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Haast Pass to the Wilken

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Arriving on the tops above Haast Pass we had our first view of the spectacular main divide we would traverse. It was more dramatic than I had imagined. 

3 months and many hours of planning had come together, an excellent forecast gave us a chance to follow our A plan.

The A plan was inspired by the Alpine kids, they had covered this section on their epic journey from Arthur’s Pass to the Divide.

We filled up with water at the tarns on the way to Mt Cross and enjoyed the views across the peaks we were planning to traverse. Lindsay peak, The Keystone, Mt Burke and Mt Cameron. 

Looking from Mt Cross, the huge rock walls from Lindsay peak all the way round to Mt Burke are an amazing sight. Further round Mt Cameron is a very steep looking cone.

In our planning we had seen a photo of a route heading to Lindsay peak in December covered in snow, it looked like a place you would need your ice axe. Luckily for us by April the snow had disappeared. 

Tōrea, one of the Alpine kids, had let us know the ridge provided rope free travel. That doesn’t mean it is without a few gnarly bits.

Marta and I made good progress up to Lindsay peak, there were 5 of us booked to come on the trip, in the last 24 hours Adam and Josh became household covid contacts and Paul hadn’t recovered from his covid. Marta was just starting to feel better after her covid, she felt stronger each day of the adventure. 

As we got to the northern side of Lindsay peak the route opened up and we found more tarns and great camping spots. We hoped to get to Mt Burke for the first night after starting at noon. The first of the gnarly bits was on top of the Keystone, a rough rocky narrow ridge, from there we headed south and up Mt Burke, it was a great afternoon for travelling on the tops, very light wind and clearing skies. Heading over Mt Burke we spotted a big tarn on the western side of the ridge, that would be exposed to the cool breeze that was picking up slightly so after negotiating a couple more gnarly bits on Mt Burke and a bit of clag on the top we headed down to the eastern side in the dark and found a good flat spot above the fish valley. 

We decided to travel light with just a fly and footprint, it was lovely to eat a warm meal and crawl into my sleeping bag. 

Being April we heard the deer roaring from the valley, the sun rose and we ate fresh snow berries as we wandered back up to the ridge on to Mt Cameron. We found a great camp spot right on the ridge with a small tarn which would have saved a climb.

Mt Cameron looked steep from the ridge line, a few clouds swept on and off the top, it looked like there was an ok line but there were also some steep bits. We dropped our packs and did a bit of route finding. It was better than it looked at first so after considering a few other options we gave it a try. It was OK, a few steep bits dropping down the south side.

From there we got our first views of Mt Stuart and the amazing rock face to the east, we would descend on this down into the northern branch of the Blue. The Alpine kids had stayed on the ridge and descended into the Blue from before Mt Bertha, despite their Intel we had concerns about the gnarly factor of that route. Moirs guide has a route description for the northern branch. The description and DOC warn about this route and they are well founded, once we got to the Bush line it was tough Bush fighting travel, we didn’t find the prominent deer trail and climbed across a few vertical moss walls, we did find the steep moss gully, that was very steep with lots of waterfall like terrain on either side.

Marta slipped in the river and broke her finger! From the river we had another Bush flight to get on to the NE spur to descend into the Blue. There is much to love about off track backcountry Adventure and there are a few downsides. At the bottom of the spur the beautiful Blue river waited bathed in sunshine, to rub it in there was a nice big track sign at the bottom of the spur. This is obviously a very old sign.

After a swim we decided our plan of heading up Hunted spur was likely to lead to more Bush fighting that we were over. We headed down the Blue and on to the Gillespie Pass circuit. It was wonderful to be on a track. We camped near the mouth of the Young and had a magic next day climbing the Pass and visiting Lake Crucible. The day was as beautiful as the day before, we could see for miles from the Pass and enjoyed cheese and crackers on the top.

We arrived after dark at Siberia hut, a work group had country music playing on the speaker including my wife’s favourite song Picture by Kid Rock and Sherly Crow. It was nice to see a few people after 3 days. 

The next morning we wandered out to Makorako and ate toasted sandwiches at the Cafe. It was a glorious few days in the mountains. 

Route Flyover

Photos taken by Marta

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