On Wednesday, 14 December, the team crossed the Rakaia between Lauper Biv and Raischeck Hut. Mark's sore knee, an embarrassing omission of snow stakes at Arthur's Pass, and days of bad weather resulted in a decision to head out to Glenfalloch.
The previous ten days or so saw us head up a warm Waimakariri after a fantastic gathering of friends and family at Bealy Spur. Summer Hess and Matt Jones joined us for an slog-ascent of Mt Murchison out of Carrington Hut, and then the team stuck out alone over the Browning/Whitehorn route.
Wet days in an impressive Wilberforce were followed by a passage of Hokitika Saddle, and we eventually reached the un-paralleled Mungo Hut in bright sunshine.
Giving penance to the Mungo was as good as any West Coast river bash can be, sandwiched as we were on car sized boulders between a raging river and impenetrable bush. A slog took us to the aptly named Bluff Hut, which sits alongside the Upper Hokitika Gorge, a fearsome gulch of several hundred metres disappearing up into the clouds.
The following days took us over Frew Saddle and into the fabled Whitcombe catchment. Highlights included meeting Dave Elcock, a possumer of 'the four rivers out back of Hoki', who had earlier helped Lyds' dad drop us food at Frew Hut. Coming to Cave Camp, we weren't really prepared for the sight of Evans rearing up thousands of feet shear from the valley, even if we had already seen the photographs. The place was worthy of terms used to describe it various passages of mountain lit.
A half-pie forecast had us on Whicombe Pass and planning to camp on Erewhon Col (atop a high glacier) for a go at Mount Whitcombe. In the event, we climbed the nearby, slightly lower and more easterly Lauper Peak in a deteriorating NW storm, and were forced to retreat from the Ice.
We reached the North/Left bank of the Rakaia after a massive evening doing battle with a wet and interminable Lauper Stream, and crossed that river of reputation the next day. I had intended to reproduce diary entries of those days, but certain mothers may not have enjoyed the reading (but seriously, it's all good).
Today we will go back up to Glenfalloch and have a forecast for the rather Holy Grail Country of the Gardens of Eden and Allah. We can't wait, even if town was getting comfy.
We go without Mark, a great disappointment for us all, but especially for him. Mark has made the difficult and commendable decision to get a bad knee right. Given that ambition is such a huge part of mountaineering, but that those on the outside rarely understand that there are no prizes for getting up stuff, Mark's decision is particularly epic. Looking forward to his rejoining at Mount Cook.
An administrative note: we have received some worried communications when our InReach tracking does not 'move'. The first thing to say there is: "thanks". The second is that while we turn the device on daily, it does not always successfully send the signals required for the tracking function. This is particularly so when there are large hills to our nor'-west. This will happen a lot in the next while, so while we appreciate it, we ask that no one gets too worried about these things. We are in good hands!
Looking forward to getting back into it, and to catching up from Mount Cook around New Years. In the meantime, a happy and safe Christmas to one and all.
On behalf of the team, take it easy. ADWB.