Hiking, Scrambling, Mountaineering, and Climbing

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  • We already have a small walking thread, but it's a little pedestrian... here's a thread for walking/climbing in the mountains - trip reports, routes, gear, techniques etc

    Here's a hiking trip report from New Zealand a few months ago:

    Here we go. Good photos on film - apologies for phone photos.

    Day 0.
    Packed light.

    Two 35-litre packs with 4 days of food, sleeping bags, cut-down foam rolls (which I find comfortable enough), tent, and alcohol stove. Gaiters strapped to the outside in this photo. Took no spare clothes other than merino pyjamas, rain jacket, beanie, gloves, one extra pair socks.

    Day 1. Drove to The Divide and walked the popular Routeburn Track to the turn-off. Saw scores of Japanese and American tourists on the Routeburn and about two people after the turn off. Camped by a hut which had a rainwater tank. Cold night - slept in everything I had, which meant my pillow was empty (even though I am comfortable on a cheap foam pad, I will definitely be buying a proper pillow before my next trip - I am getting quite fed up of the old 'spare clothes in sleeping bag stuff-sack' and find that it gives me a headache).

    Day 2. Woke up to frost on the tent and fresh snow on the tops. Didn't fancy our original route (Steele Creek - a rugged bushwhack with a steep alpine pass at the end) on snow without crampons so we decided to go up and down the Greenstone Valley. No elevation to speak of, but lots of little side-streams, rocky outcrops to negotiate, and incredibly dense native forests absolutely covered in wet moss, a mess of white roots with puddles in between looking like rice paddies. Glad to have worn boots as trail runners would be saturated.

    Camped by Greenstone Hut (has water and toilets which is nice):

    The Cloudburst 3 performed excellently, is extraordinarily light considering how roomy it is, and has some really nice features like the ability to completely roll back both vestibules for excellent views. It's also 100% bug-proof, although I seem to be gaining some resistance to sandflies. The optional middle pole is too short but they are sending a replacement and a goodwill refund - good customer service. In the night a possum was snuffling around in the vestibule - I flicked my headlamp on, we both screamed at each other, and I instinctively punched it in the face. I then went outside and discovered it had dragged a boot and a water bottle out into the bush. It was still sniffing around the tent so I gave chase, but that did not deter it - I had to put the bags in the hut as it could obviously smell something tasty in them.

    Day Three. Back up the valley. Looks like this:

    Went back to the same hut that night. It pissed it down but tent was fine. Discovered that the possum got away with a whole bag of food, so we had half a dinner and half a breakfast each, and a Snickers for breakfast.

    Day Four. Short 4-hour day back to the car, fuelled by a Snickers. Coming back down the Routeburn section through cloud reminded us that the whole valley is actually quite high up, some 700m above sea level. Ate a tube of Pringles in the car, followed by a lamb pie in Te Anau, a sausage roll in Gore, steak for dinner, and then steak for breakfast. Picked up a hitchhiker on the way home - as usual a charming and intelligent European student.

    It's nearly snow-caving season here in NZ. Had a great couple of trips last winter. It seemed rather warmer than my tent in the same conditions - I was not cold even in a summer bag (had down sweater and polypro thermals though).

    Also I am thinking of doing the Overland Track in Tasmania. People say I will need snowshoes in winter, but I don't own any, and I don't know what to look for. Any recommendations? Boots are Asolo 520s (incidentally my crampons are Grivel New Classics if the mounting systems are in any way comparable).

  • Really cool post and a great idea for a thread.
    The indoor climbing thread has evolved to encompass trad/sport and bouldering both in and out but this is cool.
    Never done anything like this but would love to give it a go. Seeing as you suggested gear it gives me a great excuse to post my epic rucksack collection soon....

  • I would absolutely love to see your rucksack collection.

    I have an ancient 70l-ish Bergans which is really comfortable for heavy loads/casual 'beer and steak for dinner' type hikes.
    An Arcteryx Khazri 55 which is just as heavy as the Bergans but not as comfortable.
    The tiny 35l Webtex which I got for about a tenner, just to try it out - it only weighs about 750g, great for fast and light trips.
    My girlfriend has the Vaude Minimalist pictured above which I think is a fantastic summer hiking pack, it's seriously comfortable, 850g-ish, and hasn't ripped despite bushwhacking and clambering all over sharp rocks.

    I'm halfway though making my own pack which I'll post up soon.

    I am also thinking of doing a mountaineering course. I've done short courses on ice axe and crampon use, and glacier walking, as well as a bit of informal belaying practice with a mountaineer friend. I think it would open up a lot of new routes, especially in winter.

  • Yeah but what the fuck is a possum?

  • About the size of a cat, but significantly more vicious, tree-dwelling and noctural. An Australian immigrant, intentionally released in NZ in the 1860s to provide a fur industry. Although protected in Australia, they have no predators in NZ and consequently the population boomed. They have had an enormous impact on NZ's endemic birds (especially the flightless ones) so are now actively controlled through poisoning and trapping, which has allowed native species to recover somewhat.

    New Zealand has no native mammals (except a few species of bat) so all the ecological niches usually filled by rats/stoats/mice/possums were filled by flightless birds like kiwis, wekas, takahes, kakapos etc., as well as by enormous insects like the giant weta. Sadly since introduction of rats in about 1200ish, and later stoats and possums by Europeans, many of these flightless birds and insects have gone extinct.

    I have seen wekas many times on the West Coast - they're pretty friendly and come right up to the tent. I've heard kiwis a few times in Fiordland (notably only in areas with a lot of stoat/possum traps) but since they're noctural, I haven't actually seen any. A hut ranger told me the story of the last moa ever seen, in about 1900 - it's unconfirmed but given how incredibly remote and inaccessible some parts of Fiordland are, I'm inclined to believe it (the takahe was thought to be extinct for a hundred years until a hunter found a small population in some remote valley).

    That concludes my brief introduction to NZ birds. I should do some work.

  • pedestrian, pfftt!

    I rekindled a love of the mountains (Snowdonia) this last weekend:

    Saturday - springlike, deteriorating to deluge then sleet and finally snow around the back of the Carneddau, far from the crowds crawling over Snowdon and the Glyders. A spicy traverse and descent of the Aber Falls rounded off the day, followed by a truly fortuitous find of a pizza and beer and bed on the road out of Capel.

    Sunday - very bright and clear, although 2degC over night and plenty of snow on the tops, so we opted for a walk straight out the door and around the base of Moel Siabod to tackle the west ridge. Only saw two walkers on the route, in stark contrast to the hordes coming up the grassy knoll from the east as we descended.

    Fortunately the weather prevented my gnarled climbing buddy from getting the ropes out on carreg wasted :$

  • ^ I used to go there all the time when I was studying Forestry in Bangor!

  • There is so much more to Wales than the bloody Snowdonia national park!

  • Is Aber Falls a climbing route? I went there years ago on a Sixth Form geography trip. Great fun.

    Here's another short trip report from way back in October.

    Matukituki Valley in Mt. Aspiring National Park (NZ South Island).

    Left work early on Friday and made the 5-hour drive up to the valley. An easy stroll along the valley under headlamps, lots of 6-inch creek crossings (gaiters and leather boots essential unless you like wet feet), reaching Aspiring Hut (massive 1940s wood/stone hut with 38 bunks, flush toilets, gas, mattresses) at about 11pm. The next day we wandered up the valley along the Matukituki River, taking a leisurely lunch and getting bitten by sandflies:

    After 2 hours we reached the turn-off to Liverpool Hut which is about halfway up Mt. Barff, opposite the Bonar Glacier and Mt. Aspiring itself. It's a steep, rough route with lots of climbing with hand-holds above your head, and it gets harder above the treeline. There's a bastard sidle which looks like this (this is actually Cascade Saddle, about a day's walk away, but it's pretty much identical)

    The hut is sited at about 1500m, just above the treeline (the track sidles away from the hut until it reaches an exposed ridgeline a good 50m above it, then descends back down) and has amazing views in pretty much every direction (Mt. Barff and Mt. Liverpool on this side of the valley, Bonar Glacier, Mt. Aspiring, Mt. French, Mt. Avalanche and Rob Roy on the other). We went for a walk but were stopped pretty quickly by some icy traverses (did not have ice axe/crampons with us). As we returned to the hut, we saw another group making the sidle. Turns out they were friends of ours who had also come up for the weekend... this happens a lot in NZ. Lots of keas playing on the deck, which was amusing. Made friends with a mountaineer called Chris - he was going up Mt. Barff, which he called Chunder Peak.

    Woke up to this the next morning. Chris had already left. Went on a foray at about 9am and decided the rocky sidle that was difficult the day before was now impassable without ice tools, so we sat around the hut waiting for it to melt. Not a bad day. We went down at about 4pm, and got back to the car park at 11pm or so.

    I bumped into Chris in a supermarket in Christchurch about a month ago; he made it up Mount Barff and stayed at Liverpool Hut again the next night.

  • Is Aber Falls a climbing route?

    only in winter, a clutch of grade II to IV ice climbs. we picked our way across a very exposed traverse between terraces

  • Short overnight trip this weekend:

    Hiked up the Rock & Pillar range, only three hours straight up...

    Snow at the top! Lots of it actually, this is the creek where water can usually be found, it must've drifted ten feet deep here.

    Stayed in the appropriately-named Big Hut, which was first built as a cross-country ski lodge. It's absolutely enormous - 40 bunks, water tank, and even a ping-pong table. It's also almost always empty too. Only $10 each. The water tank was frozen solid.

    After a chilly night (water bottle froze, ice on inside of windows... still warm in summer bag & polyprops though) we woke up to blazing sunshine which melted most of the snow, but disappeared by our lunchtime walk. This is the view back out to the coast:

    And this was the view inland, with Rough Ridge in the foreground, Dunstans behind them, then the Pisa Range in the rear right and the enormous Hector mountains in the far centre.

    And that's it, just walked down to the car (only a couple of hours back down).

    A friend is helping me refresh my trad climbing skills in a few weeks. Come the summer he has his sights set on Mitre Peak (1600m and not technically difficult, so he tells me) and needs a climbing partner. We'll see...

    I also found some old photos of Matukituki Valley:

    Me on the way to the world's most scenic toilet:

  • Anyone have decent experience with Scotland? I'm going to Glasgow for a conference in July, after which my partner's meeting me. We have three full days (July 23, 24, 25) before having to get the train back from Edinburgh on the 26th.

    She's not been to Scotland before and the initial idea was to see Glasgow and Edinburgh, but now we're thinking maybe take our tent and do a small overnight hike. Maybe 23-24, get train to Edinburgh for a day there.

    Thoughts? Suggestions? Where to go? West Highland Way is apparently stunning, but not sure what parts are good for the time constraints. Thanks for any advice!

  • A friend walked the whole thing recently and said this about a mini trip:

    Start around Loch Lomond (South End) and walk to the start of the wild camping area (around 15 miles). There are good views of highlands/mountains in the next 2 days of walking. It would require a pretty lengthy train to Edinburgh though...

  • Cheers, Ed - I'll check the details out. Don't mind a long train ride as long as it's relatively inexpensive. Also open to other options though.

  • A quick day trip and overnighter, take train up to Fort William and get off at Corrour station, there is a posh B&B there, or down at Loch Ossian there is a YHA hut, the loch only takes a few hours to walk around and has a Bond'esque villians lair for rental at the bottom end. You can camp around the loch but stay at the YHA end or out of sight of the Estate end as they have lots of smaller rental holiday properties. We didn't go into the B&B which does have a small bar and food but i think it's a case of pre-booking or residents only over just turning up and getting served.

    Some neat little walks around the area, up to the old lodge ruins or back track down to Rannoch station.
    Views from the train ride will be stunning, if you fancy the Harry Potter steam train from Fort William to Mallaig thats a bit spendy, you get the same views from the normal train service.
    Trains have a good service and Fort William is a central hub for travel, so short train and bus hops are easy to do in that area.

  • OK, so i havent done this in a looooong time. I think i may need some guidance.

    I have signed up for an SAS Pen y Fan hike in the middle of next month.

    15 miles over the same course they do with 35lb of kit in my bergen. Why? The little boy in me said so.

    I am trying to build up a list of the things i need to have in my bag before i have to start carrying dumbbell weights.

    List of items required

    Bergen Items
    Bergen (obviously)
    First Aid kit
    warm jacket
    a good quality (real) waterproof jacket
    survival bag
    Head Torch
    sleeping bag
    Gaffa Tape

    Technical Shirt
    Zip Off Trousers
    spare socks
    Spare Laces

    Water (minimum requirement 3 litres)
    talcum powder

    Anything im missing?

  • Warm jacket - I guess you have the option of down vs synthetic. A thin synthetic with water-resistant outer is really useful in unpredictable weather (or you could get a woollen shirt). Down puffies are better for sitting around/belaying in, they crap out in the wet though.

    I would also always take a set of thermals in case you get soaked to the skin and need to change into something dry. Polyprop have the best warmth/weight ratio in my experience. They get stinky quickly, though, so I tend to wear merino thermals when actually walking.

    Good luck finding a (real) waterproof jacket, I have given up and got a cheap Marmot Precip which works just as well as my old Arcteryx one at a quarter of the price, and I won't cry when I invariably rip it (which is how the old one expired...)

    I like gaiters too. Prevents stones getting in your boots, great for low-level river crossings, and provides some shin protection when scrambling.

  • unless you're used to walking that distance your feet will suffer. some perople swear by rubbing alcohol to 'harden' them up. trouble is this creates hard skin which will rip off. much better to get some miles in prior to teh event and moisturise/cream those pinkies before, during and after.

    3l of water, but ensure you've got some isotonic/mineral/potassium mix in with it, 4l may be better as it'll be parched on PyF next month (...cue wettest July on record..)

    sunscreen, wide brimmed hat

  • Officially my new favourite thread.

  • my heals are fucked...

    new shoes now was a bad idea but dont have alternatives... Walked to work with all my bike locks in a bag. Blisters everywhere... Well not EVERYWHERE, just my heals, but it feels like everywhere.

  • but if you walked every other day for the next x days your heels would recover and naturally start to become abrasion resistant by developing light callousing. this with a regime of washing and moisturising would put you in good stead for the PyF event

  • awesome!!! cheers for the advice!

  • any chance anyone has any of the stuff listed i could borrow for that weekend?

    Potentially things like sleeping bags or such. House purchase means im rather cash strapped at the moment.

  • Off to Iceland for two weeks next week to have fun around volcanoes, geysers and glaciers. Been a while since I last went and the landscape always changes dramatically everytime I go.

  • Yep some people like to smear vaseline on their feet, I have never tried it but then again I've never really got blisters either. My partner puts strapping tape on her heels as soon as she feels a hot spot.

    No chance to get water en route? 4l is a painful amount. Does it count towards your 35lb cargo or is it additional?

    Cat_Balou what are your plans in Iceland? I have wanted to go there for a while.

    Off to the Silverpeaks this weekend. Hopefully sleeping in a cave bivvy but there are a few huts within a couple hours of the cave if it's particularly cold (or if the cave is full which has happened a few times). Area looks like (with hut in distance):

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Hiking, Scrambling, Mountaineering, and Climbing

Posted by Avatar for lae @lae