Summer of Storms

 Ben looks into the Camera as George takes in the view of La Perouse, Aoraki,/Mt Cook and Mount Tasman from the large summit of the Nun's Viel.

Ben looks into the Camera as George takes in the view of La Perouse, Aoraki,/Mt Cook and Mount Tasman from the large summit of the Nun's Viel.

February 14th Valentines day, its late summer , the weather hasn’t settled all summer long, the mountain forcast reads –

“It would appear winter doesn't feel in a hurry to leave us. New snow as low as 1400m at times and rain, heavy at times below with moderate to strong NW winds. and - For the time of year, it's still a surprisingly complex snowpack with several layers of either wet grains, ice crusts and some decomposing fragments. There has been a huge variance recently in the freezing level which has further complicated things and there is another 30-40cm of new snow reported Monday morning up on the Glaciers.

Although it’s the coldest summer I can recall and the usual doomsday addicts are predicting the end of the world as we know it stormy summers have a long history here. When Ernest Shackleton left for the South pole on January the 1st 1907 aboard the Nimrod they were immediately and continuously set upon by one relentless storm after another until reaching Mc Murdo sound in Antarctica . An earlier Irishman in 1882, Reverend William Green, and two Swiss, Emil Boss and Ulrich Kaufmann all but reached the summit of Mount Cook been beaten back by a furious storm in March. Greens accounts of his attempt on Mount Cook shows that trying to find a weather window to climb that year was every bit as demanding as this year would be (and was thwarted by just a few meters from being a first ascent on New Zealand's highest mountain) – his other big attempt in New Zealand, to climb Mount Earnslaw, was also to be derailed by miserable weather. In 1882 there were no bridges over the major water courses making access alone in heavy rains and snow a major undertaking. Interestingly, Green who came by ship via Australia noted that whilst Australia was suffering under a major heatwave New Zealand was very cold – Tasman conditions that are very similar to this year. Green much preferred the cold in New Zealand – undoubtedly his ancestry being Irish helped there!!

Constant storm cycles have left the Southern part of New Zealand on average 2 degrees below normal for summer in some places 4 degrees below – a nice balance in fact for last year when we had almost the opposite in summer. This hasn’t been convenable at all for outdoor activities though and I have found that now roughly 4 months into this constant cycle of storms that I’m tired of battling high winds although at least locally we are missing most of the rain. 

Mount Travers , Nelson Lakes National park

 First appearance of Mount Travers during the approach up the Travers valley ,Mount Travers is the second highest peak in the Nelson Lakes National park by a mere 2 meters and its large bulk can be often seen in classic pyramid mountain form from far away.

First appearance of Mount Travers during the approach up the Travers valley ,Mount Travers is the second highest peak in the Nelson Lakes National park by a mere 2 meters and its large bulk can be often seen in classic pyramid mountain form from far away.

 On the Mountain - Thanks to Andy of Absolute Wilderness and Jono my interest in Travers was piqued. Both had just recently been up the Travers valley and after admiring the mountain had mentioned their wish to climb Travers - in the end only Jono made it for the trip along with Bill.

On the Mountain - Thanks to Andy of Absolute Wilderness and Jono my interest in Travers was piqued. Both had just recently been up the Travers valley and after admiring the mountain had mentioned their wish to climb Travers - in the end only Jono made it for the trip along with Bill.

Caught in a rainbow on the Summit

 Clouds were screaming overhead as we descended as the gale westerlies continued.

Clouds were screaming overhead as we descended as the gale westerlies continued.

 By the time we had descended to the Bivvy rocks the wind and clouds had enshrouded the mountain..

By the time we had descended to the Bivvy rocks the wind and clouds had enshrouded the mountain..

 Apply named Summit Creek provided a perfect Bivvy rock site and really good sleep after a 12 hour day.

Apply named Summit Creek provided a perfect Bivvy rock site and really good sleep after a 12 hour day.

  3 options were muted the next day , my one was climb Mount Cupola, nearby but Bill scotched that, Jono had a very interesting plan of finding access to the Cupola basin from where we were bivvyed - Bill scotched that too, Bills plan, walk out Travers valley and catch a Water taxi, Jono and I scotched that (the less time meandering in the Travers valley the better as far as we were concerned). So a compromise was worked out, leave via Sunset saddle with a quick climb up Angelus on way out. By Hopeless hut the weather had changed to a gale SW and cloud but and a very long hard day ensured taking  just over 15 hours

 3 options were muted the next day , my one was climb Mount Cupola, nearby but Bill scotched that, Jono had a very interesting plan of finding access to the Cupola basin from where we were bivvyed - Bill scotched that too, Bills plan, walk out Travers valley and catch a Water taxi, Jono and I scotched that (the less time meandering in the Travers valley the better as far as we were concerned). So a compromise was worked out, leave via Sunset saddle with a quick climb up Angelus on way out. By Hopeless hut the weather had changed to a gale SW and cloud but and a very long hard day ensured taking  just over 15 hours

Lake Peel and Mount Arthur - Kahurangi National Park

 After spending the whole school holidays waiting for a break in the weather I finally got Isabelle and Leo up to Lake Peel below Mount Peel on the the very last weekend before school. Here Leo looks out over the Cobb Resivor and into Golden Bay.

After spending the whole school holidays waiting for a break in the weather I finally got Isabelle and Leo up to Lake Peel below Mount Peel on the the very last weekend before school. Here Leo looks out over the Cobb Resivor and into Golden Bay.

 Windless - for a brief few hours, Leo searching for rocks bugs and things at Lake Peel.

Windless - for a brief few hours, Leo searching for rocks bugs and things at Lake Peel.

 Lake Peel, Our tents can be just seen as dots on left.

Lake Peel, Our tents can be just seen as dots on left.

 We went with Sergio and Mei who are watching the early morning view with Leo.

We went with Sergio and Mei who are watching the early morning view with Leo.

 Plenty of rocks of all sorts up there and the kids both enjoy climbing them.

Plenty of rocks of all sorts up there and the kids both enjoy climbing them.

 Isabelle straps up.

Isabelle straps up.

 and away!!

and away!!

 A particularly audacious Kea

A particularly audacious Kea

 The normal training trips up the "Arthur"

The normal training trips up the "Arthur"

 Got some rock climbing practice on the mountain with Bill and Sergio some days , good training for me as the technical sides of climbing I find a chore.

Got some rock climbing practice on the mountain with Bill and Sergio some days , good training for me as the technical sides of climbing I find a chore.

 Segio rising out of one of the climbing gullies.

Segio rising out of one of the climbing gullies.

 A full moon rising above the clouds.

A full moon rising above the clouds.

 The Nuns Veil, Aoraki/Mount Cook National park

 Mount Sefton , New Zealands 4th highest peak rises above Mt Cook village.

Mount Sefton , New Zealands 4th highest peak rises above Mt Cook village.

 Sefton rising again , this time we were climbing Mt Little above Gorilla creek. Sefton is not the highest but certainly the most spectacular of the major peaks in Mount Cook National park as viewed from the West.

Sefton rising again , this time we were climbing Mt Little above Gorilla creek. Sefton is not the highest but certainly the most spectacular of the major peaks in Mount Cook National park as viewed from the West.

 La Perouse ,Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Nuns Veil - our objective the following day as viewed from Mount Little.

La Perouse ,Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Nuns Veil - our objective the following day as viewed from Mount Little.

 Close up of the Nuns Veil , the route was basically straight up the Glacier.

Close up of the Nuns Veil , the route was basically straight up the Glacier.

 Ben on the Lower Glacier

Ben on the Lower Glacier

 Up till now as we began catching the early morning sun the climb up the Veil had been easy ,too easy maybe. It was my first time on a Glacier in almost 2 years and the last time was the chaotic mass of the Baltoro whose only similarity with this one was some ice underfoot. Ben had done all the planning leading up to the trip and now Jerome as doing all the leading up the mountain. I was ambling along in la la land enjoying the soft ice cream glacier - even the Bergschrund  ( a large Crevasse) was filled in with all the recent snow. Looking up the summit route seemed quite clear but one worry remained , a traverse over ice cliffs looked imminent.   

Up till now as we began catching the early morning sun the climb up the Veil had been easy ,too easy maybe. It was my first time on a Glacier in almost 2 years and the last time was the chaotic mass of the Baltoro whose only similarity with this one was some ice underfoot. Ben had done all the planning leading up to the trip and now Jerome as doing all the leading up the mountain. I was ambling along in la la land enjoying the soft ice cream glacier - even the Bergschrund  ( a large Crevasse) was filled in with all the recent snow. Looking up the summit route seemed quite clear but one worry remained , a traverse over ice cliffs looked imminent.

 

 The ice cliffs rise above , a 1000 foot drop to eternity.  Most Humans have an innate fear of traversing steep slopes – a fear by no means unfounded. A little vector analysis will show that the balance of forces whilst climbing will tend to hold you to a steep slope and even whilst descending simple physics gives one the benefit of the doubt. On a traverse though its all different – the balance is all  for heading down and when traversing large cliffs the only thing preventing a quick fall from here to eternity is skill, strength and will power.  Alone I would have tried the rocky ridge rather than traverse the ice and having read Freda De Faurs account of ascending the Viel a century ago with the first ascensionist Peter Graham as a guide that seems to be what they did back than. Certainly in those times long before modern crampons and two ice axes a rocky ridge would have been preferable. Jerome though quickly got into the traverse and I followed somewhat more slowly. Halfway across the short traverse I balked on the iciest patch and had to let George and Ben past. It took a few minutes of standing alone on a wall taking a deep look at oneself before raising the will and concentration necessary to move on. Fortunately the difficult patch lasted only a few meters the rest of the traverse being easier and the steep climb to the top a cinch in comparison. Moments like these have come up before for me , both mountaineering and whilst cycling - often when there is an easy start and blissful day, the transformation into ruthless reality can be quite devastating. 

The ice cliffs rise above , a 1000 foot drop to eternity.

Most Humans have an innate fear of traversing steep slopes – a fear by no means unfounded. A little vector analysis will show that the balance of forces whilst climbing will tend to hold you to a steep slope and even whilst descending simple physics gives one the benefit of the doubt. On a traverse though its all different – the balance is all  for heading down and when traversing large cliffs the only thing preventing a quick fall from here to eternity is skill, strength and will power.

Alone I would have tried the rocky ridge rather than traverse the ice and having read Freda De Faurs account of ascending the Viel a century ago with the first ascensionist Peter Graham as a guide that seems to be what they did back than. Certainly in those times long before modern crampons and two ice axes a rocky ridge would have been preferable. Jerome though quickly got into the traverse and I followed somewhat more slowly. Halfway across the short traverse I balked on the iciest patch and had to let George and Ben past. It took a few minutes of standing alone on a wall taking a deep look at oneself before raising the will and concentration necessary to move on. Fortunately the difficult patch lasted only a few meters the rest of the traverse being easier and the steep climb to the top a cinch in comparison. Moments like these have come up before for me , both mountaineering and whilst cycling - often when there is an easy start and blissful day, the transformation into ruthless reality can be quite devastating. 

 Biretta , next peak on the range is far below. The Nuns Viel is the most significant peak in its area giving terrific views of most of the Southern Alps.

Biretta , next peak on the range is far below. The Nuns Viel is the most significant peak in its area giving terrific views of most of the Southern Alps.

 The view down Gorilla vally where we had bivoucaed ,Mount Little of the day before is the small rock peak center picture.

The view down Gorilla vally where we had bivoucaed ,Mount Little of the day before is the small rock peak center picture.

 George and Ben descending a snowy arete. I hung out with Ben for most of the descent watching his effortless descent moving through the glacier just the same as the clouds and mist flowed over it. It was very enjoyable seeing a man so at ease on the terrain and his body almost seamlessly slid down the slopes. As George had said , the trip was worth it just to hang out with one of the legends of New Zealand Mountaineering.

George and Ben descending a snowy arete. I hung out with Ben for most of the descent watching his effortless descent moving through the glacier just the same as the clouds and mist flowed over it. It was very enjoyable seeing a man so at ease on the terrain and his body almost seamlessly slid down the slopes. As George had said , the trip was worth it just to hang out with one of the legends of New Zealand Mountaineering.

 Jeromne lead almost all day extremely competently.

Jeromne lead almost all day extremely competently.

 Stunning Sefton again, now rising above the clouds we descended into and looking very Himalayan in character.

Stunning Sefton again, now rising above the clouds we descended into and looking very Himalayan in character.