skulking in the scant shade of rocks amidst streams, tarns and a riot of Celmisias and Edelweiss. After lunch, a unanimous pike - it was too lovely a place to leave.

Tuesday: Why didn't someone tell me that glaciers are really crystal mountains?! - the McKerrow, after passing through an amazing Gate of Hell, pink-lit snow above, narrowing rock walls, and a roaring torrent beside us. Then the glacier - clear ice! and off that onto the slopes of Douglas Pass, and a thousand feet up to page 23the most stunning view of the trip. A terrific panorama of mountains, not rock and scree but vast snow-slopes - mainly Sefton and the Douglas Neve - and at our feet a big barren brown plateau, with our rock bivvy just out of sight. Down, down, down...and now we're here. With a box of food flown in for us as a favour when we radio-ed our fears about our real one. But - no more fuel...

Wednesday: Bill and Bryan away by brilliant moonlight to the conquest of Mt. Burns; the rest of us lazed all day, eating well. Then suddenly - at dinner - our real air-drop arrived with a helicopter !! What excitement!! Now we can do as long a trip as we'd originally planned; and everyone has changed completely, spirits are high again, you'd think we'd all come back to life.

Thursday,26th: Ate all day. And talked, especially - and very entertainingly -Bryan. Kept us all amused.

Friday: Overcast thank goodness, and we climbed Mt. Thompson with day packs and swollen stomachs.

Saturday: Cleaned up and left the bivvy, and down the bloody glacier all day - what a bastard. We headed down to its foot at first hoping for a quick way across, and were forced to retreat, cross higher up, then edge down beside it. Moraine and scree very sharp, murder to boots and as Marilyn found out, to knees, hands and noses (she made a gory three-point landing!)

Sunday: A long grunt today, up - not the Wick, as we'd thought, but a long, conveniently sloping rock shelf.(We camped at the bottom of it yesterday.) Over some ice which had me petrified with fear, teetering about on my crampons, very glad of help and reassurance. The tops misted but Welcome Pass eventually found, and a snow-cave dug in time for food and collapse at 9pm.

Monday: Rest-day...snow-cave improved...visitors...Sefton tomorrow. Nerves...

Tuesday: Sefton was...- amazing!! Indescribable. Up before dawn and the snow crusted and glittering with stars, with a bright half-moon and huge singing sky of stars above. As we went up the sky lightened ('til we could see the earth's shadow on the cloud-cover below ) to deep hazy pinks and greens. Roped up over one large crevasse. Top steep and a bit icy -not too bad - and what a view! Many photos. Julian ate caviar. (Yes it's true!) Down again to snooze in the snow-cave, then packed up and off down and down and down...to Scott Creek, then disagreement - on, to hot pools? or camp here, high up? Pools won - just - and an interminable journey down the waterfall followed. Then along the Copland Flats to people and pools. Very weary - the pools perfect.

Wednesday: Up the Copland through lovely long grass in hellish heat to Scott Creek hut. Marilyn very weary with a bad cough. Rested and dined then went on in the evening and camped at the bottom of Copland Pass.

Thursday,2nd Feb: Out!! The Pass was a drag - lotsa people - upupupup then downdowndowndown. Weather still perfect despite the forecast and after a carefree lunch we pushed out down the Hooker, heading for the pub, pouring sweat and developing new aches and pains with every step.

So... that was it. Five very sunburnt people began telling their friends the amazing tale of Two Weeks Of Sunshine In The Mountains!!...Well, gee, far out, man...The best long trip I've been on yet, and huge thanks are owed to Bryan and Bill for making such a trip possible for us less capable beings.

We were: Bill Foster, Bryan Sissons, Marilyn Bramley, Julian O'Brien, and Janet Atkinson.