21 March 2012

Mt Torlesse - Sixty Years Onwards

Torlesse, Feb 1952 Jack Rogers, BLS, CLS, Kelvin Lewis
When I was 14 my father and some of his workmates decided to climb Mount Torlesse (Rubicon Peak) and they took me along. We camped up in theLittle Kowai River.  Next morning we left in the cold light of dawn and climbed up a series of gentle ridges in mist eventually arriving (still in mist) at the substantial summit cairn.  It was my first peak in the foothills of the Southern Alps. We dropped off the summit expecting a fairly straightforward descent.  Some time later we discovered ourselves in the bottom of Staircase Gully in pouring rain. Luckily the men knew where we were and our salvation lay in climbing up and over the ridge separating us from our camp in the Little Kowai.  I had some borrowed longs on and I still remember their sodden pull on my legs as the crutch of them dragged down about my knees.  Eventually we made it down to our camp, packed it up and, still in rain stumbled down river to dad’s old Austin car. I slept hallucinating in the back of the car on the way home.
I climbed Rubicon Peak as a side trip again a few years later when Brian Tierney and I did a traverse of the range from Porters Pass to Staircase station.

60 years later - Feb 2012
So recently, spurred on by Catherine who was interested in climbing the ‘famous’ Torlesse, we decided to ascend it via the John Haywood Memorial Hut in the Kowai. We contacted the Brookdale station manager and eased our climb by staying in the hut overnight.  Next morning we started upwards in reasonable weather but as we climbed upwards the southerly wind increased and we were soon donning all our available clothing in the enveloping mist.  It was very cold and we climbed slowly. Eventually the unmistakeable form of the cairn loomed through the mist and we shouted in glee and snuggled together in the lee of the cairn. We must have deserved it because after about ten minutes the weather started to clear and soon we felt the warmth of the sun and could see most of the Torlesse Range peaks and as far south as the Arrowsmiths. Canterbury was still clagged over by cloud and I spent a few minutes remembering Joan Travaglia, a dear friend and my printmaking tutor who was being farewelled at that time in Hamilton. She had made a big effort printing and selling woodcut cards to raise money for Christchurch where she once did her Diploma of Fine Arts. There was even cell phone reception so I let the family know where we were. Our descent in better weather back to the faithful ‘Boris’ (4WD) was uneventful and so back to Christchurch.
Catherine Looks Back To The Top
Catherine Looking Back From Below Hut


  1. Barry, hi. I'm here via Claire Benyon's blog. This is a heartwarming story and so beautifully written. I can see so much of it in my mind's eye and I've never been to NZ. I'd love to visit someday. In the meantime I can see more and imagine more of the and via your blog. I'm pleased to meet you.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth. Glad to see that you enjoy writing too. Sorry to hear that you haven't visited Paradise yet. I'm still relatively new to this blogging but enjoy creating my varied posts.