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Chris Bennetts-Cash

Climber. Software engineer. Audio geek.

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When we last met we were taking a helicopter out of Plateau Hut, returning to Unwin Lodge about a week ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately we didn’t take any photos of the wineries (of which there were many), but this is an oveview of some of the other things we filled our time with in the ensuing time.

Having been walking and climbing in Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park less than twelve months ago, we could easily have spent the entire time there. However the weather Gods would not abide it (and we would have been subjected to a diet of oats, lentils and rice leftover from the mountains for much of the time), so we chose just a small number of walks and a little climbing.

Mueller Hut

With impending weather due to hit we walked up to Mueller Hut as a morning trip. A future trip staying out there - or climbing from there - could be worth considering, but it seemed a destination we had to check off our bucket list. We had a perfect morning for it so I donned what were to become my trusty mountain sandals and off we went up 423,509 steps.

Photos of our walk to Mueller Hut

Climbing at Sebastapol

After walking to Mueller Hut we spent a fabulous afternoon climbing the routes at Unwin Crag, a few hundred metres from Unwin Lodge. We’ve climbed these before but they’re fun climbs in a great position, and before long we’re joined by two other people staying at Unwin Lodge and we start chatting.

They turn out to be Rachel and Scott, two West Australian climbers. Scott looks familiar and it turns out he was in Plateau Hut with us, part of an AC mountaineering skills course (there were well over 20 people in the hut).

That evening Unwin Lodge is full of people returning from Plateau Hut and we hear stories and see photos of their climbs.

The following morning we sneak in a quick climb at Sebastapol Bluffs “before the weather comes in” and I bail on my first climb ever, a slabby run out 17 in the rain. I’ll never get that biner back…

From there it’s on to Wanaka via Cromwell wineries.

The Matukituki Valley

Last Summer’s walk out of Aspiring National Park through the Matukituki Valley was awe-inspiring and Wendy is excited to see it. With a couple of days of mostly good weather we plan to walk into Aspiring Hut, do a day walk from there depending on conditions (there’s been a significant amount of rain, so climbing ridgelines to huts may not be the wisest choice of route), and walk out to finish our trip in Queenstown.

As we set out from Raspberry Creek carpark (the start of the walk) we bump into Rachel and Scott, who are returning from doing exactly what we’d planned (not such a surprise - we’d recommended it to them before leaving Unwin Lodge).

Meeting near the Rob Roy Glacier track

The walk is lovely, as is the company - I reunite with Donald, the hut warden at Aspiring Hut, and he tells us about a new track opened in the past week that replaces the old track to the top of the valley and the Bonar Glacier.

Photos of our walk up the Matukituki Valley

With unending rain at higher altitudes that seems an excellent way to spend a day and we become some of the first people to walk the new Upper Matukituki Valley track. I recorded a GPS route of the new track here.

Topographic map of the new track

A (very) large commercial hiking group joins us in the afternoon and we wonder at their guide, who is the noisiest of the bunch, drinks more shots of whisky than the rest, and plays harmonica late into the night. We escape at first light and move on to Queenstown.

Gorge Road Crag

A few years ago I’d talked about climbing at Gorge Rd and had been talked out of it by Brendan, but it seems like a good place to get a morning climb in Queenstown. We arrive and are racking up at the car when some other climbers return to the carpark. I say hi with my head still in the back of my car and hear “Chris?!”. Turning around I see Jono and we chat for a while, making tentative plans that never eventuate to climb the following morning.

For the record, the climbing at Gorge Road is excellent.

Gorge Rd from the carpark
Wendy climbing a great 17 or 18 on the left side of the lower wall
...And an excellent 19 on the right side
Some climbers from california top roping a classic-looking 19