Thursday, 26 February 2009

Kepler Track

YIC has just returned from 2 excellent days tramping the Kepler Track in Fiordland. He was blessed with good weather for the Alpine crossing and climb of Mt Luxmore (1478 metres). This was lucky indeed as it had rained or been cloudy for the last week. This was a "Great Walk" and the first that YIC has done in NZ. Great Walk = very popular, have to book in advance, and yes a great walk.

on top of Mt Luxmore

South Fiord (part of Lake Te Anau) from the Kepler Track

Lake Manapouri - it was a still day and the only sound was the gentle lapping of the water

The Kepler Mountains stretch into the distance. Explorer John McCerrow named the hills in this area. He admired scientists. Kepler (a German astronomer) was one of his favourites - hence the Kepler Mountains. McCerrow was also Scottish (so he must have been OK) and many of the streams here are called burns.

A long and winding road - the Kepler Track heads through beech forest

International Readership

It would appear that Birtley News is read around the globe. From Canberra to Gateshead, people are eagerly logging on to read the next gripping installment. Patrick, Tristan and Natalie Miller report that they like the mountain photos, with "the abyss" at Maud Glacier being their favourite. Here are just a few of the other comments YIC has received:

Katrina Pescott - I log on to Birtley News every morning, it brightens my day.
Lois Gordon - great to hear about the penny whistle at French Ridge Hut; I've missed its dulcet tones
Timothy Duff - reference to walking stick not understood. PS Who is Gazza?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Who ate all the pies?

The answer would appear to be: YIC. After the Skyline race, he has moved on to Te Anau in Fiordland. It has an excellent pie shop - "Miles Better Pies". So far YIC has sampled the cornish pasties and steak & kidney pies, and there are lots more to go at. Alf Tupper, the tough of the track, used to train on fish and chips. So YIC would appear to be on to a good thing with pies. He has also added some balance to his diet with beer (naturally). Tomorrow he is off for a 2 day tramp on the Kepler Track to burn off all those pies.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Wanaka Skyline Race - 27k and 1,340 metre climb

Low cloud, wind on the tops, and pouring rain. The conditions for the Wanaka Skyline Race were rather reminiscent of the Lake District on a wet day. YIC ran the race yesterday. Despite the weather, it was a great event. After an initial trot round the lake, there was a steep climb up Mt Roy followed by a ridge run to Mt Alpha. After a quad busting descent there was a final run in to the finish at Wanaka rugby club. YIC finished 7th out of about 50 runners in 3 hours 8 mins. He was also second V 40 in the "masters competition" - he is getting old!

It seems you are never far from another UK fellrunner. The race was won by Stephen Granger-Bevan from Reading. John Osborne from Settle Harriers was also there - YIC recognised him from UK races.

There's a more detailed report at .

Saturday, 21 February 2009

pennywhistling at French Ridge Hut

YIC has found room in his rucksack for his pennywhistle - it's usually stored with his tent poles. For readers who are missing the dulcet tones of said whistle, here is a photo that was taken at French Ridge Hut by Rolf, one of the volunteer wardens.

Photos: .

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Mt Armstrong

YIC has just returned from climbing Mt Armstrong. At 2,174 metres, this is YIC's highest peak in NZ to date. The tramp involved a 1,700 metre climb straight up from Haast River, then a night at the scenic Brewster Hut. The views from the top were fantastic. Staying at the hut were also Barry & Kay and Brian & Sue from Lake Kanieri (West Coast), and several cheery (and loud!) folk from Auckland. After the tramp, YIC cooled off with a swim in the Haast River - no photos of that, readers will be relieved to hear.

looking along the ridge on Mt Armstrong

Mt Brewster from Mt Armstrong
The Southern Alps stretch into the distance to the east
at Brewster Hut

Kay doing her bit and giving the hut a spring clean

another loo with a view - and in better shape after Kay had given it a clean

Brian - the cheery ex-Liverpudlian bus driver on Atomic Shuttles which YIC has used for transport to the Wilkin Young and Mt Armstrong tramps. "Travel with Atomic," says Brian, "they're the best!" And indeed they must be, judging by the quality of jokes on board. Here's a joke which YIC heard from a young girl on the bus: Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9. When YIC riposted with the one-eyed dinosaur joke, the girl simply stated: "I'm not laughing."

Monday, 16 February 2009

this stick was made for walking

YIC has invested in a walking stick. As he tramps around New Zealand, he finds that walking with a heavy pack gives his knees gyp. Perhaps he is getting old (surely not! the readers cry). As he walks along, he finds that he is prone to whistle a tune to him, pass a few bon mots to no-one in particular, and chuckle to himself. He even twirls the stick absentmindedly as he walks. Soon he might be putting the stick on a shelf in a pub, commanding the nearest customer to not let him forget it, then promptly walking out of the establishment and leaving the said stick behind. Now who does that remind readers of? (hint - he is a close relative of YIC)
on top of Gillespie Pass with Mt Dreadful in the background

A-tramping to Lake Crucible

So we'll go no more a-tramping
To far Lake Crucible,
Though Gillespie Pass was stunning
And Siberia Hut was full.

While the clouds did lower and swirl
Around the rock-face dark and tall,
With the silence only broken
By the lonely kea's call.

For the journey beckons onwards
And Wanaka awaits,
To quench the tramping thirst
With Brewski Beer and Speights.

Yet the memory will linger
So clear and wonderful,
But we'll go no more a-tramping
To blue Lake Crucible.

Gillespie Pass

Mt Awful from Gillespie Pass

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

French Ridge Hut

YIC has just returned from an excellent 2 day walk to French Ridge Hut. The hut takes the prize for the most spectacular setting to date. It's high on Mt French's ridge (as the name suggests) with wonderful views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. YIC was the only tramper in the hut. The only other folks there were Rolf & Karina who had just walked in for a week as volunteer wardens. For those who like to commune with nature, YIC recommends a visit to the Mt French toilet. Check out the photo below - it is most commodious.
Mt French hut with Rob Roy Peak in the background
Rolf & Karina, volunteer wardens
peering down into the abyss below the Maud Francis glacier
Mt French ridge and glacier
a loo with a view

Monday, 9 February 2009

a refreshing target

For those who have had their tea and fancy something a little stronger, YIC recommends Cardrona Gold from Wanaka Beerworks. It's a 4% ABV copper coloured refreshing ale that is preservative free and available from the Kai cafe. And what's more, you can stamp your Brewski card everytime you have a pint. After 9 pints (not necessarily on the same night readers will be relieved to hear) the 10th is free. YIC is currently 50% there.

And after a night in the pleasant company of Claire & Smithy from the UK, YIC is there! Being a generous soul, he gave the card for his free pint to Paul who gave him a lift back from the French Ridge walk. YIC has now embarked on his quest for another free pint. Last night he enjoyed a few drinks in the company of Barry from Wanaka and Dawn & Jim from Napier, whilst some local musicians played some mellow blue grass tunes. It's a tough life if you don't weaken...

Barry with the musicians in the background

Dawn & Jim & YIC's rucksack

Cascade Saddle

YIC has just returned from an excellent 3 day tramp over the Cascade Saddle, a stunning alpine crossing between Raspberry Creek and the Dart Valley. The tramp involved a very steep climb up Pylon (1835m) before traversing to the saddle which had fantastic views over Mount Aspiring and the Dart Glacier. After dropping down to Dart Hut, YIC walked over the Rees Saddle and descended the Rees Valley. He had to camp for a night at a remote car park (Muddy Creek) before the bus arrived on the last day (he knows how to live). But just in case readers thought YIC undertook odd adventures, spare a thought for Nadine: she ran round the whole Rees Dart Track (90k) which took 18 hours. YIC met her just after the start of her run, then again at the car park.

on Cascade Saddle

the Dart Glacier from Cascade Saddle

Snowy Creek from Rees Saddle

the bivvy at Muddy Creek with just the sandflies for company

Nadine, fresh from running 90k

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Wanaka arrival

YIC has now arrived in Wanaka where he is staying at the friendly and relaxed YHA. For those whose NZ geography is not top notch, Wanaka is in the southern part of the South Island, near Queenstown. YIC flew to Wanaka via Christchurch. The plane was tiny (just a 20 seater) but there were great views over the Southern Alps and of Mount Cook in particular.

Today YIC has recced the Wanaka Skyline race which he has entered. This is in 2 weeks time and goes over the local peaks of Mt Roy (1578 m) and Mt Alpha (1630m). This was an enjoyable ridge between them, then a grassy/track descent. After this, YIC felt rather tired and slightly dehydrated, so he restored the spirits with several cups of redbush tea. And now that he has had his tea...

Mt Roy from the lake shore where YIC swam yesterday

Lake Wanaka from Mt Roy

Mt Roy from the ridge route to Mt Alpha

Mt Aspiring from Mt Roy

the 20 seater Wanaka plane

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Nelson cathedral

YIC has attended several services at Nelson cathedral. Known as Christ Church, the cathedral is also the local parish church. The parishioners are welcoming and have even started to recognise YIC as a "regular". This task is made slightly easier for them as YIC always wears the same T-shirt and pair of trousers (as the rest of his gear is reserved for tramping). The dean (Charles Tyrrel) hails from Liverpool, and as is often the case down under, many of the congregation are either ex-pats or can trace their roots back to the UK. This morning was the festival of Candlemas (the presentation of Christ in the temple) where the aged Simeon and Anna feature prominently: Simeon utters the prayer we know as the Nunc Dimittis. The dean used this to emphasise how valued the older members of the congregation were.

Holy Saviours 2009 ceilidh

Word reaches YIC via the ether that the 2009 ceilidh in the Parish Hall was a resounding success. The music was provided by Holy Saviours' multi-talented music group, who once again played for their supper. Such was the popularity of the event, that all the tickets were taken as soon as they went on sale. YIC's source (Chris Smith) was fairly brief in his report (it was sent just 1 hour after the event), but further details will follow when known.

Emma reports that the music group was swelled to 10 in number and attempted several more complicated dances this time including the Cumberland Square 8. All the dances went down well and everyone had a great time: job done.

An Old Codger gets even older

Congratulations to Timothy Duff who has now lived longer than his father. What's more, it's his birthday tomorrow (21 again, plus 48). So if you happen to be in The Grand/Tynemouth Lodge and see a white-haired chap looking wistfully at the handpumps on the bar, why not make his day and buy him a glass of the finest.