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Jeff here,

I’ve got a project at work in construction at Castle Hill Village near Arthur’s Pass. Last Friday, my weekly construction meeting was moved to 9:30am so that gave me the perfect opportunity to go up Mt Cloudsley for a bit of fun and training for Nepal.

I wanted to get the work vehicle back before 7pm so I took the bike to make things a bit quicker as the first portion of the trip up Cloudsley is on the Hogsback Mountain Bike Track.

The route that I took to the top.

Got the bike out to start the track.

One thing I forgot was that I’m terrible at mountain biking so by the time I reached the point where the Hogsback Track intersects with Long Spur to begin walking up Mt Cloudsley, I was completely exhausted. I had to lay down in the grass and then eat my lunch to bring my energy levels back up. I pushed up the Long Spur and it began to get steep. It was really getting steep and then I saw Point 1855 so I pushed on. Then I realised that it was a false peak which was a major hit to my morale. I made it to the saddle and told myself that I was only going to go for 15 more minutes and then turn around as I was running low on water. Luckily I made it to the top within the allocated time.

Mt Cloudsley from the Hogsback Track with Long Spur in the middle of the photo.

It’s getting steep! It’s a long way to go to the top.

Above all the vegetation and it quite barren. Point 1855 is in the foreground with Mt Cloudley in the background.

I sidled around Point 1855 to the saddle. It looked like a moonscape up there.

From the top, you could see Lake Coleridge.

The view of Castle Hill Village from the top. You can barely see Lake Pearson on the left most part of the photo.

A very ragged me at the top. Trust me, I feel as bad as I look.  But, Amanda says I look handsome.

I only stayed at the top for a few minutes for a rest and photos and then made my way down as I didn’t know what time it was. I finally reached my bike and began biking down. By the way, mountain biking with jelly legs is quite scary. The bike down only took about 5 minutes instead of a 45 minute walk. All in all, I made the entire 1350m (4429ft) elevation gain walk/bike in around 5 hours.

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A couple of weekends ago we decided we needed some fresh mountain air.  Our original plans were to hike to Manuka Hut with the kids, but while Jeff and I were packing up everything needed for an overnighter the realizations of making it became unattainable.  Once C can walk further it will become do-able, but until then we are confined to day hikes.  Instead, we decided to go to the mountains just for the day without a plan.  We found ourselves at the Cave Stream Track.  Without a doubt, we knew that the boys would not want to walk into the cave due to the darkness.  So we just walked down to the cave and the boys played in the water for a bit.

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E and C enjoyed the wide open space available around the carpark to run off some bottled up energy.

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Here are the jaw-dropping views from the track heading down to the river below.  I find hiking in New Zealand to be a very humbling activity as it constantly reminds me of how small I am in comparison to God.

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I’m fairly positive the white areas in the river are limestone.  The white bits reminded me of the gemothermal areas on the North Island of New Zealand.

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The cave is tucked in the mountain with the river running through it.  You can cave through the entire thing and come out on the other side of the mountain. 

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E and C enjoyed running around in the shallow river at the entrance to the cave.

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Hiking as a family of 5!  I’m really looking forward to all our future overnight tramping trips with this group of men.  It’s going to be so much fun. 

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This is the view looking away from the cave.

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Hiking back up to the car.  I was very impressed with C on this trip.  He walked the entire time.  He even carried his bookbag containing his and E’s PAW Patrol pups.

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Looking down at the cave entrance from the top of the mountain we just climbed.

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Jeff here. This post is a long time coming. A guy from work and I have been wanting to climb Mt Oakden since winter but we haven’t been able to coordinate our schedules and weather to make the trip happen. So, three of us headed out early on the February 27th to start the 1150m climb. Mt Oakden is adjacent to Lake Coleridge and is fairly stand alone. Mt Oakden is a privately run station or farm so we started by getting permission from the station manager. We started at the second ford on Algidus Road because the bush looked slightly thinner. I think it paid off but it was very steep. See the map below.

Mt Oakden Map

We ran into a lot of matagouri bushes, which is a native New Zealand thorn bush which scratched us to bits. Once we got past the bush it opened up and was quite pleasent…until we got to the scree slope. We climbed the scree slope for about 200m (656ft) and for all those civil engineers out there, it was like a well graded AP65. That part was grueling and took about an hour.

IMG_7117The scree slope is looming ahead of us.

Once we got to the top of the ridge, the going got much easier but it did get windy.

IMG_7068Top of the scree slope. View of the Rakaia River.

IMG_7063Now for a walk along the ridge.

Along the ridge we found some some cool rock formations.

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We finally made it to the top and the views were absolutely stunning.

IMG_7084The three of us at the top.

IMG_7087You can see the Rakaia River on the left and the Wilberforce River on the right.

IMG_7090The Wilberforce River.

IMG_7096Lake Coleridge and Peak Hill.

IMG_7106The confluence of the Rakaia and Wilberforce down below.

IMG_7112Mitchell getting psyched before descending the upcoming scree slope.

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This weekend Jeff and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.  Originally, we’d organized a babysitter just for a meal on Friday night, but it changed into a two-nighter about a week out from our anniversary!  Jeff and I were extremely excited about our two nights all to ourselves.  As the weekend drew closer, the weather was beyond prefect pretty much everywhere on the South Island.  We decided to do a hike that would be next to impossible with the boys at their current age.  So we drove the six hours to the Haast Pass to climb up the steep track to Brewster Hut.  We left early on Friday morning and arrived at the trail head around 3pm.

At the beginning of the track, you have to ford a river.  The river wasn’t major (with that said, someone wrote under the comments in the DOC book that the river was majorly flooded as they headed out and the couple had to return back up to Brewster Hut.  So it sounds like the river can flood greatly.) but it required us to remove our boots as the water came up to our knees.

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The river we had to ford.

For the first two hours we climbed steeply upwards through the forest.  The remaining hour of hiking was above the bushline offering amazing views of the Haast Pass.  Jeff was pushing me to pick up the pace after we emerged from the bush as the sun was going down, the wind had picked up majorly, and we still had to walk along the exposed ridge to get to our final destination.  After gaining about 1,000m (3,280ft), we finally made it to the snow-covered hut around 6pm with a good amount of time to enjoy the view and see an amazing sunset.  We ended up having the 12 bunk hut all to ourselves, which was extremely nice.  The only thing lacking in the romantic aspect of the hut was the lack of a fire place.

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The views after leaving the forest.

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A ‘couplie’ with Mount Brewster in the background.

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Taking a breather.

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The ridge we hiked along in the wind.  Also, do you see that river in the valley?  Yes, that’s the same river we forded at the beginning of the hike.

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Almost to the hut!!  You can see the cream-colored toilet slightly left of Jeff in the distance.  Speaking of the toilet, it was oddly far from the hut and on the edge of the mountain.  But, the toilet did offer some amazing views.

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Finally, Brewter Hut.  As the kiwis would say, “it was a hard yakka.”  But, man, it was completely worth it.

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Couldn’t ask for a better place to watch the sunset.

The wind howled all night long and died out rather quickly around 9am on Saturday morning.  At that point, Jeff and I had already finished packing up all our stuff as we decided to head back down to the car instead of staying two nights in the hut because of the wind and we needed crampons and ice axes to explore further past the hut (the Brewster Glacier isn’t far from the hut).  Since the wind died down completely, we decided to not rush down the mountain and explored what we could without crampons and ice axes.

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I absolutely love this photo.

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Jeff and I didn’t feel comfortable exploring past this point without the appropriate gear.  We did find a tarn.  But, sadly the Brewster Glacier will have to be explored another day.

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But before leaving, I had to get a photo of the hut door.  It was massive and about three inches thick! I assume it was to hold back the snow.

We were glad we did head back because we ran into 10 folks on their way up to the hut to spend the night. Even though the hut had 12 bunks, it would have been really tight and awkward as the hut was a bit small.  Plus, it gave us the opportunity to knock another hike off our never-shortening tramping list.

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Jeff leading the way back to the car.

As we made our decent to the car, Jeff and I couldn’t make up our mind whether or not to drive back through the middle of the country making a stop in Mount Cook or finish driving through the Haast Pass to the West Coast making two hiking stops.  We literally started the car and still couldn’t make up our minds which direction to go.  But, in the end, Mount Cook won.  So back through the middle of the country we drove.

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Following the hike, we decided to walk the 2 minutes (from the same carpark) to Fantail Falls.

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This was the first time we saw Lake Hawea.

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What great advertising!  Lambs under the Merino Shop sign, priceless.

We made it to the Mount Cook village around 5:30pm and decided to get a room at the hostel.   I mean, it was our anniversary weekend, might as well splurge a little bit.  We decided to hike to the Sealy Tarns, which is the half way point to Mueller Hut in Mount Cook.  The hike consisted of a steep stepped track containing 2,200 stairs (that’s one way).  I must say, the steps were nicely spaced between each other, unlike the ones back in the Carolinas (USA).  The hike offered amazing views of the Hooker Valley, which contains, Mount Cook, Mueller Lake, Hooker Glacier and Hooker Lake.  Sadly, Jeff and I could only find one of the two tarns and it was too early in spring to see the Mount Cook lily.  We really wish we could have continued onwards to Mueller Hut, but we had to be back in Christchurch by 5pm.  One day!

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2,200 steps later, we made it to the Sealy Tarns.  Normally, the DOC signs come to my hips, but this time I was able to stand on top of one!

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Jeff was more ambitious than me, attempting a handstand on top of the sign. 

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Us at the Sealy Tarns.  We ended up hanging out up there for a little over an hour just soaking in the beautiful scenery.

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One of the best views to chill some wine.

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The only tarn we could find.

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The Hooker Valley.

It was an amazing weekend.  We hiked about 1500m (4921ft) of elevation change over the entire weekend.  It was the first time Jeff and I had a weekend to ourselves in almost 4 years.  It was like a little honeymoon.

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This weekend my friend, Nadine, and I hiked to Carrington Hut located along the Waimakariri River in Arthur’s Pass National Park.  A weekend in the outdoors was just what I needed, especially after C becoming extremely sick towards the end of the week.

The hike started with a bush walk.  When you leave the trees you are presented with an expansive river valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  The majority of the hike included walking over rocks of all shapes, sizes, and surprisingly, colors.  The views definitely made the hike worth it, but man, it was a rough one.  It wasn’t rough in regards to elevation change.  It was challenging due to the rough walking terrain and by that, I mean stumbling over the never ending river bed of rocks.  Plus, the majority of the trail wasn’t marked and there were multiple river crossings.  This was the first hike I’ve done along a river in a valley and I definitely learned that I prefer walking on soil.  The weekend weather was prefect with a little bit of wind.  Nadine and I knew this hike would be a long one, but we didn’t crunch the numbers regarding the amount of kilometers until we returned.  I think the hike ended up being 18 km one way!  On the way to the hut, we ended up taking a path up the middle of the river valley, which made for more river crossings.  I decided to not be ‘kiwi as’ and I took my boots off for every crossing.

Sadly, when we finally arrived at Carrington hut, we found no firewood.  But, with our determination to have a fire, we prevailed in the end and got a fire roaring all night.  We shared the hut with two dentist students from Dunedin.  They told us their story of getting to the hut, which involved fording the river at night, and I’m still baffled by such stupidity.

On the way back, we decided to stick to the right side of the river as much as possible in hopes of fording the river less.  It did help and I did the river crossings ‘kiwi as’ and just got my boots wet.  It is definitely warmer to ford a river with boots and wool socks on.  Some how though, we never saw the Anti-Crow Hut on the way out.

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The trees suddenly end and you are left amazed by such expansive beauty.

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Nadine and I on our way to Carrington Hut.

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The rocks seriously never ended. 

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The view from the front porch of the hut.  Carrington Peak is to the right.

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We left the hut around 9am on Sunday and the sun still wasn’t in the valley by 10:30am.

 

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Over the last two weeks, Jeff and I have celebrated our birthdays.  E has enjoyed every minute of our birthdays.  On each of our birthdays E would constantly say “Happy Birthday Mommy” or “Happy Birthday Daddy” and sing “Happy birthday” to us.  He was even more thrilled with getting more cake.  Although, he still talks about me not picking out the pink cake for Jeff.

Unfortunately, a few weeks back, C had a traumatic babysitting experience and instantly became very needy for me and didn’t like me leaving his sight.  Lets just say without going into details, that that person will not watch our children ever again.  You are probably wondering why in the world I am mentioning this.  Well, months ago, I had planned a surprise weekend get away for myself and Jeff as his birthday present.  As the days grew closer to our planned weekend trip, C was on his way back to being very confident and independent.  But, when I told Jeff about the plans, we decided to just make the trip a day trip because we didn’t want C to progress backwards.

Our day hike destination was Woolshed Hill Peak out towards Arthur’s Pass in the Southern Alps.

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The first part of the track climbed upwards through a forest.  That part has the steepest gradient and when we emerged from the forest, we were blessed with snow-capped alpine views.

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After reaching the alpine views Jeff and I stopped to eat our pies we picked up in Sheffield.

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The higher we went, the more valleys we could see.

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Along the way up, we discovered two ice and snow covered tarns.

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Of course, we ventured off the track to get a closer look.

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There is just something about being surrounded by nature that is extremely peaceful.

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Looking down on the track it is easy to distinguish which side of the mountain gets bombarded with wind.

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My mountain man enjoying what God created.

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Us being us while doing what we enjoy doing.

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Almost to the top!  Unfortunately, we turned back shortly after I took this photo as the wind started blowing dangerously strong and the ridge up ahead was very narrow.   It was a great way to celebrate Jeff’s birthday.

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On Saturday (July 11) the weather in the mountains was looking chilly, but fantastic.  It’s rare to get a sunny and wind-less day in New Zealand.  So Jeff and I decided to rehike the Peak Hill Track.  But, this time the mountain was covered in snow.  Last time we hiked this track, the steep parts were very muddy making it very slippery.  The snow added new challenges, but it was a lot easier than the mud!  The hike was a bit more difficult than Jeff and I remembered, but I think that is due to the boys growing heavier.  Despite the cold and the heavy boys, the views from the top are some of my favorite (so far) in New Zealand.

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Jeff and E managing their way up the snowy track.

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The view of Lake Coleridge from the first knob.

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Our final destination is still a wee bit off in the distance.

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E had a chance to walk in the crunchy snow.  He didn’t like it very much.

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600 meters of elevation change later and this is the view we were blessed with.

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Once at the top and after eating food, the boys enjoyed walking around picking up rocks.

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C didn’t enjoy being distracted from picking up rocks by me taking his photo.

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As usual, Jeff does a heel click whenever possible.

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Lake Coleridge.

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The rest of Lake Coleridge.

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Our usual family photo from the top.

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Cute picture, right?  Well, it can be very challenging at times getting both boys sitting and looking at the camera simultaneously.  What you don’t see is Jeff throwing snowballs at them.

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Peek-a-boo C.

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The wide angle  lens helps to capture family photos.  Although, E’s face is a bit distorted. 

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