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Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Five Passes: Mt Aspiring National Park 7-12th Febuary 2004

Uncle Roddus Tramping Diary: Tramp No. 39
The Five Passes: Mt Aspiring National Park  7-12th Febuary 2004

Here we are in the depths of winter and due to work commitments, weather conditions, other commitments and my general lack of enthusiasm for going bush in the freezing cold of winter (My body and mind feel they should be hibernating), I haven't been out tramping since late May and so I thought it time to blog one of the classic trips I did in the past.

This trip was suggested to me by my tramping buddy, Bryce, in late 2003 and at first I was uncertain as to whether I was up to it, as I was still fairly inexperienced in tramping. After doing Ball Pass a few weeks earlier i decided that I could handle it and Bryce had proved to me that he was and experienced person, as well as being a Doctor, I felt more reassured.
We left town on the 6th for the 6/7 hour drive to the Routeburn Shelter, where we spent the night. We left the shelter on the first day around 8:30am to a warm and slightly overcast day, our first target being Sugarloaf Pass(No.1). We made the pass in about 2 hours, stopped to enjoy the views and then proceeded to drop back down to the Rock Burn river. A good 4 hours of pleasant travel through Red Beech forest brought us to our first camping spot amongst the trees at Theater Flats. A great camping spot, with a couple of other groups dotted around the trees and a plague of sand flies to annoy us as we set up camp and cooked tea.

Preparing to leave the Routeburn Shelter
 Coming up to Sugarloaf Pass.
 Heading away from Sugarloaf Pass to drop down into the Rockburn.

Looking up the Rockburn

Theater Flat and looking at the copse of trees where we camped.

Me preparing dinner and trying to keep the sand flies off.

Looking out from our camping spot.

A waterfall
Day two was the same weather wise as we continued up the Rockburn from Theater flats and crested Park Pass(No.2) and then dropped down into Hidden Falls Creek where we spent the rest of the day travelling first through bush, then scrub and tussock and then a pretty rocky assent over Cow Saddle(No.3) after which we spent some time looking for the rock biv we were to stay in that night in the shadow of Tantalus Peak. A bit more challenging day than the first but a similar time spent traveling.

 Leaving Theater Flats

 There were a few small hills in the area

A Rock Biv we encountered on the Rockburn

 Meandering through the rock and tussock heading up to park pass

I think this is looking back down the Rockburn from near Park Pass

The Tarn on Park Pass

 Looking the other way from the tarn

 Are we there yet?

The rocky end of Hidden Falls Creek heading to Cow Saddle

Our Home For The Night

Day Three again dawns fine with no hint as to what was to come. We climbed the steep assent up to Fiery Col(No.4), our highest crossing so far and managed to sneak across the last vestiges of last winters snow with out the aid of crampons. rested at the col, before dropping down to the Olivine ledge and sideling round to below the Fon lakes. The Temperature was taking a sharp descent by this time and as we got to the campsite below the lakes we were deciding weather to carry on up to the lakes to camp or carry on  along the ledge to another rock biv we had been told about. A sudden increase in the wind and a closer look at the encroaching cloud bank enforced a decision pretty quick if we didn't want to be walking and setting up camp in the pouring rain. A hasty camp was set and we just managed to get set up and crawl into the tent as the downpour hit. we are talking Noah here, with some pretty good wind in support. Poor Bryce was the one who had to go out in it to boil the water for dinner, as it was his MSR we were using and I didn't know how to get it going(that was my excuse anyway. Dehydrated meals were heated and consumed in the tent and the empty packets used as urinals, cos by this time even Noah wouldn't have gone out there. The rain and wind never let up through out the night untill about 6am the next morning and we finally got to get some sleep.

Heading off to Fiery Col

The last of the winters snow

 Looking down to the olivine ledge

Heading across the olivine ledge to our next campsite.

It's gonna rain any time now.

 The next morning like nothing had happened.

Woke up on day four to the beautiful blue of a cloudless sky and luckily had the luxury of time to allow all our stuff to dry out as it wasn't going to be too long a day to our next camp. After a dip in the cold creek feeding out of the Fon lakes, to freshen up after 4 days of no showers, we broke camp at about midday and embarked on the short climb you see above to the Fon lakes. After admiring the lakes and putting on some more layers of cloths, as the temperature was dropping again, we headed off to Fon Saddle(No.5). From From Fon saddle it was a steep and slippery descent through snow grass down into the Beansburn valley and then follow the river downstream to the large RockBiv

The Larger of the Fon Lakes
 And The smaller one.
Looking down on the Beansbern.

 Nearly Home, that large rock in front of me is to be our home for the night.
This rock biv had several rooms and levels. Unfortunately the lower levels had been used as a rubbish dump by many lazy and unscrupulous trampers.
This was where I slept and notice the little brown mouse on the rock at the top right. The little buggers were running over my sleeping bag and trying to get into my pack while I was trying to get to sleep. I put some cheese out further towards the entrance to give them something to nibble on instead of me and it seemed to do the trick cos I didn't feel any more of them run over me. Strange thing was in the morning the cheese was still there and not been touched.

Day five was cool and wet and a long and not too pleasant journey down the Beansbern to the Dart River and then along the Dart to the Rockburn and over the very deep gorge at the Rockburn footbridge, then onto the Routeburn Hut. A long 10 hour day in light rain all day and had plenty of trouble staying on the track coming down the Beansburn as it kept petering out and then we would have to bushbash untill we found it again and in the rain that ain't the most fun. Not very many photos were taken that day.

 Somewhere along the Beansbern.

 Looking back up the Dart River towards the beansbern.

 Day six was just a short pleasant bush walk out past lake Sylvan and back to The Routeburn Shelter to the car. A memorable trip and quite a popular one with the locals here, I know several people who have done it. A not to difficult moderate trip and most enjoyable. To date still the only extended multi day I have done.


Bryce said...

Thanks for the post Rodney, Sure was a great trip. That night of rain beneath Fohn Lakes I wont easily forget. I've experienced Fiordland rain before, but its a bit spooky when you are camped next to a small tarn that was rapidly turning into a lake and threatening to turn our wee tent into Noahs Ark !

Honora said...

Get out there! The snow's waiting for ya...

Roddus said...

Hey Bryce, yes I will never forget that wet and windy night either. At least I managed to stay dry, I seem to remember you wern't so fortunate on your side of thje tent.

Roddus said...


I know, I need to get out, just got so much on, as well as being Training Supervisor for the "Behold The Spirit" Focus course here in October and I promised Mrs Roddus I would take her to spend the night in a hut as my next trip.