21 March 2013

Reunion of Old Climbers

Recently three old climbers, Jim Wilson, Mike White and Barry Smith (with an average age of  76 - and who've been climbing together for nearly 60 years)  travelled up towards Arthurs Pass to have another get together in the hills.  As usual there was an objective and this time it was Kaitiaki, a side peak off the main divide with a great view over the lower Waimakariri from the Mt White bridge to up near the Bealey. Dont look for Kaitiaki anywhere on a map - it is our name - the NZ Geographic Board hasn't waved its magic wand over the name - it is marked on the map as 1804m and it was chosen for our attention by Jim, whose wife Ann, a well know pastelist, has often painted the peak. She decided to give it a name such is its dominance (hence kaitiaki - guardian) over the Waimak.  Therefore Jim had to climb it!

Mike and Jim in Sudden Valley
More Brewing
Map reading on the saddle.
So, while Ann went on up to Arthur's Pass, we travelled up to the Hawdon Shelter and thence up Sudden Valley to its delightful little two man bivi where we regaled one another with tall stories and tales of the past. Next morning in more beautiful weather to wandered up towards a saddle and, having stashed our packs, made our way out towards Kaitiaki on an easy ridge.  The view from the top was wonderful and we lay our old limbs out over the rocks for a short break.  Our route down was via Red Beech stream, a stream Mike and I had waltzed up 20 years previously - our only recollection being a minor waterfall that we'd turned on one side without any difficulty. Well, we didn't find any recognisable waterfall but eventually we came upon a gorge of some fierceness (well, for old chaps anyway) and a waterfall of some height with undercut surrounds. This required a steep excursion up into the bush from which some time later we descended into the gorge again.  Soon there was another waterfall so we tried the other side of the valley, struggling up with increasing weariness. Darkness descended but luckily we had our sleeping bags and the bush was dry - so dry we didn't even dare light the primus for a brew.

Next morning we made our way back to the valley floor - thankfully downstream of the gorge.  In sunny weather we made our way down to the Red Beech fan where we were greeted by Ann with Rochelle Rafferty - nice to see you ladies!  Rochelle took us home where she filled us full of tea and toasted cheese sandwiches. We were grateful we'd spent an extra night in the bush!

Mike, Jim, Ann, Barry and Kaitiaki (photo: Rochelle Rafferty)

We'll be following your progress on Everest in May with interest, Rochelle.