For a 60th Birthday expotition, Douglas and Gethin joined me for a weekend trip into the Livingstone mountains - between Te Anau and Mavora Lakes.
There is a ridge I've been eyeing up for years - Rob and I recce'd the descent when he was over here.
The difficulty has always been the logistics; the only sensible way to start is to boat over North Mavora Lake to West Burn Hut. Going in the canoe would have been possible, but that would have left the canoe at the hut. Not what we wanted to do.
Jim kindly agreed to take us in his motor boat.
The planned route was up the ridge then south along the ridge to the saddle with a tarn on. That was the camp spot. There's a PDF attached with map and route (the PDF was created with a GIS program and has layers you can turn on and off as required)
The Saturday was fantastic weather, if a little cool. There was a light dusting of snow on the higher peaks we traversed.
One or two of the gullies we descended were interesting with a dusting of snow on 'snow grass'. We all thoroughly enjoyed the day - none more so than Dilys. There was no time pressure, and we could just enjoy the terrain and the location.
We made it to the intended camp site fairly early in the afternoon. We spent a little time finding a suitable site. Most of the area was pretty soggy, but we eventually settled on a couple of flat areas covered in clay & rocks. We cleared off the rocks and had pretty good camp sites. Once camp was set up, a brew was in order, so Douglas went off to get water from the tarn. Dilys was pretty interested in this process and Douglas had fun keeping her out of the tarn (so as not to end up with the silt stirred up and a wet dog in my tent).
Despite having run around the mountains all day, Dilys though she needed more exercise, and went belting around whenever one of us wandered away from camp for any reason.
The weather got quite cold quite quickly, so after an early dinner of green Thai curry, we retired to respective tents - Douglas & Gethin in our WildCountry Quasar (circa 1987) and me and Dilys in the Vango Fran left behind. I quickly discovered that the lightweight thermarest I had taken had a puncture, so I had next-to-no insulation from the freezing ground. Dilys had a piece if Karrimat, so she was fine. Douglas and Gethin both had Karrimats, so were also fine. It turned out to be a bit of an uncomfortable night - clothes underneath my sleepingbag helped, but not a lot.
The wind got up pretty strongly during the night. Both tents were fine (both really stable). No one set an alarm, and no one was keen to get out into the cold wind. I finally looked at a clock at 10am. !! There was no great distance to cover on the second day, so it wasn't a problem. After porridge and striking camp we set off back up to the ridge (I forgot to restart the track-log for a few hundred metres, hence the gap in the track). We had decided that the ridge up to Mt Eldon was going to be a bit too dodgy and that we would go over the col back to the east and head down to the lake again. Once on the ridge, I was still looking at Mt Eldon and thinking it was a possibility - it was only just over a kilometer away, and 400m ascent. However as we got to the ridge, one gust literally blew all three of us off our feet. I had to sit down to avoid a 5m fall off a little bluff.
At that point we decided that discretion was definitely the better part of valour.
We set off down the east side of the range. Route finding was fairly straight forward. There were some fairly steep scree slopes to cross & descend, but surprisingly, they were odd - didn't really slide at all. They were "grippy".
Straightforward that is until we hit the bush-line just above a cliff. We thought we would try to get around the cliff in the bush. After around 45 minutes of crashing through very steep bush, we ended up exactly where we entered the bush. Change of route plan required. North along the ridge until a suitable gully to descend presented itself. From there, down to the bush down some steep scree (some of which did run, though slowly). Then follow the bush line until we found the cairns Rob and I had built 10 years earlier. The higher one marked where we had had lunch, but the lower one marks were to enter the bush in order to make a relatively straightforward route to the clearing. From there straight downhill to the track at the side of the lake.
Back to the car early afternoon, and quick cuppa and then home for a shower and some hot food.
All in all a great weekend. Mt Eldon is still there - and we'll give it another go. I don't intend to wait another 10 years. I've taken a load of photo's to choose a descent route off Mt. Eldon itself. It's pretty steep on both sides, and it looks as if returning south off the summit and down one of the gullies there will be the best option.