Qeqqata expedition – preparing for 5 weeks in Southwest Greenland

I already mentioned it in a post a few weeks ago: I’m travelling to Greenland beginning of august for 33 days of heavy solo hiking and packrafting. It’s been three years since my previous Greenland expedition in Cape Farewell Country in 2013, which is – in terms of sheer staggering grandeur of the landscapes and mental intensity – still the most incredible trip I have made. Even long before arriving in Nanortalik, I knew I would come back to Greenland.

A bivy of a lifetime, Cape Farewell Country, july 2013

A bivy of a lifetime, Cape Farewell Country, july 2013

This time I’m aiming at the coastal labyrinth of fjords, ice and mountains in the Qeqqata region, roughly situated between Kangerlussuaq and Maniitsoq in Southwest Greenland (the bit without polar bears). I will make a large, 500km loop around the Sukkertoppen Ice Sheet: a first leg of 18 days without resupply from Sondre Stromfjord towards Maniitsoq, hopping from one fjord to the next, and then a home stretch of 14 days back to Kangerlussuaq which will guide me further inland, with a short excursion on the astounding Evighedsfjord. About 170km of it is packrafting, mostly on fjords, but I also included some nice, easy rivers. I everything works out as I hope, this trip should potentially be even more beautiful and varied then my 2013 expedition.

The first leg is basically pioneering – the map is virtually nameless and many valleys and mountains I would like to visit and climb are likely unknown to human gaze. My preparation for this first leg is entirely based on 1/250000 old Soviet cartography and Google Earth, and it is highly likely that some things on the terrain will not work out as I hoped. There are three sections about which I feel a bit uncertain: (i) the fording of several glacial rivers in the Tunugdliarflik Valley, very early in the trip; (ii) skirting around the snout of the Sermitsiaq glacier on vast moraines when reaching Evighedsfjorden, about 11 days into the trip; (iii) descending towards the Sermilinguaq fjord on steep rock slabs after having crossed from the Puiartoq fjord. If these sections do not feel safe, I will have to make 1-2 day detours. And then there are 7 fjord crossings where I will need to be a bit lucky with the wind. My time schedule for this fist leg is very easy – it will allow me to climb as many mountains as I want and give me time for detouring or to wait for improving weather if needed. I will also take it easy the first days as my backpack will be weighing over 30kg at the start of the trip and I don’t want to risk injuries.

Intended route for my 2016 Qeqqeta expedition, indicated on the old 1/250000 Soviet map (the best available for most of the route). Full lines: intended route (orange: hiking; blue: packrafting). Dashed lines: alternative routes. Black dashed lines: possible boat transits. The first leg from Kangerlussuaq to Maniitsoq should take me about 18 days, the way back to about 14 days.

Intended route for my 2016 Qeqqeta expedition, indicated on the old 1/250000 Soviet map (the best available for most of the route). Full lines: intended route (orange: hiking; blue: packrafting). Dashed lines: alternative routes. Black dashed lines: possible boat transits. The first leg from Kangerlussuaq to Maniitsoq should take me about 18 days, the way back to about 14 days.

The special thing about this first leg is that most of my track is situated at the transition from the coastal flats and islands towards the wild and inaccessible inner fjords. It should make for very varied travel and panorama’s from the countless summits which are on my ‘to do’ list. Located closer to the ocean in a relatively cool climate, I don’t expect too much bushwhacking except for some sections low in the valleys. Boulderfields and steep rock slabs might cause more difficulties – although travelling late in the season should minimize the amount of meltwater making them wet and slippery. I will also have to watch out for quicksands when putting in/out with my packraft on river deltas fed by glacial rivers at the head of some fjords.

1320m Kinguleq
Point1045m

Tassersuaq

I have not fould a single picture from any of the mountains or valleys I want to climb and walk during the first leg of my trip - so Googly Earth is my appetizer. (1) Views into Napiarissat qôruat from a nameless mountain (1320m) in the Kinguleq range. (2) Views towards the ocean from peak 1043m, north of the Kangâmiut kangerdluarqquat fjord. (3) Views down the Ikamiut kangerdluarssuat fjord from the slopes of mountain 1230m, which is very high on my 'must do' list. (4) The Taserssuaq lake along the fjord looks like one of the most beautiful I will ever see. (5) If the weather is nice, and on the last day before reaching Maniitsoq, this ridgewalk on a nameless peak (970m) seperating the head of the Sermilinguaq and Manitsup sermilia should be an absolute highlight of the trip.

I have not fould a single picture from any of the mountains or valleys I want to climb and walk during the first leg of my trip – so Googly Earth is my appetizer. (1) Views into Napiarissat qôruat from a nameless mountain (1320m) in the Kinguleq range. (2) Views towards the ocean from peak 1043m, north of the Kangâmiut kangerdluarqquat fjord. (3) Views down the Ikamiut kangerdluarssuat fjord from the slopes of mountain 1230m, which is very high on my ‘must do’ list. (4) The Taserssuaq lake along the fjord looks like one of the most beautiful I will ever see. (5) If the weather is nice, and on the last day before reaching Maniitsoq, this ridgewalk on a nameless peak (970m) seperating the head of the Sermilinguaq and Manitsup sermilia should be an absolute highlight of the trip.

The second leg of the trip is partially based on a Russian expedition led by Konstantin Savenkov in 2014. Konstantin and his friends did an excellent job drawing an exceptionally beautiful and varied route on the map. Their trip report is a must read (Google Translate can help) with splendid photography – you can find the bits which are applicable for my trip here, here and here. Once on the plateaus east of the ice sheet, I will divert from Konstantin’s route as I won’t paddle whitewater rivers solo.

This second leg will first take me across rocky plateaus with large proglacial lakes and ice caves, and along and through the Iluliagdlup tasia lake, one of the largest lakes in the world which shows episodic jökulhlaup events. The 20km lake empties itself every 7 years with the production of an immense outburst flooding event. After the lake has emptied, countless massive icebergs remain grounded on the bedrock – it must be a fascinating world to explore and walk through. I have not been able to find out when the last mega-outburst has occured.

Subsequently I will descend towards the wild Evighedsfjorden, probably one of the most beautiful fjords in the world as it is lined by a phalanx of ice-capped 2000+ meter mountains. I will paddle on the fjord for about 20km, and then hike away from it along a chain of proglacial lakes and glaciers flowing deep into the Qârtartorssuit valley. Once I have hiked out of this valley, I will see a rapid transition into tundra plateaus populated with large herds of muskoxen and reindeer, which will guide me back towards Kangerlussuaq during the last 4-5 days of the trip.

Paddling across a proglacial lake at the head of Majorqaq fjord (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

Paddling across a proglacial lake at the head of Majorqaq fjord (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

Descending to Evighedsfjorden (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

Descending to Evighedsfjorden (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

The tip of Evighedsfjorden, with majestic ice-capped peaks of over 2000m lining the fjord

The tip of Evighedsfjorden, with majestic ice-capped peaks of over 2000m lining the fjord (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

While hiking away from Evighedsfjorden, I will skirt along a chain of proglacial lakes, paddling across some to avoid dangerous river crossings (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

While hiking away from Evighedsfjorden, I will skirt along a chain of proglacial lakes, paddling across some to avoid dangerous river crossings (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

The landscape will change dramatically on the home strech towards Kangerlussuaq as I will travel across vast tundra plateaus, populated by large herds of muskoxen and reindeer.

The landscape will change dramatically on the home strech towards Kangerlussuaq as I will travel across vast tundra plateaus, populated by large herds of muskoxen and reindeer (photo credits: Konstantin Savenkov)

In terms of fauna, I will surely be able to spot bearded and ringed seals on the fjords, and reindeer, muskoxen, arctic hares and possibly polar foxes on land. The fjords entrances around Maniitsoq are also world reknown feeding grounds for humpback whales. During the last week of the trip the autumn colours on the tundra should start to kick in as I cross the vast plateaus back to Kangerlussuaq, and clear nights will be lit by the northern lights.

My gear list will be largely similar to the one from my previous Greenland expedition: Gear list Greenland 2013. I still have not found the perfect shoe; this time I will try on the Salomon Speedcross – I know it is a perfect fit for my feet (I have used on on trips in the Alps and trailrunning races), but it might be confronted in terms of durability on harsh Greenlandic terrain. A new pair will wait for me in Maniitsoq. As I have not been able to find ethanol for my stove in Kangerlussuaq, I will cook on solid Esbit fuel. I won’t take my SPOT, but an Iridium satellite phone, which will (apart from emergency use which I hope I won’t need) allow me to get updates on the weather (to be more safe and efficient with the fjord crossings) and fix boat transport to Maniitsoq and Kangerlussuaq with my local contacts if needed.

I’m still working on the last details, and will upload my final gear list for this trip in before leaving.

So, and now I have to start thinking about the name I will give to all those mountains!

Contrasts of the Vanoise

A few days ago I returned from a 10-day solo trip to the Vanoise Range in the French Alps. Normally I would have been completing the second year of my ‘International Mountain Leader’ training during those weeks, but due to shitty Belgian administration problems I have not been able to participate to the 2 final weeks of internships in the Alps… I decided to drive to the mountains anyway and try to make the best of it myself.

I’m in full preparation for my big Greenland expedition which starts in 3 weeks, so I don’t have time to write an extensive trip report now. Let’s just have a short look at where I went!

Tour de la Vanoise in 3 days

I started my trip with the most classic multi-day hike in the area, the Tour de la Vanoise – a splendid 75km loop around the Glaciers de la Vanoise. After a snow-rich spring and so early in the season, I did not encounter a lot of people yet on the trail, and snowfields where very abundant once above 2300m. On the way, I made a few detours to climb summits: the Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m) and the Pointe de l’Observatoire (3015m).

Lac des Vaches

Lac des Vaches

Crossing Col de la Vanoise

Crossing Col de la Vanoise

Climbing on the slopes of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

Climbing on the slopes of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

On the summit ridge of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

On the summit ridge of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

Morning views from Mont de la Para (2787m), where I spent my first night under the stars

Morning views from Mont de la Para (2787m), where I spent my first night under the stars

Morning descent towards Lac de la Roche Ferran

Morning descent towards Lac de la Roche Ferran

Lacs des Lozières, on the way to Refuge de l'Arpont

Lacs des Lozières, on the way to Refuge de l’Arpont

View up the Doron Valley, Grande Casse (3855m) in the back

View up the Doron Valley, Grande Casse (3855m) in the back

Plan d'Amont, on the way to Col d'Aussois (visible in the back)

Plan d’Amont, on the way to Col d’Aussois (visible in the back)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Pointe de l'Echelle (3345m) as viewed while climbing to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Pointe de l’Echelle (3345m) as viewed while climbing to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Thunderstorms coming in during the descent on the north side of Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Thunderstorms coming in during the descent on the north side of Col d’Aussois (2916m)

A night on Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

After a rest day, I crossed towards the Southeastern part of the Vanoise, parked the car in Bonneval-sur-Arc, and hiked up the beautiful upper part of the Arc valley towards Refuge du Carro. My final goal of the day was the summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m), one of the highest peaks on the French-Italian border you can climb without glacier skills and equipment (and solo). Crampons and an ice axe are necessary however early in the season to cross the snowfields lingering between the Col des Pariotes and the summit.

I climbed the summit late in the afternoon in horrible wet snow. Cumulus clouds embraced the summit until shortly before sunset, but eventually the skies clearled about an hour before sunset to give a splendid spectacle with views ranging all the way to Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso, the Ecrins Range, and Monte Viso. I slept about 50m below the summit on an improvised bivy made with flat stones. The next morning I was on the summit again for a stunning sunrise!

The hamlet of l'Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

The hamlet of l’Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

The hamlet of l'Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

The hamlet of l’Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

Hiking up the Upper Arc Valley

Hiking up the Upper Arc Valley

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from Refuge du Carro

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from Refuge du Carro

The clouds break about one hour before sunset

The clouds break about one hour before sunset

The Glaciers des Sources de l'Arc as seen from the summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

The Glaciers des Sources de l’Arc as seen from the summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Gran Paradiso (4061m) as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m) at sunset

Gran Paradiso (4061m) as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m) at sunset

Bivy high on the slopes of Levanna Occidentale during evening twilight

Bivy high on the slopes of Levanna Occidentale during evening twilight

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view on the summits on the French-Italian border of the southeastern Vanoise

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view on the summits on the French-Italian border of the southeastern Vanoise

Sunrise above the Po Valley from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), Levanna Centrale (3619m) to the right

Sunrise above the Po Valley from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), Levanna Centrale (3619m) to the right

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view towards the Mont Blanc (4807m) range

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view towards the Mont Blanc (4807m) range

Levanna Centrale at sunrise, as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Levanna Centrale at sunrise, as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Morning views from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Morning views from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from my bivy spot

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from my bivy spot

Descending Levanna Occidentale (3593m) on hard morning snow

Descending Levanna Occidentale (3593m) on hard morning snow

Descending along the upper Arc River

Descending along the upper Arc River

Cirque des Evettes

Cirque des Evettes

A splendid summer evening in the Vallonnet Valley above Bonneval-sur-Arc

A splendid summer evening in the Vallonnet Valley above Bonneval-sur-Arc

Daytrips on Pointe de Lanserlia (2909m, Vanoise) and Dent des Crolles (2062m, Chartreuse)

During my transits, I made some bike tours and two shorter daytrips up Pointe de Lanserlia in the Vanoise, and the beautiful Dent des Crolles in the prealpine Chartreuse Range near Grenoble.

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Summit views from Pointe de Lanserlia, an isolated summit in the Vanoise

Summit views from Pointe de Lanserlia, an isolated summit in the Vanoise

Descending the South slopes of Pointe de Lanserlia (2909m)

Descending the South slopes of Pointe de Lanserlia (2909m)

A 75km support run for Karel on Tour des Glaciers de la Vanoise

And, last but not least, I ran and speedhiked the magnificent Tour des Glaciers de la Vanoise (75km, 4200m D+) in a single go. It felt like the most origonal way to support Karel Sabbe on his epic Quest for the Crest expedition, by spending a day on the trail like and with him.

No pictures, but you can view a log of my run here

Karel is currently trying to set a new speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail, a 4200km trail through the rugged mountains of the USA’s west coast, from the Mexican to the Canadian border. To do so, he has to run about 80km per day for 52 days straigth. Karel has now survived 24 days of scorching South Californian deserts and the High Sierra Range, and is well over 1850km into his trip, pretty much on schedule. If he makes it, his performance could well be one of the greatest athletic accomplishments in human history.

As a friend, I am extremely exited following Karel’s crazy journey. What is more, he is not just one of these record junkies, but just combines his passions of running, wilderness and exploration (together with a good dose of training and sheer talent) into one mighty adventure.

Highly recommended to follow Karel on Strava, Facebook and his website

Godspeed mate!

48 hours in the Vercors with Fre

Last week I drove to Southern France with Fre for a week in the Alps. As the higher ranges are still covered by winter snow, we picked the prealpine Vercors Range, which I already knew quite well from two winter adventures in 2007 and 2009. When weather got worse later in the week, we moved on to the Provence for 4 days of biking in the Mont Ventoux sector.

I had never been in the Alps so early in the season, and it was a huge positive surprise. Livestock was not in the mountain yet, the plateau was a vast ocean of flowers, the water sources were still flowing strong on this limestone desert, and we met absolutely no-one once off the dayhike tracks.

And we had an extraordinary display of alpine fauna – we observed a herd of almost 40 ibex for over an hour right at our campspot near the Grand Veymont mountain, and the ever-present marmots were keen to pose for some pictures!

Fiets- en Wandelbeurs Vlaanderen

During the last weekend of february, I will be at the “Fiets- en Wandelbeurs Vlaanderen” (Hike and Bike Fair Flanders), the biggest outdoor fair in Flanders. I’ll give a talk titled ‘New Zealand Supertramp’ on my South Island Traverse of exactly one year ago, with my best pictures and video. The presentation of 45 minutes includes heaps of practical information and background on New Zealand’s unique landscape and ecosystem.

On both days my talk is in the ‘Rode Zaal’ at 15.30.

I’ll also be at your service to give independent information about Scandinavia, the Pyrenees, Greenland and New Zealand, with a focus on hiking and packrafting trips. Throughout the day, you can find me at table no°13. Please pass by for a chat!

This year, the fair takes place in ‘Antwerp Expo’. All practical information can be found on the official website.

A Christmas stint in Southern France

Wonderful and exceptionally warm weather was expected over most of Western Europe as the Christmas days drew closer, and I made a late call for Southern France for 9 intense days of outdoor sports.

Most of my program is normally not possible at this time of the year because of frost, ice and snow. In the end, what I was able to do was rather the busy schedule you would expect from a wonderful summer holiday.

I started of with three intense days of biking, hiking, packrafting in the beautiful Verdon Gorge. With Philipp, I biked up and around the iconic Mont Ventoux, piercing through the morning clouds of the Provence; and we had two days of biking and paddling in the Cévennes and Gorges du Tarn.

But the absolute highlight of the trip was a 3-day trek in the Mont Pelat Range, during which I was even able to climb the 3051m summit on the 26th of december! I chased flocks of chamois, admired sunrise and sunset with the most brilliant alpenglow from the summit with views ranging all the way to Corsica and the Pyrenees, and slept at over 2900m with temperatures hardly dropping below zero. The pictures below are from this rare winter trip in summer conditions. A Christmas not easy to forget!

New Zealand part III: Mount Aspiring National Park, and down to the ocean

When I arrive in Makarora after three intense weeks through the backbone of the South Island, I know the hardest part of the trip is now behind me. But… my favourite week of the entire traverse was yet to come!

The section through Mount Aspiring National Park is probably the most beautiful of the entire trip. I paddle down the Makarora River and across Lake Wanaka, and hike up into the mountains through the remote and Albert Burn Valley. Now in top shape, I make long days to camp on the most beautiful spots I can find on the map – including the best bivy’s of the trip on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak and on Cascade Saddle, with astounding high-altitude sunrises and sunsets. I float down the wild Dart River, and even paddle the length of the youngest lake on earth! It all just feels like a perfect week out in the mountains.

Once Mount Aspiring National Park is behind me, the journey starts to wind down as I walk down the immensely popular Routeburn Track, and continue south on the Greenstone-Caples and Mavora Tracks, with the mountains becoming lower and more rounded as the kilometers fly by. With march now on the calendar, the days become shorter and the weather more unsettled, with regular rainy episodes.

I use my spare days to make a 2-day detour on another ‘Great Walk’, the Kepler Track – beating the crowds by paddling the Waiau River section and starting the long ridgewalk before sunrise. A surprisingly beautiful 3-day, 110km paddle down the Waiau River guides me further south to conclude the journey. And eventually I hear the wild roar of the Pacific grow louder while covering the last kilometers towards the mouth of the river. Goose bumps!

Putting in near the confluence of the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers

Putting in near the confluence of the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers

Paddling down the Makarora River

Paddling down the Makarora River

I had a 5-6 beaufort tailwind while paddling along the shore of Lake Wanaka towards the base of the Albert Burn valley, with increasingly high waves which required attention.

I had a 5-6 beaufort tailwind while paddling along the shore of Lake Wanaka towards the base of the Albert Burn valley, with increasingly high waves which required attention.

Hiking up the Lower Albert Burn valley. The river has to be forded a couple of times, which will be impossible during adverse weather.

Hiking up the Lower Albert Burn valley. The river has to be forded a couple of times, which would be impossible during adverse weather.

The 8-bunk Albert Burn Hut in the Albert Burn Valley. Although the Albert Burn is a wonderful access into Mount Aspiring National Park, I was only the second person in 10 months passing this hut!

The 8-bunk Albert Burn Hut in the Albert Burn Valley. Although the Albert Burn is a wonderful access into Mount Aspiring National Park, I was just the second person in 10 months passing this hut!

The track through the Albert Burn is cut up to 1150m, after that it becomes a bad bush-bash with a lot of Spaniards grass and one particularly rough section, climbing up along a spectacular S-bend cataract in the river up to the high valley.

The track through the Albert Burn is cut up to 1150m, after that it becomes a bad bush-bash with a lot of Spaniards grass and one particularly rough section, climbing up along a spectacular S-bend cataract in the river up to the high valley.

The terrain becomes easier in the upper part of the Albert Burn valley.

The terrain becomes easier in the upper part of the Albert Burn valley.

Camping high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak, Glacier Dome (2367m) in the back

Camping high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak, Glacier Dome (2367m) in the back

Bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak

Bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak

Mount Pollux (2536m) and Castor (2518m) from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Mount Pollux (2536m) and Castor (2518m) from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Glacier Dome (2367m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Glacier Dome (2367m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Evening views from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Evening views from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

The moutains around Minaret Burn from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

The moutains around Minaret Burn from the summit of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Lenticular clouds above Mount Avalanche (2606m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Lenticular clouds above Mount Avalanche (2606m) from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Alpenglow on the Mount Aspiring Range at sunrise, from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Alpenglow on the Mount Aspiring Range at sunrise, from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Mount Cook (3724m) at the horizon as seen at sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Mount Cook (3724m) at the horizon as seen at sunrise from Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Morning glory, Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Panoramic bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

Panoramic bivy high on the slopes of Dragonfly Peak (2165m)

The East Matukituki Valley as seen while descending on the west side of Albert Burn Saddle

The East Matukituki Valley as seen while descending on the west side of Albert Burn Saddle

A recent wildfire made the bush-bashing down into the East Matukituki way easier

A recent wildfire made the bush-bashing down into the East Matukituki far easier

Walkwire across the East Matukituki.

Walkwire across the East Matukituki.

View up the Kitchener Valley from Junction Flat.

View up the Kitchener Valley from Junction Flat.

Down the beautiful East Matukituki Valley.

Down the beautiful East Matukituki Valley.

Bivy along the West Matukituki.

Bivy along the West Matukituki.

The West Matukituki Valley near Aspiring Hut. The weather was getting worse and I sprinted up the difficult 1300m climb up to Cascade Saddle to make it there before the rain set in.

The West Matukituki Valley near Aspiring Hut. The weather was getting worse and I sprinted up the difficult 1300m climb up to Cascade Saddle to make it there before the rain set in.

The West Matukituki Valley as seen while climbing up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

The West Matukituki Valley as seen while climbing up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Laura from Canada on the last bits up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Laura from Canada on the last bits up to the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

I camped in the Cascade Creek valley across the Saddle, and sat out the rain for most of the afternoon and evening. The weather cleared during the night and I hiked back up the ridge in the morning twilight for sunrise. This is Mount Aspiring (3033m) minutes before sunrise.

I camped in the Cascade Creek valley across the Saddle, and sat out the rain for most of the afternoon and evening. The weather cleared during the night and I hiked back up the ridge in the morning twilight for sunrise. This is Mount Aspiring (3033m) minutes before sunrise.

The Dart Glacier at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

The Dart Glacier at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

Sunrise on the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m), the mountains at the head of Dart Glacier in the back

Sunrise on the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m), the mountains at the head of Dart Glacier in the back

Mount Liverpool (2482m), Mount Barff (2252m) and Mount Aspiring (3033m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

Mount Liverpool (2482m), Mount Barff (2252m) and Mount Aspiring (3033m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge (1800m)

Mount Tyndall (2496m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Mount Tyndall (2496m) at sunrise from the Cascade Saddle Ridge.

Hiking along Cascade Creek

Hiking along Cascade Creek

Down along the Upper Dart River, Mount Edward (2620m) in the back

Down along the Upper Dart River, Mount Edward (2620m) in the back

Reaching Cattle Flat in the beautiful Dart Valley.

Reaching Cattle Flat in the beautiful Dart Valley.

Bivy on the beautiful, but sandfly-infested Cattle Flat in Dart Valley.

Bivy on the beautiful, but sandfly-infested Cattle Flat in Dart Valley.

Descending into the Dart valley. Several whitewater sections (mostly in the sections through the forest) are present down to Daleys Flat Hut. I put in about 1km downstream of the hut.

Descending into the Dart valley. Several whitewater sections (mostly in the sections through the forest) are present down to Daleys Flat Hut. I put in about 1km downstream of the hut.

At the time I was paddling here this was probably the youngest lake in the world - it formed by a massive rock avalanche (clearly visible in the back) damming the Dart River 5 weeks earlier. A rim of dead trees along the shore testifies to the recent flooding. As all existing trails in the valley are washed away, I was probably the first to make it down the Dart valley in its new configuration.

At the time I was paddling here this was probably the youngest lake in the world – it formed by a massive rock avalanche (clearly visible in the back) damming the Dart River 5 weeks earlier. A rim of dead trees along the shore testifies to the recent flooding. As all existing trails in the valley are washed away, I was probably the first to make it down the Dart valley in its new configuration.

Taking out at the natural dam at the western end of the Lake.

Taking out at the natural dam at the western end of the Lake.

The outflow of the lake now thunders through what used to be the beech forest on the left bank; an obligatory portage for any packrafter who wants to make it down alive.

The outflow of the lake now thunders through what used to be the beech forest on the left bank; an obligatory portage for any packrafter who wants to make it down alive.

Portaging the rapids on the rock avalanche.

Portaging the rapids on the rock avalanche.

Putting in again downstream of the rapids - at the start of the most powerful part of the river.

Putting in again downstream of the rapids – at the start of the most powerful part of the river.

Bivy at the confluence of the Rock Burn with the Dart River - the Earnslaw Burn Range in the back.

Bivy at the confluence of the Rock Burn with the Dart River – the Earnslaw Burn Range in the back.

Early morning put-in at the confluence of the Rock Burn and the Dart River

Early morning put-in at the confluence of the Rock Burn and the Dart River

The beautiful summits around Beans Burn as seen while paddling the Dart River.

The beautiful summits around Beans Burn as seen while paddling the Dart River.

Stunning paddling on the braided lower Dart River.

Stunning paddling on the braided lower Dart River.

I put out of the Dart River near the Routeburn Farm, picked up the food drop which I had left there over 2 months earlier, and continued my trek on the popular Routburn Track, on of New Zealands 'Great Walks'. This is a morning view down the Routeburn Flats, with clearing showers after a rainy night.

I put out of the Dart River near the Routeburn Farm, picked up the food drop which I had left there over 2 months earlier, and continued my trek on the popular Routburn Track, on of New Zealands ‘Great Walks’. This is a morning view down the Routeburn Flats, with clearing showers after a rainy night.

The Upper Route Burn valley.

The Upper Route Burn valley.

The Routeburn Track offers wonderful views down into the Hollyford valley - a future packrafting destination!

The Routeburn Track offers wonderful views down into the Hollyford valley – a future packrafting destination!

I hiked most of the 32km Routeburn Track in a single day, and climbed Key Summit (909m) in the evening to sleep there under the stars.

I hiked most of the 32km Routeburn Track in a single day, and climbed Key Summit (909m) in the evening to sleep there under the stars.

The mountains lining Hollyford Valley as seen from Key Summit (909m).

The mountains lining Hollyford Valley as seen from Key Summit (909m).

Evening beauty from Key Summit (909m).

Evening beauty from Key Summit (909m).

Lake Howden on a cold late february morning.

Lake Howden on a cold late february morning.

Hiking down the beautiful Caples Valley. I initially planned to hike the length of the Livingstone Range off-trail, but didn't feel like it at the moment and continued south on the Caples-Greenstone and Mavora Tracks instead.

Hiking down the beautiful Caples Valley. I initially planned to hike the length of the Livingstone Range off-trail, but didn’t feel like it at the moment and continued south on the Caples-Greenstone and Mavora Tracks instead.

A lazy afternoon with good company at the Mid Caples Hut.

A lazy afternoon with good company at the Mid Caples Hut.

Further down the Caples Valley the next morning.

Further down the Caples Valley the next morning.

Taking a break in the Caples Valley.

Taking a break in the Caples Valley.

The weather got worse when I continued into the Greenstone Valley and eventually through the vast tussocklands in the upper Mararoa Valley.

The weather got worse when I continued into the Greenstone Valley and eventually through the vast tussocklands in the upper Mararoa Valley.

Clearing weather in the Mararoa Valley.

Clearing weather in the Mararoa Valley.

Along the North Mavora Lake - I hitched towards Te Anau from the campsite at the southern end of the lake.

Along the North Mavora Lake – I hitched towards Te Anau from the campsite at the southern end of the lake.

I had a rest day in the Anau while the rain poured down, and started a 2-day detour on the Kepler Track the day after. I avoided the boring part of the track along the Waiau River by paddling it instead. The Waiau River is the outflow of the vast Te Anau, and the volume of the river, which has some class II rapids, was impressive. My speed was around 10km/hour.

I had a rest day in the Anau while the rain poured down, and started a 2-day detour on the Kepler Track the day after. I avoided the boring part of the track along the Waiau River by paddling it instead. The Waiau River is the outflow of the vast Te Anau, and the volume of the river, which has some class II rapids, was impressive. My speed was around 10km/hour.

Rainforest in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track.

Rainforest in the Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track.

The Kepler Track includes a long ridgewalk. To beat the crowd, I left at the Iris Burn Campsite over an hour before sunrise, and hiked up through the forest in the pitch dark with my tiny headlight (only works on the Great Walk highways!). I made it up the ridge just as the first sunrays touched the Fiordland Mountains.

The Kepler Track includes a long ridgewalk. To beat the crowd, I left at the Iris Burn Campsite over an hour before sunrise, and hiked up through the forest in the pitch dark with my tiny headlight (only works on the Great Walk highways!). I made it up the ridge just as the first sunrays touched the Fiordland Mountains.

Sunrise from near the Hanging Valley Shelter (1356m), Kepler Track

Sunrise from near the Hanging Valley Shelter (1356m), Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

The South fjord of vast Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

Trampers on the Kepler Track

Trampers on the Kepler Track

Paddling down the Waiau River near Manapouri - the start of my 110km float to the Pacific.

Paddling down the Waiau River near Manapouri – the start of my 110km float to the Pacific.

The Waiau River used to be one of New Zealands main rivers, draining all the water of the vast Lake Te Anau / Lake Manapouri watershed. Most of this water is now diverted into Doubtful Sound for hydroelectricity production, and only spillovers are drained down the Waiau River downstream of this dam at the confluence with the Mararoa River, 10km downstream of Manapouri.

The Waiau River used to be one of New Zealands main rivers, draining all the water of the vast Lake Te Anau / Lake Manapouri watershed. Most of this water is now diverted into Doubtful Sound for hydroelectricity production, and only spillovers are drained down the Waiau River downstream of this dam at the confluence with the Mararoa River, 10km downstream of Manapouri.

Beautiful afternoon paddle on the Waiau River, with the Takitimu Mountains in the back.

Beautiful afternoon paddle on the Waiau River, with the Takitimu Mountains in the back.

The Waiau River was nicer than I expected, with some interesting class II rapids where limestone slabs dipped into the river. Some sections where particularly nice, like the Monowai canyon. I took little pictures as I did not have my camera with me on the water. Here I take a break near the historical Clifden suspension bridge.

The Waiau River was nicer than I expected, with some interesting class II rapids where limestone slabs dipped into the river. Some sections where particularly nice, like the Monowai canyon. I took little pictures as I did not have my camera with me on the water. Here I take a break near the historical Clifden suspension bridge.

Taking out at my last bivy spot, a few kilometers upstream of the town of Tuatapere, and adter paddling 91km on 2 days.

Taking out at my last bivy spot, a few kilometers upstream of the town of Tuatapere, and after paddling 91km on 2 days.

Pacific!

Pacific!

New Zealand part II: the central South Island

After straying off the Te Araroa in Arthur’s Pass National Park, I was about to tackle by far the most daring part of my entire South Island Traverse: over 3 weeks of almost entirely off-trail hiking through some of the wildest country of the Southern Hemisphere – across countless alpine passes in the very hearth of the Southern Alps, with many kilometers of infamous bush-bashing, and including a ford of one of New Zealands most powerful rivers. It was to be the most remote, the most difficult, but also the most rewarding part of my entire trip. My packraft, which I would pick up on the way, would allow me to paddle world-class rivers – including the Tasman River itself, the arterial of the South Island, draining the massive glaciers sliding off the slopes of Aoraki / Mount Cook, the highest summit of the country.

In the end, I did not follow my intended route and even skipped part of it. After a possibly unprecedented 7-pass crossing of Arthurs Pass National Park towards the farmlands of Hokitika at the West Coast, I even decided to hitchhike around to my next resupply at Erewhon Station, skipping a 6-day stretch through the untamed rainforest of the Hokitika watershed, across the Main Divide at Whitcombe Pass, and the ford across the Rakaia River. Why? The Rakaia is a highly demanding ford, where fatal accidents have happened before. I made a bet before my trip putting my packraft in the resupply package after the Rakaia ford, thus avoiding 4kg extra in my pack during a difficult week of hiking. But the Rakaia is a river which can only be attempted to cross in (very) good conditions, and the weather forecast was up for the first rainy weather of the trip. It meant the end of my attempt to make an unpropelled traverse of the Southern Alps. But when I had to paddle across a 100m wide, muddy and powerful Rangitata River a few days later instead of easily fording it in knee-deep water like you can in good conditions, I knew I had made the only safe and right decision – and never thought about it again.

I continued my hike through the hearth of the mountains, and although the harsh terrain and an episode with cold weather and snow down to 1000m made me veer off my original route twice more, it became the most intense part of the entire trip. I crossed passes which are likely visited by only a few people per decade, paddled down fantastic rivers like the Tasman, the Dobson and the Ahuriri, shared the barren valleys with only tahr and chamois, and saw the sun rise from nameless peaks. And I did not meet any other tramper for 18 days straigth. Enjoy!

The walk up Kelly's Creek was a good appetizer of what I could expect during my 4 day crossing of Arthur's Pass National Park - and not the best hike with my hangover from the night before!

The walk up Kelly’s Creek was a good appetizer of what I could expect during my 4 day crossing of Arthur’s Pass National Park – and not the best hike with my hangover from the night before!

View up Hunt's Creek, with Bijleveld Col, the menu for tomorrow morning, in the back. The walk through the valley was slow because of the dense vegetation. I walked most of the distance through the river as it was the easiest (but coldest!) way up.

View up Hunt’s Creek, with Bijleveld Col, the menu for tomorrow morning, in the back. The walk through the valley was slow because of the dense vegetation. I walked most of the distance through the river as it was the easiest (but coldest!) way up.

Camping between the tussocks high in Hunts Creek Valley

Camping between the tussocks high in Hunts Creek Valley

Climbing up to Bijleveld Col

Climbing up to Bijleveld Col

The Central bits of Arthur's Pass National Park from Bijleveld Col (1690m)

The Central bits of Arthur’s Pass National Park from Bijleveld Col (1690m)

The walk from Bijleveld Col to Campbell Pass and up to Mount Campbell was arguably the hardest of the entire trip, with complex orientation, severe bush-bashing, a descent which felt more like canyoning, and a steep climb on scree and boulders. The views from the summit of Mount Campbell (1829m) made up for it!

The walk from Bijleveld Col to Campbell Pass and up to Mount Campbell was arguably the hardest of the entire trip, with complex orientation, severe bush-bashing, a descent which felt more like canyoning, and a steep climb on scree and boulders. The views from the summit of Mount Campbell (1829m) made up for it!

Looking back towards Mount Campbell Range, I came down the pass at the very right of the picture. Steep stuff!!

Looking back towards Mount Campbell Range, I came down the pass at the very right of the picture. Steep stuff!!

Looking towards Whitehorn Pass, first thing to climb tomorrow morning, while descending to Harman Pass

Looking towards Whitehorn Pass, first thing to climb tomorrow morning, while descending to Harman Pass

Camping at Ariels Tarn near Harman Pass after the hardest day of the entire trip.

Camping at Ariels Tarn near Harman Pass after the hardest day of the entire trip.

View back while climbing towards Whitehorn Pass (1753m). A small earthquake occured while I was climbing up and just before I took this picture, bombarding the snowfield with scree and boulders. Luckily I had been smart enough to walk on the safe side.

View back while climbing towards Whitehorn Pass (1753m). A small earthquake occured while I was climbing up and just before I took this picture, bombarding the snowfield with scree and boulders. Luckily I had been smart enough to walk on the safe side.

Taking a break on Whitehorn Pass (1753m)

Taking a break on Whitehorn Pass (1753m)

More harsh terrain on the descent from Whitehorn Pass

More harsh terrain on the descent from Whitehorn Pass

Next goal: the supersteep south side of Browning Pass. With a vague trail, luckily!

Next goal: the supersteep south side of Browning Pass. With a vague trail, luckily!

Looking down the Wilburforce Valley from Browning Pass

Looking down the Wilburforce Valley from Browning Pass

Beautiful Lake Browning on the Pass

Beautiful Lake Browning on the Pass

Morning beauty near Harman Hut

Morning beauty near Harman Hut

The beautiful Arahura valley as seen while traversing to Styx Saddle

The beautiful Arahura valley as seen while traversing to Styx Saddle

Giant slips and landslides had swept away the trail through the Styx valley on many places, forcing me to ford the river a couple of times. Don't think about the name!

Giant slips and landslides had swept away the trail through the Styx valley on many places, forcing me to ford the river a couple of times. Don’t think about the name!

Looking up the wild Styx Valley

Looking up the wild Styx Valley

Once I made it down from the Styx Valley I could check the weather forecast - and decided to hitchhike around to Erewhon Station to avoid the Rakaia River ford. I made a 1-day stop at Arthur's Pass on the way to climb Avalanche Peak (1833m), where I could spot the kea's I'd heard and seen a couple of times during the last few days

Once I made it down from the Styx Valley I could check the weather forecast – and decided to hitchhike around to Erewhon Station to avoid the Rakaia River ford. I made a 1-day stop at Arthur’s Pass on the way to climb Avalanche Peak (1833m), where I could spot the kea’s I’d heard and seen a couple of times during the last few days

Kea's are the world's only alpine parrots, and are said to be one of the smartest animals on the planet. This one gave a quick demonstration by distracting me and posing for pictures, while his buddy was stealing food from my daypack.

Kea’s are the world’s only alpine parrots, and are said to be one of the smartest animals on the planet. This one gave a quick demonstration by distracting me and posing for pictures, while his buddy was stealing food from my daypack.

Views from Avalanche Peak (1833m)

Views from Avalanche Peak (1833m)

Devil's Punchbowl Falls

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls

Picking up my next resupply package at Erewhon Station, including a packraft and new shoes!

Picking up my next resupply package at Erewhon Station, including a packraft and new shoes!

I crossed the Rangitata river near Erewhon Station. This was one of the smaller braids, yet I had to paddle across as the river was wide and swift after a few days of rain along the Divide.

I crossed the Rangitata river near Erewhon Station. This was one of the smaller braids, yet I had to paddle across as the river was wide and swift after a few days of rain along the Divide.

Crossing the Rangitata braids

Crossing the Rangitata braids

The mighty Rangitata braids - to give an idea about the sheer extent of this all, the valley is about 4km wide, and the last channel I had to paddle across was over 100m wide!

The mighty Rangitata braids – to give an idea about the sheer extent of this all, the valley is about 4km wide, and the last channel I had to paddle across was over 100m wide!

Cattle in the Rangitata Valley

Cattle in the Rangitata Valley

Bivy near Mesopotamia Station

Bivy near Mesopotamia Station

Morning beauty near Mesopotamia Station

Morning beauty near Mesopotamia Station

Dust storms on the slopes of Bush Creek on the approach of a cold front. The weather went from clear skies to torrential rain and severe gale in only 3 hours, one of the most rapid and impressive changes I have ever seen in the mountains.

Dust storms on the slopes of Bush Creek on the approach of a cold front. The weather went from clear skies to torrential rain and severe gale in only 3 hours, one of the most rapid and impressive changes I have ever seen in the mountains.

Crooked Spur Hut in the Bush Valley

Crooked Spur Hut in the Bush Valley

I was joined by Kiwi packrafter Dulkara for a couple of days as we hiked through the vast tussocklands of Canterbury High Country towards Godley Valley

I was joined by Kiwi packrafter Dulkara for a couple of days as we hiked through the vast tussocklands of Canterbury High Country towards Godley Valley

Fresh snow at Royal Hut during a brief cold spell

Fresh snow at Royal Hut during a brief cold spell

Ripe while hiking up to Stag Saddle (1902m). Sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds made the crossing of this pass super-cold, with the water freezing in our bottles.

Ripe while hiking up to Stag Saddle (1902m). Sub-zero temperatures and gale force winds made the crossing of this pass super-cold, with the water freezing in our bottles.

Across Stag Saddle, Lake Tekapo far down

Across Stag Saddle, Lake Tekapo far down

Descending into Godley Valley

Descending into Godley Valley. We forded the river without too many problems.

Cozy Ribbonwood hut in the beautiful Godley Valley

Cozy Ribbonwood hut in the beautiful Godley Valley

Cozy Ribbonwood Hut in the Godley Valley (GoPro picture)

Cozy Ribbonwood Hut in the Godley Valley (GoPro picture)

Cozy Ribbonwood hut in the beautiful Godley Valley

Evening beauty, Godley Valley

Climbing up to Rankin Pass, crossing into the Cass Valley

Climbing up to Rankin Pass, crossing into the Cass Valley

Reaching Rankin Pass after a fairly easy climb. There are bivy possibilities about 100m down from the pass on the north side.

Reaching Rankin Pass after a fairly easy climb. There are bivy possibilities about 100m down from the pass on the north side.

The descent down Rankin Pass was along a spectacular moraine wall.

The descent down Rankin Pass was along a spectacular moraine wall.

Descending along the Cass, with Mount Hutton Range in the back

Descending along the Cass, with Mount Hutton Range in the back

Speargrass, also called 'Spaniards grass', trampers worst nightmare. The leaves sting right through the skin.

Speargrass, also called ‘Spaniards grass’, trampers worst nightmare. The leaves sting right through the skin.

Crossing a remote, nameless pass (2050m) on my way from the Cass to the Jollie Valley

Crossing a remote, nameless pass (2050m) on my way from the Cass to the Jollie Valley

Descending into the Jollie valley, a horrendeous bush-bash on steep terrain. My legs were covered in blood by the time I made it down.

Descending into the Jollie valley, a horrendeous bush-bash on steep terrain. My legs were covered in blood by the time I made it down.

Descending along Jollie River

Descending along Jollie River

Storm brewing in the Jollie Valley. I would not sleep a lot that night.

Storm brewing in the Jollie Valley. I would not sleep a lot that night.

Tahr hunters trophy, Jollie Valley

Tahr hunters trophy, Jollie Valley

The beautiful lower Jollie Valley

The beautiful lower Jollie Valley

Paddling down the mighty Tasman River towards Lake Pukaki - Mount Cook (3724m) in the back

Paddling down the mighty Tasman River towards Lake Pukaki – Mount Cook (3724m) in the back

Paddling down the Tasman River!

Paddling down the Tasman River!

Ready to paddle Lake Pukaki

Ready to paddle Lake Pukaki

Aoraki / Mount Cook (3724m) from Lake Pukaki

Aoraki / Mount Cook (3724m) from Lake Pukaki

Looking south across the ridiculously beautiful Lake Pukaki

Looking south across the ridiculously beautiful Lake Pukaki

Paddling across beautiful Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook as a perfect backdrop

Paddling across beautiful Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook as a perfect backdrop

Turqoise Lake Pukaki in the brown steppe landscapes east of the watershed

Turqoise Lake Pukaki in the brown steppe landscapes east of the watershed

Bivy in Jacks Stream Valley while crossing from Lake Pukaki towards the Dobson Valley

Bivy in Jacks Stream Valley while crossing from Lake Pukaki towards the Dobson Valley

The menu for tomorrow morning, Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m) to the left. I would not be surprised if I was the only person crossing this pass during the entire summer

The menu for tomorrow morning, Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m) to the left. I would not be surprised if I was the only person crossing this pass during the entire summer

Mount Cook Range and the Tasman Valley from Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m), the highest summit I climbed during my trip

Mount Cook Range and the Tasman Valley from Kaimakamaka Peak (2431m), the highest summit I climbed during my trip

Looking down the valleys of Irishman Stream (left) and Stony Stream (right). I would descend all the way to Dobson valley through the latter that day

Looking down the valleys of Irishman Stream (left) and Stony Stream (right). I would descend all the way to Dobson valley through the latter that day

Massive amounts of wild tahr were roaming along Stony stream

Massive amounts of wild tahr were roaming along Stony stream

Spreargrass minefield during the descent along Stony Stream

Spreargrass minefield during the descent along Stony Stream

Descending along Stony Stream. Most of the descent was through the riverbed, but at one point the river plunged down into a narrow canyon and I had to make a difficult, steep traverse through the beech forest on the right bank.

Descending along Stony Stream. Most of the descent was through the riverbed, but at one point the river plunged down into a narrow canyon and I had to make a difficult, steep traverse through the beech forest on the right bank.

Reaching wonderful Dobson valley

Reaching wonderful Dobson valley

Paddling down the Dobson River, my favorite packrafting stretch of the entire traverse

Paddling down the Dobson River, my favorite packrafting stretch of the entire traverse

Looking down Dobson Valley during a 20km late afternoon paddle on the river

Looking down Dobson Valley during a 20km late afternoon paddle on the river

Beautiful take-out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Beautiful take-out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Dust storms raging through the valley while taking out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Dust storms raging through the valley while taking out at the confluence of the Dobson and Hopkins Rivers

Evening in Dobson Valley, beautiful Mount Glen Lyon in the back

Evening in Dobson Valley, beautiful Mount Glen Lyon in the back

Beautiful camp sheltered by a group of wilding pines in the Dobson Valley

Beautiful camp sheltered by a group of wilding pines in the Dobson Valley

I climbed out Dobson Valley through the valley of Temple Stream (South Branch) and camped near the tarns at the pass into Watson Valley. I was misted in for most of the next day, the first real weather day of my trip.

I climbed out Dobson Valley through the valley of Temple Stream (South Branch) and camped near the tarns at the pass into Watson Valley. I was misted in for most of the next day, the first real weather day of my trip.

The weather cleared in the evening and I could finally climb the nameless peak (2005m) I had hoped to summit the day before

The weather cleared in the evening and I could finally climb the nameless peak (2005m) I had hoped to summit the day before

Evening light from a nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Evening light from a nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Evening alpenglow from the nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Evening alpenglow from the nameless summit (2005m) in the Mount Maitland Range

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

Sunrise from the nameless summit (2005m)

The Barrier Range from the summit of my nameless mountain (2005m)

The Barrier Range from the summit of my nameless mountain (2005m)

Skyline hotel, Barrier Range

Skyline hotel, Barrier Range

Another stony descent down Watson Creek towards the Ahuriri Valley

Another stony descent down Watson Creek towards the Ahuriri Valley

Reaching the Ahuriri Valley

Reaching the Ahuriri Valley

I paddled down a nice section of the Ahuriri valley from Watson stream towards the Ahuriri Base Hut. There shouldn't have been less water, but I managed to make it down without portaging anything.

I paddled down a nice section of the Ahuriri valley from Watson stream towards the Ahuriri Base Hut. There shouldn’t have been less water, but I managed to make it down without portaging anything.

The beautiful Ahuriri River near Ahuriri Base Hut

The beautiful Ahuriri River near Ahuriri Base Hut

The upper Ahuriri Valley, with Mount Barth (2456m) in the back, as seen while crossing

The upper Ahuriri Valley, with Mount Barth (2456m) in the back, as seen while crossing

Hiking down the Upper Dingle Burn Valley

Hiking down the Upper Dingle Burn Valley

Due to numerous landslides the track through the lower Dingle Burn valley is now a through hike with about 1000m of climbing (and descent) on the 8km stetch through the beech forest between Cotters Hut and Bush Hut. I slept in cozy Bush hut and hurried down this last section towards Lake Hawea the next morning - hoping to be there before the wind picked up.

Due to numerous landslides the track through the lower Dingle Burn valley is now a through hike with about 1000m of climbing (and descent) on the 8km stetch through the beech forest between Cotters Hut and Bush Hut. I slept in cozy Bush hut and hurried down this last section towards Lake Hawea the next morning – hoping to be there before the wind picked up.

I reached Lake Hawea - still flat like a mirror - around 10am and paddled across as fast as I could. The wind started to pick up just after I completed the 3km crossing of the lake - this is a view back from the western shore.

I reached Lake Hawea – still flat like a mirror – around 10am and paddled across as fast as I could. The wind started to pick up just after I completed the 3km crossing of the lake – this is a view back from the western shore.

Lake Hawea from 'The Neck', where I reached the highway after picking up another food drop at Hunters Farm. I was invited in for a nice dinner with pizza and could have all the sausages the family couldn't finish - I don't dare to tell how many I ate :-)

Lake Hawea from ‘The Neck’, where I reached the highway after picking up another food drop at Hunters Farm. I was invited in for a nice dinner with pizza and could have all the sausages the family couldn’t finish – I don’t dare to tell how many I ate🙂