Now We're Cook-ing
Trip Start Aug 01, 2008
150Trip End Dec 20, 2008
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Where I stayed
Having missed the Department of Conservation shop in Mount Cook Village last night, I eventually got there at a reasonable hour this morning and bought a "real" 1:50k map of the area.
Their advice was about as expected and confirmed my plan to take the tourist path to Sealy Tarns then continue to the Mueller Ridge and see what the conditions were like. It was clearly going to be windy: the valley was very windy and filled with dust. (That came partly from road construction but mostly from a large moraine just up the valley, which was having tons blown off it.) Snow condition was an open question.
Then to the Hermitage, the large hotel which is the main event in Mount Cook Village; they were reputed to have a sandwich shop
The path is a tourist path, but no place for a casual stroll; it is very steep and in places rough. A young German couple I caught up with remarked that it is like the stairway that Frodo and Sam took to get into Mordor, and it is a good comparison, even if that did make me Gollum for the day.
The Sealy Tarns themselves weren't impressive: two small ponds, frozen and covered with a thin coating of snow. The view wasn't bad, though.
After a short break, I set off toward the ridge, on the Mueller Hut path, which is way-marked by posts. I had a brief chat with a descending climber, who had turned back short of the ridge itself due to the wind-driven ice: "I was getting pelted pretty good."
I soon experienced that. Every now and then a gust of wind or squall would come down the snowfields and all you could do was grab a handhold, crouch and turn away until it had gone
Eventually I teetered across a high steep snow field and got to an outcrop of rock on the ridge. Two metres round the corner and it was hands-and knees in the snow to make any kind of progress against the wind. I established base camp by wedging my rucsac between two rocks; the reduced windage allowed me to get a few metres along the ridge and take some shaky pictures. I couldn't see the hut, but this was no place to hang around, so I retrieved the sac and move back round the corner.
The wind dropped to almost nothing in a couple of seconds. On the descent the snow was getting softer and there were fewer squalls. The staircase took some concentration and was wearing on the knees, but I eventually reached the van at about 15:45.
The road under construction was now ridiculously bumpy. I was worried about the bottom of the van again, of course, and did get a few bumps, but also had to reverse out of a quagmire and choose an alternative route. After that a few sheep in the road was no problem, and I drove down to Twizel, the next place south.
Twizel is a little odd, having been built in 1968 as a construction camp, the locals insisting on staying on when their dam was finished in the 1980s. It's not a thrilling town to visit, though. A French couple in the "bistro" (shed-like pub) looked even more puzzled than me. Do the inhabitants answer to "Twizlers" I wonder?