"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you" - Isaiah 55:12

14 July 2015

Mt Lyndon, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park - 4 July 2015

Well after what seemed like an eternity I finally got back out into the mountains. For several Saturdays various things cropped up that took priority over a trip to the hills, but with those behind me, and a superb forecast, there was no holding me back from this one...until the Friday before my trip that was!
Originally I had planned on climbing Hamilton Peak in the Craigieburn Range, with a tops traverse round to Mt Wall an attractive option on a fine winters day. However the day before my trip it rained quite heavily in the morning, before turning to snow in the afternoon, which then cleared and froze overnight. To cut a long story short, the avalanche potential was a bit too high for my liking, especially travelling solo, so I instead opted for a slightly lower altitude trip up Mt Lyndon, with the prospect of a traverse along the undulating ridge top to Red Hill if conditions were suitable.

At 1489m high, Mt Lyndon is a modest summit, easily accessible either directly from the main highway up its' northeastern slopes, or from the south after a short drive around the lake. The southern approach suited me well, meaning that if I were to traverse the tops I could easily return to the lake (and therefore my car) by the low saddle directly behind the lodge at Lake Lyndon.
I set off early, as I often do when tramping solo, looking to give myself every chance at making it round to Red Hill before the wind strengthened as forecast. One step out of the car at 7am had me questioning myself as to why I was doing this - a bitterly cold wind greeted me as I exited the cosy confines, but I reasoned with myself that it was only a very light breeze and I would soon be warmed by the sun once I started gaining altitude.

I made my way up the slope directly behind the lodge. There's no real route finding required, just start heading uphill and follow the ridge as it bends round towards the summit - and keep heading up until you can't go up any more!
Initially travel was up through extensive snow laden scrub, with the easiest route always being the one with the least amount of snow. It was slow going in places, with some deep pockets sitting in small hollows amongst the scrub. As I gained height however, it became easier to link together good stretches of scrub free ridge. On these sections the snow lay uniformly and I was able to make much better progress up and over several small bumps along the ridge. Along the way I was able to enjoy the wonderful spectacle of a sunrise in the mountains, with the light painting the sky over Mt Hutt pastel pink while away to the east past the Torlesse Range the golden glow of dawn soon gave way to sunlight on the ridge I was climbing.

At around the 1250m contour there was nothing but snow slopes ahead of me, with the summit of Mt Lyndon looming up in front of me. Initially I was able to make good progress, the firm, even snow cover allowing for fast travel, but it wasn't long before things changed. A few days during the week of nor'west winds had deposited quite a bit of snow on the slopes below the summit to the south, exactly where I was climbing. This, coupled with rain the day before which weakened the underlying snowpack, made for soft, deep snow. Every step saw me sinking in to my knees, in a few places I went in to my thighs - it made the final climb to the summit a slow, tiring one, and I was relieved to finally reach the top, 3 hours after setting out.
A cool wind drove me off the summit quickly, my fingers numb after firing off a few quick photos, and I found a nice sheltered spot behind a large tussock to nestle down for a snack.

As I sat and ate, I was eyeing up the route ahead. While not technically difficult at all, the route was well laden with snow and, given the conditions I'd just experienced, it was probably going to make for a very long, hard slog to get all the way round to Red Hill. There are, however, numerous exit routes along the tops, so I set off again, aiming for a low saddle a short way along the ridge which looked good on the map.
It was much easier going along the ridge top, with much on the powder snow having been swept off the ridge by previous winds, so I made good progress along the ridge. Part way along a strange sound was heard, and when I turned I found myself looking at either a chamois or tahr (I don't know what's what sorry!) eyeing me up no more than 100m away. I slowly tried to produce the longer lens I had in my pack, but it began to move away so I had to just use the wideangle - suffice to say the animal is a mere speck in my photos.

It wasn't too long before I was descending to the saddle, and the route down looked a good one so I quickly decided to make use of the pleasant looking snow filled gully dropping down from the saddle. The gully narrowed as I went, and was in excellent condition - good firm snow. I even decided to get some self-arresting practise in on the way down - good fun!
The gully gave me a rapid descent, and I soon found myself meandering alongside a bubbling stream. I criss-crossed my way down the stream, taking advantage of whichever side looked easiest. At one point I nearly had the misfortune to fall in, as the snow was suspended a metre of so above the stream itself - I could see this was the case, but that still didn't stop me from almost falling through!
The only obstacle in the stream was a small 3-metre waterfall, which was readily negotiated on a narrow animal trail that edged along the top of a bluff - a slightly airy moment, but easy enough with grasses providing good handholds.

The stream led out onto open flats, from which I gained access to the low saddle that leads back over to Lake Lyndon. Cattle were grazing through here, and seemed somewhat startled by my arrival so I moved carefully past them so as not to drive them up over the saddle - the fence preventing them from making the crossing was buried under snow.
From the saddle a short amble round the base of the hill soon had me back at the lake.

A nice outing on a cracking winter's day...makes me want to get out more in winter now!

First light of the day starting to spill through Porters Pass to Lake Lyndon

First rays of light hitting the snow capped peaks of the Mt Hutt Range

Setting moon behind Red Hill (1641m), from the lower slopes of Mt Lyndon

Looking down to the sun kissed peaks of the Mt Hutt Range

Frozen Lake Lyndon, starting to break up into large slabs

Frozen Lake Lyndon, starting to break up into large slabs

Wonderful glow of dawn. Foggy Peak (1741m) and Castle Hill Peak (1998m) left of centre, with Pt 1251m (known locally as Trig M) on the right

Sun creeping over Castle Hill Peak and the Torlesse Range

Light filling the distant Rakaia Valley - Mt Hutt (2185m) almost dead centre, with Steepface Hill (1876m) a little to its' right

The upper slopes of Mt Lyndon (1489m)

Mt Hutt, rear left, and Red Hill, far right - looks a long way round to Red Hill from here, but not so bad once on the tops

Pt 1251m (Trig M) right foreground, with the Canterbury Plains stretching across to Christchurch

Expanding views as I gain height on the upper slopes of Mt Lyndon

Don't overlook the small details - interesting frozen features dotted the landscape

Torlesse Range, from just below the summit of Mt Lyndon - Foggy Peak on the right, with the ridge along to Castle Hill Peak (highest peak in frame)

Knee deep step plugging on the upper slopes of Mt Lyndon

Summit slopes of Mt Lyndon, with the Arrowsmiths in the Rakaia Valley in the background

View in to Porters Ski Area, Blue Hill (1946m) at left

The tops route from Mt Lyndon round to Red Hill (the high peak just left of centre)

View through to Lake Coleridge (just visible) and into the Rakaia headwaters. Arrowsmith Range in the background

Blue Hill (1946m, left) and along the Craigieburn Range to Mt Enys (2194m, the high point on the range)

The long arm of the Craigieburn Range, with Pt 1456m in the foreground

Porters Ski Area

Spot me if you can - chamois/tahr on the scree slope centre image

Deep saddle between Pt 1456m and Mt Lyndon (out of frame to the right), with Cloudy Hill (1442m) along the ridge from Pt 1456

The saddle that marked my descent to the valley floor

On the saddle looking down my line of descent into the gully

Descent route off the saddle, with Mt Hutt at rear

Looking back up to the saddle

I could see that the snow was suspended a metre or so above the stream...but that still didn't stop me falling through!!

Pleasant travel alongside the small stream running down from the saddle

A small snag - a 3 metre waterfall

Below the waterfall. I bypassed it above the bluff on the left of image

Frozen features in the stream

Frozen features in the stream

Frozen features in the stream

Frozen features in the stream

Arriving back at Lake Lyndon

Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ

Access: Take SH73 over Porters Pass, then turn left on the marked road leading round the eastern edge of the lake. At the southern end of the lake, look for a post with a reflector on it which marks the turn off to get round to the lodge on the western side.

Map: BW21 Springfield, BW20 Lake Coleridge

Time: Lodge to summit 3hrs, descent via saddle and stream 2hr 30mins (winter conditions)

Hut: None, although the privately owned lodge at Lake Lyndon can be hired.

No comments:

Post a Comment