Sunday, 26 April 2015

Mt. April 14th - 15th

We woke up at 730ish grabbed some breakfast at our breakfast spot and then went by the tiny general store to resupply on food before heading up the main road a few kilometers to towards the Mt. McIntosh trailhead. Both the woman who gave us a rides to our previous tracks had recommended this one. They both said it was an amazing couple day tramp with backcountry huts that were free, old mine shafts and spectacular views and best of all had very light foot traffic.

Sure enough the trailhead was exactly where they said it was! Once finding the beginning we gripped our newly made walking sticks and started up into old scheelite mining country towards snowy ridge lines. Scheelite is the raw material that tungsten comes from and these mines were heavily used around WWII when the price of tungsten skyrocketed due to the need for more gun barrels. Though this was once a busy area these mineshafts have been abandoned for the last 70 years now. Along our tramp we got to see old mine shafts full of rusty rail wheels and water disappearing off into deep darkness (Photo 1). We got to see the old managers lodge that was rusty and decaying yet still felt lived in (Photo 2). There were strange concrete buildings that seemed straight out of a horror movie made for god knows what. The thick heavy metal doors would howl a deep resonant tone when opened that would reverberate through my full being ( We then headed down to a small river before following switchbacks directly up a massive snowy mountainside. The snow got progressively deeper as we gained altitude. About half way up we encountered a pack of gorgeous wild goats that effortlessly scampered up the steep snowy terrain. We stopped of at the McIntyre hut for lunch. This hut was gorgeous with new clean bunks and an amazing view. From here we continued up to the saddle where the snow was now mid calf deep. We continued up the ridgeline another few hours until we reached the McIntosh hut (Photos 3 and 4). This was an old miners hut that had been shifted to a backcountry hut for trampers. It was an amazing old building with an incredible view (Photo 5). There was no wood stove or means of heat in this hut so it was incredibly cold. But even though it was drafty with holes in the roof that allowed for piles of snow to accumulate indoors the thin walls did protect us from the intense winds. We spent the night trying to stay warm, drinking tea, eating dinner and weaving more Harakeke leaves. After dinner and hot chocolate, with extra butter to give our bodies fuel to fight the cold through the night, we were off to bed. It was a cold night that got down to around -10 to -15 degrees C. There were times my -15 degree sleeping bag started to lose the fight against the cold but after a long fight we all made it safely to the morning light. We awoke to find our boots frozen solid and our socks frozen into solid tubes that kept their from when removed from the hooks where we had hung them to dry ( We had a hearty breakfast and then spent a long time trying to open our icy solid shoes enough fit our feet in. Finally we were able to don our frozen footwear and we started down the trail trying to keep our heart rates up to keep our feet warm enough to thaw our shoes. We took a different trail back to the main road that ridge lined the whole way down transitioning from snowy peaks (Photo 6) to a very steep downhill that hugged a small wire fence. This was a very dangerous way down in my opinion and we were surprised that it was marked as a track. We had to grip the fence to prevent ourselves from slipping in the deep snow. We passed Cliffs and areas where a wrong step seemed like it could start a slide that would be hard to recover from. After hours of carefully placed feet we all made it back down below the snowline into alpine sheep pastures. We continued through the green fields and made it back to the main road by around 1pm. Here we decided to hitchhike back to Queenstown where we would spend the last few days before flying back to Wellington. We were unsuccessful for nearly two hours. We went through many different tactics that finally culminated in us standing in a line and sweeping our left arms in a circle one after the other creating a wave and then using our right hand to present the thumbs of our left hand. This was successful! We were picked up by a woman from England who had lived in Glenorchy for the last 35 years and was heading to Queenstown to pick up groceries. She was an absolute delight and got us back to the Butterfli backpackers within the hour!
We checked in and set up our tent (Photo 7) and then headed into town to try a burger at the famous Fergburger. I got the Big Al, which was the biggest burger I have ever seen, which was amazing and incredibly filling! We then headed back to Butterfli and crashed.

Photo 1 - Abandoned Mine Shaft

Photo 2 - Managers Lodge

Photo 3 - McIntosh Hut

Photo 4 - Inside McIntosh Hut

Photo 5 - Photo From In Front Of McIntosh Hut

Photo 6 - View From Ridgeline Track

Photo 7 - Campsite View From Butterfli

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