Archives for category: Wanaka

A couple of weeks ago, the weather totally changed from being wintery and wet (October is always wet apparently), to hot hot hot and dry (27 degrees centigrade). Over the past two weeks, we have had one brief rain shower, and that is it! Fortunately the wetness from October has made everything green and pretty, but as we move into Summer that will change and the green colours will be replaced with coppers and browns.  But for now, we are enjoying the greenery…

Oh, and the lake has warmed up! I have had two swims so far Mrs. E has not been in yet, and well – The Spaniel is ALWAYS in the water. The lake (Lake Hawea), is lovely and clear although it geta deep very quickly (it’s OK mum, I don’t go out of my depth).

And as a teaser, there is a photo from Mrs. E’s new hammock (one of her birthday presents). A blog post about her birthday will follow (it was fun).

Thank you and goodnight.

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The low humidity and uncontaminated atmosphere create exceptionally clear skies in Central Otago. After a few stormy weeks and cloudy skies, the weather has become more settled, and the skies again have become a star gazer’s delight. I snapped these two photos last night, used a very cheap lumix camera, which I hope gives a sense of what we can see down here. Does anyone know what the large star is directly above the moon?

There are 3 photos in the slideshow below.

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A few months back I enrolled on a distance learning horticultural course with the Southern Institute of Technology as I am VERY keen horticulturalist and wanted to back up my gardening experience with some theory.  The course is brilliant, I have learned a lot and am over half way through. My current module is on weeds, so I have to take photos of weeds and identify them. To make sure I don’t cheat I have to give an identifier of something that  links the photo with me. I chose The Spaniel as I thought she would be a unique identifier!

I took these photos on a 14 K trail run alongside Lake Hawea on Sunday morning and posted them on Facebook for friends to identify. They didn’t do very well), Can you do any better?

Weed or Spaniel? Sorry, I mean Weed or native plant? You decide..

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On my birthday weekend (September 20th for future reference folks…) I headed up into Mount Aspring National Park for what felt like the trip of a lifetime. My pal Ed (a very experienced climber mum…) took me out for my first real alpine mountaineering trip NZ style. A month later I am still buzzing from the trip…!

I am a mountain man, I was very fortunate to be brought up in the English Lake DIstrict and have spent a LOT of time in the fells so I’m pretty mountain savvy. However, Mt. Aspiring National Park offers extreme mountaineering like nothing I have experienced before. The slopes are severe, steep bluffs drop off into deep valleys, there is slippy snow grass to contend with, and then of course you have the avalanche risk! Yup, you need to know what you are doing, where you are going, and caution is required at all times.

Our route started down the Matukituki Valley not far from Mt. Aspiring hut.  We walked along the valley floor past Mt. Aspiring Hut and into the bush, which after a kilometre or two emerges to open up into a terrace leading to Shovel Flat. From there, we travelled through some more bush to reach Pearl Flat. From Pearl Flat, we walked along the river to near where we would start our ascent up French Ridge. OK, so this is where it got more interesting for me. We did a proper river crossing. I was a little apprehensive given I nearly drowned in a flash flood in the lake district, but Ed reassured me that if we used this technique from NZ Mountain Safety Council we would be fine… and we were. The water was glacial, bitterly bitterly cold but we soon warmed up was we got to the other side just by carrying on at a brisk pace to the start of  the ascent up French Ridge. From there, we started a steep ascent through beech forest and the sub-alpine zone. This was a good climb in itself, with creek beds, bush, knarly rocks, and short scrambling routes to negotiate, requiring quite a bit of gymnastics in parts to negotiate. Eventually, we reached the snow line at about 1200 metres. The snow was soft, so we used our poles and ice axes, Ed cut steps (thanks Ed) and I followed. At this point I was a little overwhelmed by my surroundings. About 30 minutes before getting to the snow line I clocked a step bluff ahead of us, which had a very steep drop off to the left of 50 metres or so. The minute I saw this, it made me nervous. When the route we were taking hit the patch of ground with the bluff to our left, the incline had a feeling of slightly throwing you off, and of course it was covered in snow. Here, I took it steady, making sure I had three points of contact in the snow ALL the time. Ed saw me hesitating and told me just to take one step at a time and I would be fine. We joked about it later, and quite rightly Ed said “Yup you would have been a goner-burger if you slipped there”. Yup, it felt a little exposed, but hey – a bit of firm footing, sensible mountaineering and I was fine. We carried up through the snow and reached our hut, French Ridge Hut, and I was pretty pleased to be there. We had started out at about 11am and reached the hut about 5pm, and we were ready for food!  The hut was fantastic, cold – thank goodness for down jackets – but it certainly kept us away from the elements.

I have never stayed the night on a mountain, and certainly not that high up (1465 metres), but the quietness – apart from the crack of an avalanche or the squeal of a kea – is overwhelming (I will edit this post later as I come it with better descriptors…). We slept fairly well that night apart from the keas waking us by dancing on the roof at about 3 o’clock in the morning.

The next day we ventured up towards the Outer Deck (2280metres), we didn’t go all the way as we didn’t have loads of time, but I got a real sense of what it is like to be in serious alpine country. The snow was really firm after a cold night, which made  for firm footing in our crampons, and gave good placement with the ice axe and pole. The ascent was steep and there were serious drop offs, but we were fine, the snow was good, it really was just a head game. If you wanted to, you could carry on from the Outer Deck for several hours and end up doing Mt. Aspiring (I wonder…).

We then reversed our route and headed home. Ed is super fit, so our descent was rapid and I got total jelly legs about half way down, but we eventually made it to the car feeling very pleased with ourselves. Ed and I shook hands, this was a rite of passage for me…

Take a look at the photos below, or alternatively have a look at my photostream on Fickr

The whole trip was amazing, it took me well out of my comfort zone, and for those who know me well, I am a fairly risk-averse person! But it was well and truly thrilling one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

French Ridge, and Mt. Aspiring National Park is truly inspiring. As Arnie once said, “I’ll be back…”

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We are now well and truly into Spring in Central Otago, the snow is melting on the tops and the weather has become a little more unsettled as Winter and Summer battle it out between themselves. Fortunately we know Summer will be the victor. But credit due to Winter as it blessed us with huge dumpings of snow on the mountains, which gave us the opportunity to learn how to ski.

So, at the beginning of July with ski passes in hand for Cardrona ski field, and a little bit of gusto we started weekly treks up “The Mountain” as the locals call it. Mrs. E has never skied before and I have only done it a few times, so we were effectively learning from scratch. At first, it was really tough. There was tiredness and bruises, together with belly laughs and moments of thrill when we managed to stay up on our feet. It was a delight watching Mrs. E progress from a petrified jelly-legged beginner to a very competent skier. I never forget the day when she just “got it” and was going up and doing the slope like a yo yo – I just couldn’t keep up. It was lovely to see her having the time of her life.

We got to become good beginner skiers, skiing well on green runs and being a little bit scared of the blue runs. But, by jove we did it – we can now ski!

We are looking forward to Summer, but Winter has become our new best friend.

See you on the slopes again soon!

p.s. I love this photo of Mrs. E with friends Pri and Jo – happy times !

Liz and Priya and co

More pics below:

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The other week a group of us from our running group heading out for a 12K run along the Rob Roy Glacier track.

We drove down the Matukituki Valley, which is an adventure in itself with its fjords, creeks, and windy and rubbly roads, and finally an hour later, parked up at Raspberry Creek car park.

From the car park, we ran alongside the Matukituki river, and then across a swing bridge onto the main track, which passes through a small gorge and then winds up through  a beech forest, which transitions into more alpine vegetation. At the top of the valley, the glacier can be seen in all its glory. In fact it is SO big it casts a dark shadow across the valley floor. The sounds of the furious river, the bellbirds singing, the smell of rain on damp moss, and so much more stopped us from feeling the pain of what was essentially a 6K run up a hill!

One of the most beautiful runs I have ever been on. I shall be heading back with Mrs. E  – I know she will love it.

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The start of winter here was heralded by one almighty snow storm, which resulted in us being snowed in! Hawea came into its own as the mountains received a thick coating of snow, which was a truly magnificent sight. Our friends Ed, Carol, on Douglas the border terrier came our for lunch one day to see what all the fuss was about, as they hasn’t had any snow in Wanaka where they live. We walked alongside the lake, had a natter – Mrs. E made a snow angel and we then tootled back home for a warming soup. I then made a snowman… (I called him Simon…)

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Today is the Queen’s Birthday in New Zealand, a public holiday given by the Queen for kiwis to celebrate her birthday.

We had a quiet morning, and then headed out to Diamond Lake on the west bank of Lake Wanaka. I have been enjoying getting into my running again after joining a running group, so I decided to run the route from the car park to Diamond Lake, and then up to Lake Wanaka viewpoint. Mrs. E followed and walked the route. The Spaniel had to stay in the car as dogs were not allowed (she was NOT HAPPY about this).

The track starts from the carpark and follows an old road to Diamond Lake. It then skirts around the lake up a steep incline to the first viewing platform over Diamond Lake. From there, the track climbs to Lake Wanaka Viewpoint which has panoramic views across Lake Wanaka and beyond.

The run took me about 50 minutes at about 5K with 774 metres of ascent, it was a corker. I managed to pace myself pretty well, taking it nice and easy on the ascents. Mrs. E loved her walk too. The Spaniel on the other hand was not happy about being left behind, but I took her for a good spin by the river to compensate as Mrs. E descended down the track.

What a fabulous place we live in. When are you coming to visit?

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Every week, Mrs. E, myself and The Spaniel go for our yomp up Mt. Iron just outside Wanaka about a 20-minute drive from our home in Hawea.
I love this quality time with Mrs. E. The Spaniel loves it too, as there are many wabbbits (we can’t see the real word in case she shoots off again).

Mount Iron is an impressive, glacier carved, rocky knoll that rises nearly 250 metres above the surrounding countryside. From the summit there are excellent 360-degree views of the The Pisa mountain range, the Upper Clutha Basin, Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps. It’s not an easy climb, but something you can do in an hour and half, and you really feel like you have achieved something.

If you come to visit, I think we will drag you up here – it’s a Must Do for visitors.

Enjoy the views!

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When we arrived in Hawea at the end of February, it was blazing hot. The New Zealand sun is pretty hardcore with very high UV rates. It can be energy zapping and you can burn in minutes if you don’t put sun block on, even on a cloudy day. So, that was high summer…

A few weeks ago, we turned into Autumn, and we started to get some cold air at night, which was a refreshing change. And then, as if God just flicked a switch, we got snow! It started off with snow at 1200 metres, then 1000 metres, and then on Thursday morning it dropped all the way down to 400 metres! I was sat at my desk working early (6 am – I know…), and when the sun started to rise I opened the curtains to my office window and saw the snow covering Mt. Maude. When I saw this, I ran excitedly like a little kid through to Mrs. E, dragged her out of bed and we saw the snow, like a thick layer of white icing dripping off a Christmas pudding, on all the mountain ranges. It felt like Christmas!

So, erm, yes, we are VERY excited about the snow – y’know that butterlies-in-your-stomach feeling? We’re getting that when we look out at the completely transformed vistas, wherever we go. The arrival of snow also means it is not long until ski season. Mrs. E and I (no Spaniel) have got local ski passes for Cardrona ski field , which is just down the road. We haven’t skied before (unless you count the time I went skiing in Scotland and my “mates” put me on a Black run (hardcore, only for CRAZY people ski run), for a laugh…). Suffice to say, the prospect of going skiing at the weekend and having lessons is very exciting.

I have been a little enthusiastic in taking snow shots with my camera. Enjoy….

p.s. Mrs. E, myself and The Spaniel are heading out shortly for our weekly walk up Mt. Iron. Just to warn you.. the camera is charged, I may get trigger happy.

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