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Trip Report – Rock Sitting & Whisky Drinking on Mt Momus

By: Martin Hawes

Source: Central Otago Newsletter (May 2018)

As you drive up to the Routeburn, Mt Momus sits proud and dominant. It is a beautiful little peak, only 2,148 metres but just the right, triangular, peaky sort of shape.

Wendy Johnston, Derek Chinn and I decided to explore this pretty little number. Courtesy of Wendy’s superb route-finding, my “helpful” comments and Derek’s ability to carry the rope (despite a recent back operation) we shuffled off from the Routeburn carpark in slightly doubtful weather.

The access is a bit complicated although not terribly difficult. We headed up the Routeburn for about 20 minutes and then hung a right up the track to Sugar Loaf Pass. When we broke out of the bush, we left the comfort of the track and headed NW to gain an obvious ridge up on the left.

Here is where the “fun” starts – first you have to drop 80 metres down into a basin and then climb a steep, grassy couloir to another ridge. This couloir gets a bit tricky in places (expertise at climbing newly mowed lawns that have been tilted to 70 degrees would be helpful) but we powered up it with all the style that you’d expect from three escapees from the local rest home. At the top of this we looked down on another basin with no option except to descend another 80 metres and cross it to a small stream. This stream provides good access to yet another (I am glad to say final) basin.

From this third basin at about 1550 metres you get a good look at the remainder of the route. You also get a good look at a bunch of tarns and perfect, flat bivy sites. One of these was selected (a lovely spot) and the whisky drinking started. (Whisky drinking on these trips is a very old and sacred tradition and brave attempts are always made to ensure that we are not weighed down by having to carry out excess whisky. Taking whisky home is very poor form indeed!)

Before too much whisky had been drunk, Wendy and Derek scouted the route for the following morning while I made myself useful by sitting on a rock. This (the scouting, not the sitting) proved valuable because getting out of our bivy basin was in part via some crumbly old moraine walls. A good line was discovered and Wendy and Derek were soon back to help me with rock-sitting (and whisky drinking – we have all learned to do two things at once).

Next morning, following a hearty breakfast of Panadol and voltaren, we were off. We carried the rope and a small rack which proved quite helpful in slowing down Derek.

We climbed the moraine wall and quite quickly found ourselves on a small, unnamed glacier at about 1800 (I thought Hawes Glacier had a nice ring to it but my two friends weren’t buying). We plodded up this still unnamed glacier (a bit of white ice but no slots) to the foot of the summit block.

A shallow rock and rubbish couloir ran up above us and it was here that Derek hoped he might be relieved of the rope and rack. However, we started off ropeless and remained so to the summit. The line up through the summit block was mostly scrambling (sometimes on loose rock, sometimes on quite compact rock) with a few steeper moves.

We broke out quite close to the summit with no rope necessary except as Chinn-ballast. Of course, well into a long, hot summer, the summit block was dry – it could be a different proposition if it held snow or ice.

A few minutes on the summit and we retraced our steps, back-climbing the couloir and stomping down the glacier to the bivy. An hour to rest and pack and we moved on down with our packs made lighter by a complete absence of whisky – a successful trip.

Mt Momus has much to recommend it as a nice little weekend jaunt. It could be done in a day from Queenstown or Wanaka but for those who like to mix their Glenfiddich with pure mountain water, it has abundant bivy sites for a very comfortable and relaxed night out.

Posted: 14/05/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland