Tuesday, February 1, 2022

A few days with Jude

 I met Jude at Murchison just prior to the St Arnaud PRANZ Meetup last January. We got on well, and she and Stu joined me on the Hollyford Pyke in May. Jude is semi retired, so she found time in her busy schedule to join me for a few days of paddling.

I had volunteered to do some hut painting and renovation on some huts in the Eyre Mountains with Permolat Southland. With some spare time between hut renovation gigs, I headed to Te Anau and went exploring up the Milford Road. It's been a hot dry summer, so along the way I scouted the Eglinton River to see if it was still runnable.

Camped up at Cascade Creek campsite I took advantage of the pearler weather to climb to Gertrude Saddle. This is glaciated terrain accessible up a short valley just before the Homer Tunnel. It's popular because it's super accessible. There aren't that many places like that that you can get to in a 3-4 hour walk from a car park.

Heading up the valley

Getting closer to the climb

As a result of its popularity there are some pretty succinct safety signs warning Joe public that this isn't just a walk in the park. There are some serious rock ledges to traverse and climb up, that are fine when dry, but slippery as in wet conditions, when a fall could be fatal.

You have been warned!

Pretty rock pools at the start of the climb proper

Waterfall above creek crossing

Same waterfall, different angle, a bit further along track

Looking above the waterfall you can see people crossing the rocks, route up goes to top left

Glacial terrain above the route

Another wee reminder before you proceed, route up to saddle top left

Avoid wet rocks

Waterfall above route

Looking down after reaching first saddle
Black Lake, glacial tarn at first saddle

Extra help for climbing the next section
View down to Black Lake, not at top yet

The views from the saddle are expansive, looking across to the Darrans, and down to Milford Sound. Having recently tramped the Lake Nerine circuit I wasn't completely blown away by Gertrude Saddle, but it is spectacular and I'd definitely recommend it.

The view down to Milford Sound from Gertrude Saddle

It's possible to continue higher to Barrier Knob, though you might need crampons

Milford Sound

View from above saddle. Middle tarn is Black Lake, Gertrude Valley on left

After a cup of tea and lunch I made my way back down, visiting another waterfall on my way back to the campsite.

Below waterfall where cross the stream

Christie Falls on main Milford Road

The next day Jude drove down from Arrowtown and we met up at Te Anau Downs to arrange a shuttle drop for paddling the Eglinton. We left one car at the takeout not far below the gorge and drove to our put in at Mackay Creek. Last time I'd paddled the Eglinton I had put in lower, at Walker Creek campsite. Starting at Mackay Creek would add a few more kilometres to our trip.

With river levels so low the biggest issue was picking the right line to not get stuck on the shingle. Which was nigh on impossible due to the braided nature of the river. There were a couple of strainers we portaged around, and the one Grade 2 rapid in the gorge was definitely not Grade 2 at these levels!

The gorge was a suitable lunch stop, and such a scenic float through, but we were too soon back at the car. After drying our gear and retrieving Jude's car we drove back to Te Anau to plan our next river excursion.

We had thought about paddling the Waiau from the control gates down to Shallow Bay, but the river flow is high at the moment trying to keep levels up in Lake Manapouri for the hydro scheme at West Arm. This means there are next to no features on the Waiau at the moment. So we decided to run the Mararoa instead.

Now this is a big psychological step up for me, because the Mararoa is graded 2-3, though with low flows it's likely to be more 2+ than 3 but even so, the idea that I'm even contemplating running it is a testament to how much more confident I am. And it was my suggestion too. It's also testament to the fact that I trust Jude as a paddling partner too.

We left one car at the Kiwi Burn swing bridge. We checked out the Grade 3 rapid under the bridge and both went NAH! Maybe with a couple of others to run safety but not with just the two of us. This also gave us a chance to mentally note our takeout before the bridge!!

Put in was at the south end of South Mavora Lake. Initially it was wide flat water, with a lot of lake weed, and some impressive sized eels. The river was also heavily infested with dydymo.

Put in at South Mavora Lake

Big eel

Once into the white water we had a lot of fun avoiding the boulders in what was obviously lower than usual river levels. The river wasn't pushy so it was pretty low consequence paddling. Once we got to the gorge where the Grade 3 rapids were we scouted each one, portaged some of them, and ran others. 

We both really enjoyed going through that decision making process ourselves, pointing out what line we would take, and taking turns running safety on the more dodgy rapids. Both of us made it through all the rapids without mishap, and we even managed to get some video.

Two very happy paddlers

Since we had to drive back to Mavora Lakes to retrieve the car we decided to camp there overnight. Jude had just received her Tarptent, same model as mine, so it got it's first outing. I set up my flash car camping tent.

Jude was keen to do a tramp near Borland Lodge so the next morning we drove down there and went for a glorious tramp up Mt Burns.

Goblin forest at start of track

Pig or hippopotamus?

Heading up the first ridge to the tarns

If you follow that ridge you can then descend to Green Lake. Our route to Mt Burns is off picture to the left

Climbing up through the tussock to the next ridgeline

Tarns below Mt Burns summit

The myriad lakes and tarns were so beautiful, though the alpine flowers were mostly past their prime. However, we did see some edelweiss.

Eroded glacial terrain on ridge climb to Mt Burns

Tarns and lakes from ridgeline to Mt Burns


Jude going for the instagram shot!

One of two tarns below summit, with unnamed lake in valley below. Lake Monowai in distance, south coast in far distance.

Final ridge climb to Mt Burns summit, looks like a volcanic crater (but isn't)

Looking down the Borland Burn South Branch from Mt Burns summit

Summit of Mt Burns

I'm calling this hippopotamus lake

Jude headed back home and I headed back to Te Anau to wait out another weather bomb and to be around for the next hut renovation job slated for Waitangi weekend.

Is that next?

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