Mt Cook Base

24-26 March

Our 8am departure from Kevin’s place was slightly delayed due to car swapping after Kevin saw just how small my Suzuki Swift bootspace is. Base camps mean quite a lot of extra gear such as chilly bins, pillows and liquid refreshments.

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Our two cars of four people stopped at Fairlie for an early lunch and some of us realised for the first time why this place is a must-stop as we tucked into their famous pies. I can recommend the salmon and bacon. Ask Kevin for the list of Christchurch outlets if you don’t wish to drive to Fairlie.

We arrived at Unwin Lodge early afternoon and set off for a walk up the steps to the red tarns on the route to Mt Sebastopol. It was grey but not windy or raining. Beyond the steps were rougher tracks. Some of the party chose to head back down while others headed up to get good views of more tarns on a terraced area and views of the Tasman and Hooker Valleys.

Back at the Lodge the other seven travelling independently in three vehicles arrived late afternoon and some chose to go walking near the lodge or further afield. It was great to sit back on the comfortable couches and enjoy a drink, nibbles and the conversation while gazing out at the landscape from the large windows. Kevin and Heather went out for dinner at the Old Mountaineer’s café and Margaret caught up with a friend working at the Hermitage while the rest of us catered for ourselves that night.

Saturday morning was supposed to be an early start for some but it was dark at 7am and the cloud was down low on Mt Wakefield(one planned destination) and so more time in bed was the choice for some of the party.

By 9am the weather was still indifferent and the cloud obscuring the tops so Mt Wakefield was ruled out and most opted to climb up to Sealey Tarns and possibly continue to Mueller hut. Others chose to go walking up the Hooker Valley and visit the village and have a coffee at the Hermitage. A couple of people climbed part way up the Mt Wakefield track later in the day.

The track up to Sealey Tarns consists of 2200 steep steps so a morning tea stop at the tarns was well deserved. The cloud was obscuring the views on the way up but people coming down from Mueller hut were saying it had been clear up there and so some of the party decided to continue up towards the hut with others choosing to go down after climbing a bit higher.

The cloud was coming and going from around the hut and the Mueller glacier was not visible but most of Mt Sealey was clear and the view of the top of Mt Cook came and went. Five of the party continued on up behind the hut to climb Mt Ollivier. The views from above the cloud were absolutely magical with peaks all around showing out of the cloud. There was much clicking of cameras. The cloud continued to gradually lift as we descended and the views of the Hooker and back to Mt Cook village were good by the time we were back at Sealey tarns.

Dinner that night was the usual tasty pot luck dinner with plenty of variety.

Sunday dawned gloomy with drizzle which later turned to rain and so there was no enthusiasm for walking. Instead the hot pools at Tekapo beckoned and we headed there with some of us enjoying a coffee in the café while others soaked in the pools before heading back to Christchurch.

Thanks to Heather and Kevin for organising a great base camp. Anyone can stay at Unwin lodge so have a look at alpineclub.org.nz if you fancy a visit to Mt Cook (preferred booking by email).

We were: Kevin & Heather Hughes, Pat & Callum McIntosh, Diane Mellish, Jill Fenner, Yvette So, Maureen Whelan, Margaret Clark, Maureen Thompson & Graham , Rosemary Goodyear with her son Lachlan and his friend Phoebe, Sue Piercey (SP)