4 October 2020
Forecast 140kph winds made the proposed Mt Oakden trip impractical. We had done most of the North-West alternatives recently, but going up to the Gap from the Kowai River might protect us from most of the gales. The desire to get out and do something must have been strong although the view from Springfield of snow well down below the Gap was a worry to those who had thought a succession of warm days heralded summer conditions.
Strong winds in the car park made changing difficult, but that calmed as we turned the first corner and started the theme of the day. Warm, calm conditions, pleasant walking and much catching-up with people we hadn’t seen for a while. Lisa, Rich and Ian diverted to “bag” the Kowai Hut while the rest sat in the sun with superb views to the Gap.
Travel across the terrace was quick and the crossing and re-crossing of the upper Kowai River caused no problems. The start of the ridge was a different story. The initial ridge is very eroded, and an attempted diversion up a gully caused everyone to stop with some alarm when a large boulder started to move with Graeme on top. The rest of the ridge blew away many cobwebs with Douglas finding cairns in odd places through the tussock. Lunch on the rocky knob at 1400m at the snowline provided an ideal vantage point to consider the remaining 300m climb as well as discuss routes towards Castle Hill and the Red Peak of Torlesse. Ice-axes and poles were redistributed so everyone had something, but fantastic snow conditions gave little problem as we zig-zagged upwards.
The Gap is a dramatic place. It is visible from many directions, but it is hard to get an idea of scale unless you are standing within it. Sheer walls and a narrow lip of snow frame views in either direction. The luxury of windless conditions is even more surprising on a North-West day, eventually thoughts of descent and the long valley walk made us leave.
Some were nervous about the descent, but softened snow is very forgiving and sliding down on tussock is easy compared to ascending it. We dropped left into the main stream early to avoid the eroded ridge and found an easy route that would be better for future ascents. Then only the long trudge back to the cars remained.
A fantastic spring day, with plenty of opportunity for stops and conversation. It’s nice to remember what tramping is all about.
Trampers: Lisa and Rich Ainley, Kerry Moore, Sue Piercey, Graeme Read, Aarn Tate, Liz and Ian Wightwick, Douglas Woods, Peter Umbers and Gary Huish (leader). (GH).
Party enroute to the Gap. Photo courtesy of Kerry Moore
Climbing up the snow slopes to the Gap. Photo courtesy of Kerry Moore.
In the Gap. Photo courtesy of Kerry Moore.