Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More trip details and photos - the Nun's Veil

My last post described our walk up to Sefton Bivvy before Christmas. The rest of that particular trip to the South Island was pretty uneventful. The day after the walk up to Sefton Bivvy we headed north and spent a night at Hanmer Springs (of course, there was a stop on the way to pick up salmon!). We had the obligatory swim at the hot pools at Hanmer Springs the next morning. It was a super hot sunny day so the cooler pools were more sought after than normal. After a couple of hours in the pools we headed over Lewis Pass to Tophouse where we stayed at the historic Tophouse hotel. Actually we spent the night in one of the newer chalets they've developed. The hotel boasts it has the smallest bar in New Zealand. I can well believe that - it's tiny!

Christmas was low-key but very enjoyable. We had a really nice seafood lunch on the waterfront in Petone - prawns, squid and oysters. Delicious! We spent the evening at Alex and Kerie's house and had a yummy bbq dinner on the deck of their new house. That was a very relaxed and fun evening!

On New Year's Day Simon and I headed back down south to Aoraki Mt Cook. We caught the 8:45pm ferry to the South Island and then drove right through the night to Aoraki Mt Cook. We drove via Molesworth Station which made the trip a little more interesting as it's a dirt road and quite rough in places. We arrived at Unwin Lodge mid-morning pretty shattered so spent the afternoon getting settled in and planning what we would do for the rest of the week.

On the Tuesday morning we headed off to climb the Nun's Veil. To achieve this we would need to get across the Tasman River (apparently uncrossable on foot) so the preferred approach is to cadge a ride across the Tasman Glacier Lake with the operators of the glacier lake boat tours. We had hoped to get an early ride across but this was not to be. By the time we got across the lake we started walking at about 10:30. The first part of the walk was straight-forward - walking on relatively flat ground to the exit point of Gorilla Stream.

From the bottom of the stream it is a long slog up the stream bed to the bottom of the Nun's Veil. The walk is pretty rugged. The first part is a scramble through the bush where I learnt how vicious matagouri is. Ouch! After that part it is just a long walk over boulders, etc to get to the bottom of the scree and snow. See if you can spot me in the following photos. :)

After a long hot walk we finally got to the bottom of the real climb. Here's a picture of some of that climb up to our camp site for the night.

The following is a picture of our bivvy site for the night. It was just at the top of a section of rock we had climbed and we dug a platform out of the snow. We got to this site at about 7pm - so only eight and a half hours of walking for the day.

I would have to say, needing to pee in the night is not fun in these sorts of circumstances. A few steps into the snow in bare feet cooled my feet down considerably! The next morning the real climbing started. We crawled out of our sleeping bags at 4am to get dressed and have breakfast. We experienced a wonderful sunrise the next morning.

This was to be my first real climb since completing two Alpine courses which taught me the theory needed. I found it a challenge - some of the challenge was due to feeling quite unwell with the overwhelming urge of vomiting close by. Unfortunately I didn't make it to the final summit - a short hop (20 feet or so) over rock with a sheer drop of hundreds of metres put me off that. I made the call to stay where I was while Simon went up to the summit. I only missed it by about 30 metres. For me, the point I got to was a huge achievement and I don't regret my decision for a minute. At my stage, climbing up rock with crampons on and no rope is not something I am comfortable with. In fact I couldn't watch Simon climb that part. Here are some photos of the climb and the view from the summit.

After we had descended back down to our bivvy site we packed up and started to head back to the Tasman Glacier Lake. We were due to get the last boat of the day back across the lake at 5:00pm which had previously sounded very achievable. Sadly heavy packs and a hot day meant we had no show of getting there on time. Once we had realised that we slackened off the pace and tried to enjoy the walk back out. We had a refreshing swim in the stream partway down - that certainly helped restore our spirits and chill down the chafing and bruising that was forming from our packs.

We had an awesome view of Mt Cook as we walked back up to the lake.

We eventually reached the lake at 10pm at night and setup camp on the sand by the lake. After our 4am start we were both shattered by now and just wanted to sleep. Even eating was put aside for a good sleep.

The final photo for this blog post shows the summit of the Nun's Veil - it's the snowy peak towards the right hand side of the photo.

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