Nelson Lakes climbing trip
Labour weekend 2015, 23 October.
This trip was attended by five AIC 2015 students and led by Dave Grainger and Stu Hutson.
The group left Friday from Lake Rotoiti walking up the Travers Valley to Coldwater Hut, reaching John Tait Hut in 4½ hours. To evade flesh eating sandflies, they made their way in 2 hours that afternoon to Cupola Hut at a safer altitude of 1390m. Off-loading their heavy packs, they discovered the surplus gear better left at home if climbing gear is to be added. Bacon made its only appearance for the weekend in the form of pancetta in Stu Hutson’s group.
A soft alpine start on Saturday morning (6.30am) saw the ascent of Mt Cupola (2260m) via couloirs on the north face, utilizing snow travel, ice axe/crampon use and front pointing. An ice band on descent taught the students about dealing with whatever the snow pack throws at you. A potentially serious slip and self-arrest occurred, a sobering reminder why AIC is important to do prior to travelling into this environment.
The plan for Saturday afternoon was for the group to head back down to the Upper Travers Track, route find up to Summit Stream to set up a bivvy site at 1300m and attack the summit of Mt Travers (2338m) from the NE ridge early Sunday. However, on return from Mt Cupola, Stu’s band were still finding it difficult to depart the hut picnic table, leaving Dave’s hardy group to gather rope, harnesses and rock gear to force their way through the fierce undergrowth up to the overnight bush line camp. A long way to go to avoid snoring back at Cupola Hut, Jade then found herself excluded from the cover of a fly, since Dave reasoned, “You’ve borrowed a bivvy bag so you may as well use it.” Dave’s group arose early Sunday to tackle Mt Travers. The NE ridge was challenging, with Jade told to “think like a goat”. A rope was used to provide protection on exposed slopes, with ice axe and crampon use on the firm slopes up top
Stu’s group arose, had breakfast and contemplated what their Sunday would behold in their awfully big backyard. It was decided a crag (at 1700m) might be adequate. On the way they discovered a nice tarn (Stu’s intent to keep secret). Once back to Cupola Hut, his group packed and headed down to John Tait for reunion with the Mt Travers team, who retold arduous tales of razor back ridges, sheer drops and nightmarish ledges. (Jason was reminiscing, “Ha ha [you know] that fun kind of scared,” when recalling the traverse.)
Monday morning we all rose in time to walk the wounded, as Stu had sustained a knee injury kicking snow steps the day before. The medical team (Nikki & Peter) ensured Stu was well analgesed possibly whether he wanted to be or not. Brendon hoofed it to Coldwater Hut to drop his pack, come back and take Stu’s, a stunning display of camaraderie. (Stu’s bravery negotiating the Travers Valley track while never bending his right knee was admirable, undoubtedly spurred on by the sound of Led Zeppelin from his phone, oddly fading in and out of the bush as we walked along the path to the south end of Lake Rotoiti.)
The trip at an end we sealed ourselves inside Coldwater Hut against the sandflies awaiting our lake transport.
- Party members
- Jade Cincotta, Dave Grainger ((leader), Brendon Green, Peter Hicks, Stu Hutson (leader), Jason Stephens, Nikki Williams (scribe).