Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Aspiring’

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.

The Power of Place

22/01/2009
Matukituki Valley, Mt. Aspiring Nat'l Park

Matukituki Valley, Mt. Aspiring Nat'l Park

The Power of Place
By Randy Richards, MSI Founder

I was debating how I was going to write my first entry from New Zealand. I have already written one article but don’t think it will make the grade. So I guess I’ll write about a magical valley. Oh, I can hear you say, “But all places are spiritual.”  Yes, but, I think there are places where the spirit of the place is so evident it comes over you like a wave.  I think this valley is one of those places. Places like these have a power that is unmistakable, people are drawn to them,  as Boyton Canyon, near Sedona Arizona, or Alta, Utah, and of course Machu Pichu.  All land has an energy, and some places are humming with energy, whether it’s the beauty of the place or the history or both.

NW Ridge, Mt. Aspiring

NW Ridge of Mt. Aspiring

The Matukituki Valley is west of Wanaka , New Zealand in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. The hour drive from Wanaka changes by the mile. The long flat valley with cascading waterfalls begs superlatives.  Mt. Aspiring is the tallest and proudest peak near the back of the long valley. Climbers come from all over the world to do their best on the mountain. But others come to enjoy the valley and glacier edges high above.

In the US, Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods is gaining traction with his important coinage of the term, Nature

A family group arrives at Aspiring Hut

A family group arrives at Aspiring Hut

Deficit Disorder. Here I have observed many families in the valley for their summer vacations.  One group at right, consisted of  two families with a total of 10 children who hung out at the hut and environs for three days. They did steep day-hikes up to the surrounding ridge lines. The four-year-old didn’t make it all the way up on her daddy’s shoulders though.

The hut ranger at Mt. Aspiring Hut in the valley, and greets both climbers and “trampers”  of all ages.  It’s clear that the valley has its hold on many. One volunteer hut warden makes the annual pilgrimage from London, while others I met from New Zealand come back year after year, and others, after some 30 years away.

Amanda and Lindy

Hut Warden and her sister at Shovel Flat

One who has a special feeling for the place is a hut ranger going on her third season. The coveted position is shared by another Department of Conservation employee as well.  The former, divides her time between Aspiring Hut, French Ridge, precariously perched on the valley’s edge just below the glaciers near Mt. Aspiring,  and other huts in the region.  She beckoned me, “You’ll love the place”.  And I did.

The large trees have a way of calling to you.  The winds that caress the grasses on the valley floor seem to create a rhythm that makes us forget the traffic in town.

Double Rainbow from the warden's quarters

Double Rainbow from the warden's quarters

It’ s a good reminder of why we need to get to these places, and of course preserve them. Whether it’s Mt. Washington,  Mt. Shasta,  Alta, or the Matukituki,  get out while you still can. I will still post that previous article with tons of revisions, but here’s a start on my impressions of New Zealand and the power of the place.