Posts Tagged ‘French Ridge’

A Week at French Ridge

18/03/2009
The View from French Ridge Hut

The View from French Ridge Hut

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at French Ridge Hut last week. We had an unusual clear spell of almost cloudless blue skies, day after day. More times than not, the wind can howl on this ridge, making it difficult to make the journey to the privy, perched on the ridge, (so helicopters can more easily pick up the poop canisters).

Near Mt. Avalanche-Gloomy Gorge

Near Mt. Avalanche-Gloomy Gorge

I recently heard of one fellow who was sent to his death when the hut he was in, was blown off the mountain. I’m sure some of the readers have been on a fire lookout tower in high winds, having complete trust in the structure. Hmmm. Makes one think.  Be sure to inquire or check to see if the hut you’re in has tie-down cables. French Ridge does not. I trust the architect, up to a point. It depends  on how strong are the gale force winds. This is a bit tongue in cheek, or ice axe in ground.

Waterfall Rainbow, Gloomy Gorge

Waterfall Rainbow, Gloomy Gorge

French Ridge and the environs is a magical place. It’s getting a lot of traffic from hikers as well as climbers. I was there later in the season, (just last week), when traffic to and from the Collin Todd Hut, and Mt. Aspiring had been halted due to the Quarterdeck section of glacier coming down from the Bonar Glacier was breaking up too badly to allow passage.

Monkeying around on the "Quarter Deck"

Monkeying around on the "Quarter Deck"

We decided to monkey around on the lower ramparts of the Quarterdeck anyway,  for a day of walking, crevasse rescue and rope team travel practice, and a little bit of climbing in some dramatic scenery. While we were rather restricted in where we could actually go, we still had fun. The dry glacier provided some great ice climbing practice. I love glacier ice, which is a far cry from New

More playing around on some "safe" broken up bits.

More playing around on some "safe" broken up bits.

Hampshire’s Frankenstein Cliff’s. I’ve just read a piece on climbing on the Fox Glacier that has me interested in doing some glacial ice there.

Kea in Flight w/Moon, French Ridge

Kea in Flight

At the hut and just above, Keas, which are amazing Alpine parrots,  seemed our constant companions. I figuring out when they would take off, and got some snaps of them in flight. One, at the hut, the other with Mt. Avalanche in the background just above the hut. They are very personable and curious creatures, if not troublesome.  When we arrived at the hut on Day 1, the door to the was open, and the keas had made themselves at home, leaving the place a mess.

Kea, Amanda, Mt Avalanche

Kea, Amanda, Mt Avalanche

Just across from the Hut, on the ramparts of Rob Roy, is an impressive waterfall. It’s interesting and beautiful because the water comes piling down and hits a flat plateau, shooting the water out into space, like a jet stream. Then when the sun is hitting the wall just right, a rainbow is formed.

Mountain People Who Inspire

31/01/2009

Greetings from New Zealand. You’ll start to see articles on this blog under the column named “Mountain People Who Inspire” whenever I or other authors should come across them. 

Londoner Mark Rosen, Wanaka, NZ

Londoner Mark Rosen, Wanaka, NZ

I’m starting this column with an entry on a retired man from England named Mark Rosen. Mark hails from Norfolk, Sheringham which is a fishing and vacation village on the east coast. We crossed paths in the Matukituki Valley when Mark was on his way to fulfill his annual volunteer stint at the French Ridge Hut near the base of Mt. Aspiring. He has been volunteering at this hut as well as Mueller hut at Mt Cook for a number of years.  He’s an inpsiration because of his great attitude about getting out in the mountains, and his ability to continue hitting the trail. He’s a mountain man in the true sense. Getting to the French Ridge Hut is not easy. Once you’ve hiked four hours along the Matukituki Valley, the trail climbs 3000′ in about a mile and a half, to arrive above treeline and at glacier’s edge at the small hut.

I only met him briefly on the trail, and later caught up with him in Wanaka, New Zealand where we asked him a few questions about his thoughts on hut wardening at Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Cook.  
MSI:What do you love most about your volunteering?
MR: I love relating to the people, and hearing about their first impressions. Especially at Mt. Cook when many of the visitors are seeing a large glaciated mountain for the first time. They’re enjoying the beauty of the mountains and for most, this is their first experience of going to a place like that. Their eyes are wide with wonder.  More though, I come back because of the place, the mountain environment, this special location.  I like the time alone too and can retreat to the hut warden’s quarters when need be.

MSI: What do you do in your spare time at the huts?
MR: I like to get out and hike the surrounding routes, read or plug into my ipod and conduct the London Symphony Orchestra or do my aerobic exercises.

MSI: What are some of the challenges of being a hut warden?
MR: Well, in a humorous vein, people tend to ask the same questions over and over, such as,  “How do you get your food and water up here?”, or “How do you get up here?” Depending on my mood sometimes, I like to make my answers more interesting.  I’ll tell a fibb by replying that I bring my food up in big boxes and haul water from the valley floor in buckets. Oh, and that “The outhouse poop needs to be hauled out in containers strung over my shoulders.” Sometimes I might say “I arrive by private helicopter.”
One thing that can bother me is when parties don’t clean up after themselves and leave the hut or toilet a mess. I almost feel as if I need to inquire about their toilet habits upon their arrival, hopefully stemming their bad behaviour. Of course, this is the minority of the visitors, but it does have a negative impact.

When I met Mr. Rosen the second time in Wanaka, I observed at how well grounded and at peace the man seemed. I guess part of it stems from all that time in the mountains. Keep going Mark.