Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Roys Lagoon Birdlife, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 08.12.15. I parked my car beside Lilybank Rd in Lake Tekapo Regional Park & wandered up Ebenezer Ln through pine forest. About 1 km up the gravel lane, I crossed Mt Hay Station fence by a locked gate, as I wanted to birdwatch at Roys Lagoon about 4 kms away. As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station permission must be obtained from owners before any climbing / walks on the station.

I followed a farm track past stony, moraine hills & a dry dam, then continued along the farm track, rounding a grassy, moraine hill to a farm gate by a series of willowed tarns. I saw two foraging, pied stilts & several paradise shelducks on the tarns. Five black swans flew off towards Roys Lagoon, a hidden lagoon in a glacial kettle hole, unseen from Mt John summit above Lake Tekapo.

A spur winged plover stood on a tarn shore while I wandered past, with grand views of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Mt Dobson, Mt Ardmore & Mt Hay. I followed another farm track past a dry tarn & rounded another grassy, moraine hill towards the homestead & Roys Lagoon.

I wandered the grassy, moraine hill south of Roys Lagoon, as it gave high views of the lagoon. I saw flocks of ducks, too small & distant to identify with my binoculars, but flocks of Canada geese, black swans & brown cygnets were easy to see floating on Roys Lagoon. I spotted a couple of Australasian harriers soaring & hunting rabbits. Ditto a NZ falcon flapping its wings, hovering & hunting too. A couple of black backed gulls & a pied oystercatcher flew by.

As the moraine hillside was north facing, there were many alpine cushion plants & mat plants, Raoulia & Scleranthus species, amongst purple topped grasses & tussocks. Light green, Raoulia scabweed bloomed masses of tiny, yellow flowers, pollinated by scurrying, NZ native bees, their pollen sacs full. An olive green Raoulia species had slightly bigger, matted foliage & creamy flowers.

I returned to my car, over moraine hill country, via another series of dry & watered tarns, closer to Lilybank Rd. The circular walk was about 10 kms. A shorter, more direct walk to Roys Lagoon can be done from Mt Hay Station homestead, situated 8 kms along Lilybank Rd.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Old Woolshed & Mt Maud, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 01.12.15. I parked my car about 10 kms along Lilybank Rd below Mt Hay, as I wanted to walk to the Old Woolshed on Mt Hay Station below Mt Maud & Mt Dobson. It was a vast watershed, draining streams from My Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson & Mt Maud. Near a ruined shepherd's hut several streams joined to form Edward Stream below Mt Edward.

I sidled round the north end of Mt Hay, following Mt Hay's moraine tail over hummocky country, past two tarns. Northwards, were grand views of Wee McGregor & Mt Ardmore. Eastwards, beyond the moraine hummocks & tarns, a grassy basin, watered by streams & surrounded by mountains. The grassy basin sloped gently down to a rocky stream bed which went round the end of Mt Dobson SW ridge, forming a rocky portal, with Mt Hay tail on the opposite bank.

Streams & farm fences crossed the grassy basin, as well as a farm track which went over Mt Hay tail from Mt Hay Station homestead to the south end of Mt Ardmore. On other walks I'd used the north end of the farm track to zig-zag up Mt Ardmore south ridge.

Eastwards, I followed another farm track on the stream bed through the rocky portal, Mt Maud & Mt Edward straight ahead. In the stream bed a Himalayan tahr ran away when it saw me.

I crossed another farm track which went from My Hay Station homestead & zig-zagged up Mt Dobson SW ridge. I'd used that farm track on another climb up the SW ridge. It took me 2 hours to reach the ruined shepherd's hut beside the stream, below a rocky hill with a cairn on top.

I climbed the rocky hill. Opposite was another hill with a cairn on top, the end of Mt Hay tail. The 2 hills formed another portal where a confluence of streams from surrounding mountains formed Edward stream, bending southwards, past willows, below Mt Edward.

From the hill top above the ruined shepherd's hut, I had upstream, valley views of Mt Dobson slopes, Tekapo Saddle & Mt Maud, their streams draining into Edward Stream.

On my wander from My Hay I'd aimed for 2 distant poplars below Mt Maud. From the hill top I saw the poplars were surrounded by willows on a stream bank. I resolved to return another day to climb Mt Maud second west ridge. The return trek to my car also took 2 hours. Total distance 10 kms.

Thurs 10.12.15. I parked my car about 8 kms along Lilybank Rd, beyond Mt Hay Station homestead, as I wanted to climb Mt Maud second west ridge, above Edward Stream, near the Old Woolshed. From the sheep yards by Lilybank Rd, I followed a farm fence past a willowy swamp & climbed the steep farm track, sidling past the south end of Mt Hay.

The farm track went through moraine, hummock country & over Mt Hay tail to the braided stream draining My Hay Station mountains: Mt Hay, Wee McGregor, Mt Ardmore, Mt Dobson, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Maud, Mt Edward. Crossing over the moraine tail all the mountains were seen, a magnificent panorama.

On the farm track, which eventually zig-zagged up Mt Dobson SW ridge, I crossed the braided stream & wandered down to the ruined shepherd's hut, where Edward Stream bent south below Mt Edward.

I crossed the hill behind the ruined shepherd's hut to poplars & willows by another Edward Stream tributary, a confluence of streams From Mt Dobson SW ridge, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Maud & Mt Edward NW ridge.

I crossed a stony, dry, riverbed, between Mt Edward NW ridge & Mt Maud first west ridge & followed a double farm fence, up valley, on the east bank of Edward Stream, below Mt Maud towards Tekapo Saddle. The double fence was old & new fences. The dilapidated, old fence had weathered, rimu, fence posts. The new fence had treated, wooden, fence posts. Edward Stream valley I wandered - Mt Dobson SW ridge west, Tekapo Saddle north, Mt Maud east.

At one point upstream, a low tussock ridge projecting from Mt Dobson SW ridge went east to Mt Maud first west ridge, forming a rocky canyon, Edward Stream flowing through the canyon. I avoided the canyon by following the fence over the stream at the Canyon's exit & following the fence over the low ridge to recross Edward Stream the other side, below Mt Maud second west ridge.

I climbed Mt Maud second west ridge through tussocks & Spaniard grass to the rocky top. I followed a goat track along the rocky, ridge top, crossed a saddle, climbed past 4 rocky outcrops & stopped for lunch at about 1300 m, viewing Mt Maud scree line below. I was slightly lower than Tekapo Saddle, 1387 m, seen across the valley head further north.

I had west views of the zig-zag, farm road going through tussock land up Mt Dobson SW ridge & over the top glimpsed Mt Ardmore's rocky summit ridge & beyond to Alpine ranges across lake Tekapo. South I looked down Edward Stream valley, Mt Maud & Mt Edward east & distant Lake Tekapo Village, Mt John & Old Man Range south west.

I texted Leah successfully from Mt Maud second west ridge, as I was unable to text her earlier near Mt Hay Station homestead, due to blocking hills. I didn't continue up the second west ridge to Mt Maud summit, 1797 m, as the tussock ridge became dangerously steep & rocky.

The walk / climb to my lunch stop up Mt Maud second west ridge took 3 hours. Conditions - nor'wester breeze, cloudy & cool. After midday, clouds disappeared, the afternoon a scorcher. I returned to my car in another 3 hours. Total distance 13 kms.

As Mt Hay Station is a working sheep station permission must be obtained from the owners for any walks or climbs. Fitness, map, all weather gear, food, water, emergency kit are essential.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mt Richmond, Richmond Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 24.11.15. I parked my car at the gravel pit, about 16 kms along Lilybank Rd, as I wanted to climb Mt Richmond south ridge to the scree line, about 1700 m. The gravel pit was already about 800 m above sea level overlooking Lake Tekapo.

Although Alpine ranges on the west side of Lake Tekapo were rainy, Lake Tekapo & Two Thumbs Range on the east side of Lake Tekapo had no rain. In the east it was an overcast, nor'wester day, cool & perfect for climbing.

On Richmond Station, it took me 2 hours to cross grassy, moraine country, with Boundary Stream on my right, & the north end of Mt Ardmore straight ahead, while I rose 200 vertical metres, over undulating, hummocky country & ancient moraine terraces to a double boundary fence at the last moraine terrace. En route I passed a tarn near a pine tree & crossed several small streams, tributaries of Boundary Stream.

In a valley between the last moraine terrace & the bottom of Mt Richmond, I crossed a DOC path, signified by marker poles with orange, plastic sleeves on top. By that stage I was about as high as Mt John, approx 1000 m.

My ascent up Mt Richmond south ridge to scree at 1700 m rose 700 vertical metres in 5 giant steps through tussock land, Spaniards & Alpine cushion plants. On top of the fourth giant step I sidled east, past a rocky outcrop, as I was nervous of lightning strikes due to low cloud over Lake Tekapo & Mt Richmond. My sidle took me up the fifth giant step to scree & patches of summer snow. My ascent up Mt Richmond south ridge took me 2.5 hours, up the 5 giant, tussocky steps.


S: I had clear views of Wee McGregor & Mt Hay.
SE: On my way up, glimpses of Boundary Stream & the gorge below Mt Ardmore.
E: North end of Mt Ardmore, The Knobbies & Stoneleigh Saddle. On Mt Richmond scree, I was almost as high as Stoneleigh Saddle in the east.  
SW: Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo, Mt John, a rainbow over Old Mans Range, rain on Ben Ohau Range.
W: Rain on Braemar Dome, other end of the rainbow over Mt Joseph, rainy Cass River Valley, rainy Gammack Range & rainy Hall Range. I was higher than Mt Joseph & could see over the top of Mt Joseph to Joseph Ridge & rainy Hells Gates. Mt Cook Range was obscured by rain cloud. Glenmore Station & Godley Peaks Station by Cass River Delta.
NW: Rainy Godley River Valley & rainy Macauley River Valley. Glimpses of Mt Erebus, Razorback, Mt Sibbalt, Mt D'Archiac.
N: Mt Gerald Station, NE end of Lake Tekapo. TwoThumbs Range, clouds clearing in the east.
NE: On my way up, glimpses of Mt Gerald & Round Hill ski field, N end of Mt Richmond. Mt Richmond rocky summit ridge.

I didn't stay long on Mt Richmond scree, as it was drizzly & time to get off the mountain. My descent & return to my car on Lilybank Rd was quicker - 3 hours.

Walk Summary:

Lilybank Rd to bottom of Mt Richmond: 4.5 kms. 2 hours walking time. 200 vertical metres rise.
Ascent of Mt Richmond: 3 kms. 2,5 hours climb time. 700 vertical metres rise to 1700 m scree.
Descent to Lilybank Rd: 3 hours.
Total distance walked: 15 kms, Total walking / climbing time 7.5 hours. 900 vertical metres rise.

Fitness, all weather gear, food, water, map & emergency gear are essential. Permission for walking / climbing must be obtained from Richmond Station owners as it is a working sheep station.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Boundary Stream, Mt Hay Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 17.11.15. About 12 kms along Lilybank Rd, I parked my car on Boundary Stream delta flats, near the road bridge, as I wanted to follow Boundary Stream towards the north end of Mt Ardmore on Mt Hay Station.

I wandered across the delta flats to an ancient, moraine terrace, where a stony gully took me up to moraine humps & hollows, characteristic of Mt Hay's sheep paddocks. After half an hour I found a farm track which passed two tarns. There I saw two, rare, black stilts foraging in the water. DOC's Twizel breeding programme of the rare kaki, black stilt, annually released kaki on the west side of Lake Tekapo at Glenmore Station. It was good to see DOC's conservation plan succeeding, with kaki on the east side of Lake Tekapo.

The dusty, farm track crossed moraine terraces above Boundary Stream towards Mt Ardmore's northern gullies & ridges, hunting country. Boundary Stream bed was filled with unsightly, yellow gorze. After wandering across moraine country for 1.5 hours, I reached a moraine hill top below Mt Ardmore. A hut, Hays Retreat nestled between the moraine hill & Mt Ardmore's NW ridges.

Hays Retreat hut overlooked Boundary Stream gorge, which took a sharp turn northwards towards Mt Richmond. Some metres from the hut, a long drop had grand Alpine views. A deer skull hung on the outside of the long drop door.

On the hill top I scoffed my lunch, biltong, mandarin, muesli bar & fizzy drink, while admiring Alpine views around Lake Tekapo: S - moraine terraces, Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Benmore Range. SW - Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo Village, Mt John, Old Mans Range, Mary Range, Ben Ohau Range. W - Braemar Dome, Mt Stevenson, Fork River Valley, Glenmore Station, Mt Joseph, Cass River Valley & Cass River Delta, Godley Peaks Station, Gammack Range, Hall Range. Mt Cook Range was clouded over. NW - Mt Fletcher at Godley River head, Godley River Valley, flanked by Pikes Peak, Mt Erebus & Sibbalt Range, Mt D'Archiac behind. Lilybank Station below Razorback. N - Richmond Station & moraine terraces, Two Thumbs Range, Mt Gerald Station & moraine terraces, Mt Gerald. E - Round Hill ski field, Mt Richmond.

The wander back to my car via moraine terraces & the two tarns took 1.5 hours. The walk was about 9 kms.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See rare black stilt, kaki (DOC).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mount Burgess, Burkes Pass, Mackenzie Country

Tues 10.11.15. A glorious, sunny day with few clouds. We often travelled SH 8 up Burkes Pass 709 m, as we lived at Fairlie & Leah worked at Lake Tekapo, Burkes Pass in between. Driving up Burkes Pass we first passed Albury Range on the left & Two Thumbs Range on the right, including Mt Maud's long ridge in front of Mt Edward. Above Burkes Pass, Mt Burgess formed a long summit ridge, then formed a saddle, transforming into Mt Maud's ridge going northwards to Tekapo Saddle & Mt Dobson, seen from Fairlie. Beyond Burkes Pass village we passed Rollesby Range on the left, Mt Burgess 1430 m on the right.

At the top of Burkes Pass, I parked my car by Burkes Memorial, a stone slab which read:

               MICHAEL JOHN BURKE
                     RAINCLIFF STN
                           IN 1855.
                      -------- // -------


              THIS PASS IS 2209 FEET
                   ABOVE SEA LEVEL.

Burke was a conservationist before the modern word was invented, but his forest greenery was at odds with modern conservationists (tree huggers?) who desired Mackenzie Basin to retain its brownness. How did modern conservationist think high country farmers should manage their stations without tree, shelter belts against Alpine winds?

I wandered down SH 8 about 200 m, climbed through a fence & ascended Mt Burgess up a tussock path, easily seen from SH 8. The tussock path followed a fence straight up a Mt Burgess ridge. Also seen from SH 8, a farm road from Sawdon Station followed another ridge up Mt Burgess, forming a summit road. Later I'd descend that road.

At about 900 vertical metres the tussock path petered out, so I continued following the fence though tussock grassland, up the ridge, to Mt Burgess summit road, about 1200 m. Along the way I saw several patches of alpine, yellow daisies, as well as red berried Pentachondra pumila. I climbed through tussock grassland, spiky spaniards & patches of prickly matagouri.

The higher I climbed the better my view of Mackenzie Country ranges: E - green Fairlie valley between Albury Range & The Brothers Range. SE - Albury Range. S - Rollesby Range & green Rollesby Valley; Dalgety Range with Grampian Range behind. Further S - Mt Nessing, Mt Nimrod & distant Otago Ranges. SSW - Dog Kennel Corner on Burkes Pass. Benmore Range, Mary Range. SW - Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range. W - Mt Edward's southern ridges, a glimpse of Lake Tekapo village & Mt John at the S end of Lake Tekapo. Further W - snowy Mt Sefton, Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, Lendenfeld Peak, towering above Mt Stevenson, Braemar Dome, Mt Joseph & Gammack Range.

From Mt Burgess summit road I had good views of Sawdon Stream going down to Sawdon Station at the head of the valley formed by Mt Burgess, Mt Maud & Mt Edward. Opposite Sawdon Station, Holbrook Station was seen by SH 8. Green patches in the middle & along edges of brown Mackenzie Basin identified high country stations. Tekapo Canal was a green slash across Mackenzie Basin going to Lake Pukaki.

I wandered along Mt Burgess summit road, rising another 200 m to Mt Burgess summit, identified by a big cairn, a rusty, metal pipe sticking out of the top. (Old trig beacon?) Summit views continued: NW - Mt Edward's 2 southern ridges, farm roads going about half way up each ridge. SE ridge obscured Mt Edward's summit view. Below Mt Burgess summit, Mt Maud's long ridge curved NW to Mt Maud's summit ridge. N - tops of snowy Mt Dobson & Sherwood Range, including Mt Fox. NE - Green patches & yellow canola patches on Ashwick Flats & glinting Opuha Dam, Mt Michael, Mt Walker, Devils Peak, Blue Mountain, Mt Peel. It took me 3 hours to summit Mt Burgess from the top of Burkes Pass.

I descended via the farm road, including another tussock ridge, forming the watershed for Bullock Creek below. The farm road descended the tussock ridge towards Sawdon Station, then rounded a rocky spur to pylons below, back to SH 8 & Burkes Memorial. Descent - 3 hours. The walk was about 12 kms.

The following week, two summer snowfalls covered Mt Burgess summit, Two Thumbs Range & Sherwood Range. All weather gear, water & food was essential for Alpine climbs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Fairlie Wander, Gateway to Mackenzie Country

Thurs 29.10.15. A circuit wander I often did around Fairlie, after Leah dropped me off by the Red Stag Restaurant / Rimuwhare, on Main Rd, SH 8, to Kimbell, en route to her catching Richies school bus to take her to work at Lake Tekapo School:

L into Alloway St: Great Alpine views of Dalgety Range & Mackenzie Pass, Albury Range & Burkes Pass, Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Mt Dobson & Sherwood Range, including Mt Fox. As the street was on Fairlie border, I saw sheep paddocks & an alpaca farm. I wandered past Fairlie Museum & housing.

R into Ayr St: Housing & Fairlie Medical Centre.

L into Sloan St: Housing. Mackenzie Kindergarten & High Country Carpentry. During our 2 years' stay in Mackenzie Country we'd seen those carpenters doing lots of building work.

L into Princes St: Housing.

R into Bank Street: Housing.

R into Regent St: Great view of Albury Range. Housing & Bell's housing development at the end. Early days we'd looked at some of Bell's houses as potential rentals, but found them old, relocated houses & pricy. Since then, we'd seen a new house built there & another relocated house tarted up. Mackenzie Country Motors was at the bottom of Regent St, where we had our cars serviced.

L into Martin St: Housing.

L into School Rd: Housing. Mackenzie Rugby Club, Squash Club, Bowls Club & swimming pool.

R into Gillingham St: Housing. Mackenzie College fields, Mackenzie A & P Society grounds.

L into Hamilton St: Housing. Fairlie Early Learners school. Past Gall St, where Leah taught on Fridays at St Josephs Primary. Old Age homes at the bottom of Hamilton St.

L into Main Rd, SH 8: Housing. Gladstone Hotel. Bronze statue of a WW1 soldier standing on Fairlie station platform, awaiting a train to take him to war. (Fairlie station & trains died years ago). The statue was erected in 2014 to commemorate WWI Anzacs. Mackenzie District Council bldgs. Fairlie Hotel & a bronze statue of sheep stealer, James Mackenzie & his sheepdog. Shops, cafes, businesses & public toilets. Tourists buses often parked there for tourists to relieve themselves, then move on to higher things.

R into Talbot Rd: Housing. Great views of Devils Peak & Brothers Range. Fairlie Golf Course. Sewage farm. Ravensdown fertilizers. Heslips Hatcheries. During summer all that organic stuff caused fly swarms.

The Fairlie wander took about 1 hour.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Fairlie WWI Soldier statue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Irishman Creek Station, Mackenzie Country

In 2015 Lake Tekapo School's roll increased. A new student came from Irishman Creek Station off SH8 between Lake Tekapo & Twizel. Before Lake Tekapo School started in 1940, local kids were schooled at Irishman Creek Station.

For some years owners didn't allow public visits to Irishman Creek. With a change of ownership & a new student at Lake Tekapo School, Irishman Creek's new owners were happy to have a Lake Tekapo School excursion at Irishman Creek for the first time in years.

Thursday 30.07.15. A perfect winter's day, frosty, windless, cloudless, with clear views of Mt Cook & the Alps for miles. Parents, staff & students gathered at Irishman Creek below the dam made by Bill Hamilton. Bill grew up at Ashwick near Fairlie then bought Irishman Creek in 1921. Age 13, Bill Hamilton was already generating electricity for his parents' Ashwick Station.

Bill Hamilton was world famous for engineering the first jet boat. He engineered other stuff too, like a mechanical scoop for excavating the dam; a road grader; an ice groomer for a skating rink; WW2 arms, like mortar casings, 303 rifle safety catches, Bren gun carriers... I thought Irishman Creek's Alpine remoteness was a perfect place for arms manufacture. If engineers couldn't hear intruders coming, summer heat or winter cold would get them.

The farmer conducted a tour of Bill Hamilton's Workshop where Bill's inventions were made. We saw a jet boat, various jet boat engines & a road grader displayed in the Workshop, which smelled of ancient grease. We saw various engineering tools, like drills, lathes, a forge & various hand tools. Many men did their engineering apprenticeships under Bill Hamilton's guidance.

Beside the Workshop the farmer conducted us through the noisy Powerhouse, with generator producing off grid electricity for the farm. After constructing the dam, Bill Hamilton piped water from the dam to the generator. Our school students enjoyed seeing the dam inlet pipe causing a small whirlpool in dam waters. On the dam wall, we wandered round the icy dam & saw Bill Hamilton's ice rink below the dam. Bill was a sportsman too, excelling at ice skating, jet boating around the world & overseas motor racing.

We had alfresco lunch by one of the farm houses, which was damaged in recent heavy snows. Freezing water pipes burst, causing flooding in the house, which mucked up the wall to wall carpets. Views from the homestead were magnificent, with Mt Cook in the NW & Mt John, Two Thumbs Range & Mt Edward in the NE.

To finish off the excursion, we returned to Lake Tekapo, where students had an hour's ice skating at the ice rink by Tekapo Springs.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.