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Monday, July 03, 2006

Trip to Mt.Cassidy & Blimit
A couple of weeks ago, we did a 2-summit crossing from Arthur's Pass village to Temple Basin over the summits of Mt. Cassidy (1850m) and Blimit (1921m) just before the first big dump of snow hit the South Island.
To try some "geo-blogging", I brought a GPS along in addition to my camera to record the locations the pictures were taken. The results are shown on the map below. (Markers indicate photo locations, and you can click on them. Try it out!)
I'm quite happy with the results and think that I'm gonna bring the GPS on my next trips as well...
O.k., technicalities settled, a description of the trip.
On Friday night we set out with a small group of friends (that's Helen, Kim, Adam, Andrew and me) towards Arthur's Pass village to make a moderately early start the next morning. After a decent night's sleep and a relaxed breakfast in NZAC's Arthur's Pass Logdge we were excited to get started. I volunteered to drop the car at the end of the tramp at the base of Temple Basin and run the 3km back to join the others at the start of the track.
We finally started walking around 8:30, just as the surrounding peaks caught the first rays of sunlight. The weather forecast predicted fine weather for the day and we were lucky enough that it proved to be right.
Below the snowlineAfter an hour or so we reached the bushline and entered rocky terrain. The climb was pretty moderate, but the route over loose boulders didn't allow for fast travel.
Crossing a small ravine, Adam created quite some excitement when he (involuntarily) started a rockslide that seemed to continue for minutes. A 3m-wide river of rocks is quite an impressive sight, believe me!

We eventually made it to the snow and out into the sun on the ridge approaching Mt.Cassidy. The views around became more and more impressive, the whole chain of the Southern Alps opening up as we got higher. View from Blimit due South towards Mt.Cassidy and Southern Alps
After climbing over at least one false summit, we eventually reached the top of Mt.Cassidy in perfect time for a lunch break in the sun.
We could see our next goal, the summit of Blimit, along the ridge to the NE. We decided not to take the ridge directly to Blimit but drop down to the SW a bit to get around some cliffs before ascending a steep gully to reach the summit. We were quite happy to have brought our ice axes along to help manage the many steep sections along the way.
This is some beautiful country up there below the peaks! Only about 3 hrs. from the highway, but feeling incredibly remote. Once we dropped into the big basin to the W, the towering mountains around us made it clear how small and insignificant we are compared to them.
After a comfortable walk along the gentle slopes of the basin, we found the ravine that we've seen from Mt.Cassidy and it seemed indeed to get us up to the top of Blimit.
Helen going down a gullyAfter a steep scramble, we found ourselves about 50m from the summit of Blimit. In the time we were tugged away in the ravine, making our way up, the weather that we had observed in the South-West had started to move in and the blue sky had suddenly turned black. But since the terrain seemed fairly straightforward for navigation, there was not really a reason to worry!
But the change in the weather situation meant that the break on Blimit ended up being quite short due to the fact that the wind had picked up and it started to get quite cold quickly. Therefore, just a few pictures, a sip of water and off-we-go.
Mt.Temple and Phipps Peak
The general route was quite obvious with Temple Basin skifield behind the next ridge, but there were two options of getting there: following a ridge (visible in the center of the photo above) or staying to the S of that ridge (left of the ridge in the photo). We decided against ridge travel because of the conditions and descended once again, fully aware that we'd have to re-climb quite a bit of the height we were losing. But hey, we've done it earlier today!Caugth in a storm of spin drift
We were richly rewarded for our efforts: the travel through that broad basin bore some of the most memorable moments of the trip for me. Just as we hit the flat ground, the wind started blowing hard and picked up some of the unconsolidated snow to "snowblast" us with spin drift. We were even lucky enough to witness a snowbow (I suppose that's what you'd call it: rain makes a rainbow, snow makes a snowbow, right?) while the icy snow crystals stung like needles on our faces. I guess that might not sound half as much fun as it actually was!
The bad weather disappeared as soon as we climbed up onto the ridge separating us from Temple Basin, our descending route. We had to search a little for a suited spot to climb down that narrow, rocky ridge. Helen suggested crossing a fairly exposed rocky patch which I rather wished to avoid. But when she gave the o.k. for the way down I brought myself to follow her. It proved to be less scary than I thought and we were soon in the scree leading the way to the upper ski lift of Temple Basin. Well, decent scree is fun if you're descending, but the scree here was not quite soft enough to allow for running/sliding, so it was rather painful.View back into Temple Basin
But I think I actually preferred that scree to the the boring way down from Temple Basin to the highway: never-ending switchbacks on a steep gradient with steps that are just a bit too high to be comfortable. I felt sorry for the skiers that have to walk down here with their gear after a day of skiing in the club field!

It was great to find the car parked at the bottom of the hill, saving us to walk another 3km along the road back to Arthur's Pass Village.

When we returned to Christchurch, tired but strangely euphoric, we all agreed: this was a great trip! We're busy now planning our next adventure.
Thanks to Kim, Helen, Adam and Andrew for making this trip such a wonderful experience!

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Anonymous pohanginapete said...

Reading this made me very restless... I think I'll do a tops traverse somewhere in the Ruahine if we get a fine day next week.

Your blog looks great — I'll be back, so keep posting (and keep doing trips like this). Thanks for the link, too. :^D

8:38 AM  
Blogger KiwiTracks said...

you're welcome for the link. It really was your post about the trip to Barker Hut on your old blog that made me consider blogging as the right outlet for sharing my tramping memories.
I've got very little time for adding posts at the moment as we're opening a teahouse in ChCh this weekend (a post about this "adventure" will be published soon).
But I finally finished the post you commented on and am still working on "fine-tuning" some of the functionality of the site (it seems there is still a problem with the map markers when viewed with IE although I thought I had it figured out).

I hope you made it out into the Ruahine as planned and had a great time!

1:04 PM  

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