A schlep to NZ’s southernmost glacier [Part A]

23-29 January 2018. “Schlep” – a difficult or tedious journey – is our word of the day. Caroline Peak (1704m) is the tallest moutain in southern Fiordland, and holds New Zealand’s southernmost glacier. It towers 1500m above Lake Hauroko. As it’s only a short boat trip across the lake to the base of the peak, it might seem surprising that the peak is rarely climbed.

Poring over the map, the west ridge looked like the only feasible route without climbing gear. But the base of the west ridge is a long way from anywhere, and we could see no obvious routes to get there.

Recently we spent a day track cutting and marking on Great Island, flying in and out of Tuatapere. From the helicopter we spied the open valley of Rata Burn and clear ridges of the Princess Range. Caroline Peak, complete with glacier, is visible at the top right.

The route looked like a goer. So a week later, we set off with a week’s food from the Lake Hauroko carpark. The lake is at very low levels, reflecting the lack of any decent rain.

We walked the sometimes maligned Boundary Track to Teal Bay hut. The walking was for the most part lovely.

A walkwire makes it (relatively) easy to cross the Wairaurahiri River, then onwards to Rata Burn. DOC installed a possum gate in the middle of the walkwire. This keeps possums out of the Waitutu pest management block.

Rata Burn turned out to be slow going. For the most part we walked in the (thankfully low) river. We had two comfortable campsites. It’s nice to spread out and dry things out at the end of each day.

Slow going with tree falls.

We finally broke out into open country.

And then onto the tops of the Princess Mountains. We spotted a couple of crested grebe in this lake.

The going got easier as we turned north. For the most part we followed the ridge crest.

This “blade” looked like a formidable obstacle. After some scouting, we skirted it on the western side (right hand side in this photo).

Pretty tarn basins abound. This one flows into Lake Poteriteri.

Closer views of Caroline Peak.

The low saddle in the middle of this photo is key to our intended route. The west ridge is on the left hand sykline of the peak.

The tussock country is, for the most part, easy travel.

Lake Poteriteri is the largest NZ lake without road access. The Princess Mountains form its eastern boundary.

Three kea adopted us for the morning. (With the benefit of our recent kea catching experience, we identified them as adults, two females and one male.)

The male is behind. It is larger with a longer beak.

The Cameron Mountains lie further west, across Lake Poteriteri. Plenty there for future trips!

Continued in Part B.

Posted 30 January 2018.