1-2 March 2014
On 28 February 2014, six TTC girls headed south after work for a weekend of climbing. The transition from summer to autumn was hard to miss, with snow falling so heavily that by the time our flight departed, a blanket was covering the flanks of the Torlesse Range. As much as we all liked white glue, no-one was celebrating the addition of a thin, unconsolidated coating onto New Zealand choss. The planned objective of Mount Alexander in Arthurs Pass National Park was, therefore, replaced somewhere between Christchurch airport and the CMC Lodge in Arthurs Pass, with Falling Mountain. A less confronting peak suited to a wider variety of conditions, Falling Mountain is named after the magnitude 7.1 Arthurís Pass earthquake on 9 March 1929, which caused the collapse of the mountainís 900-metre high northwest side. After a night at the lodge, dawn on the first day of autumn saw us getting ready to dip our feet in the chilly confluence of the Bealey and the Mingha. Lorraine set a trend by ditching her boots to cross the slippery strands barefoot. This worked for some, but not all, and one poor lass emerged on the other side very clean, but also very cold. A group hug led by Amie (aka the human hot water bottle) got things moving again, with Sarah setting a cracking pace along the Edwards Hut trail.
We reached the hut late morning in wintry conditions. The sun was bright but cool, and even with down jackets out in force there was little refuge to be sought from the piercing cold. After some food and shivering, we headed off for the southwest ridge of Falling Mountain, a deteriorating forecast making it advisable to summit that day.
The route was straightforward through serene terrain. The mountain may have collapsed once upon a time, but the rock is currently very stable. Upon nearing point 1731, we sidled on the true right (west) to a saddle overlooking Amber Col, before heading directly for an obvious rocky rib that took us up firm boulders to the low point on the summit ridge. After a small sidle on the true right, we gained the ridge crest and popped onto the summit. Not a wisp of cloud in sight, we werenít too put out by the sight of multiple valleys stretching out below us, with the deep blue sky heightened by the black, white and red of the craggy ranges surrounding us, which were further offset by the green of their tussock flanks.
On the way back down we paused to visit the clear little tarn that is nestled amidst house-sized boulders. Plenty of glorious bivvy sites here, and one or two tent sites on small flat terraces . However, the prospect of sleeping in a hut with a fire was also glorious, and we made it back just after dark to join in the busy, but cosy hut life. Some interesting characters were encountered the next day, including two old hands who substituted the traditional greeting of good morning with the startling confession that they had speculated we were behind some rock fall that threatened them as they crossed Taruahuna Pass! Not many trampers would want to confess that they had added 1 and 2 together and come up with something other than 3.
The next day our mountain was shrouded in mist as we scuttled back along the track, making it out just as the forecast rain and wind made its mark (also scuttling our plans for a jaunt through Cave Stream).
We headed back to Christchurch, where Fiona made the acquaintance of a whole deep fried fish with eyes so piercing that Elizabeth named it Fred. This rare moment was only rivalled at the service station when watching a man in a large vehicle whose eyes popped as our smallest lady, Helen, jumped out of the driverís seat of our vehicle, which happened to be the largest rental van in the world (dwarfing Helen, the man, and his truck). Maybe we should send him a copy of this report.
- Party members
- Sarah Day, Amie Claridge, Helen Chapman, Elizabeth Claridge, Fiona Girdwood and
Lorraine Johns (scribe).