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Trip Report – The Warrior (6th – 8th February 2016)

By Matthew Blakely

Waitangi weekend saw seven members of the Canterbury/Westland section of NZAC come together to tackle the much vaunted and partly mysterious Warrior in the Armoury Range. The weather Gods for the trip had smiled favourably on the magnificent seven as we met early on Saturday morning at an undisclosed location to steel ourselves for the journey ahead. After the obligatory recaffeination break and nuanced game plan laid out by Matt, onwards to Erewhon our convoy travelled.

10am saw the group arrive at Erewhon Station, gateway to the Armoury Range, however, how could seven men be ferried 13kms up the Clyde River in a five seater 4WD? The best answer lay in performing a relay where two would walk while the others would ‘rest’ while travelling in the four wheeled trampoline up the mighty river. This strategy proved reasonably effective with only minor clashing of heads and jarring of elbows for the brave volunteers subjected to the rocky river’s meandering path. As a result, good time was made until half way up the Clyde where a major obstacle presented itself in the form of a crossing of the river’s main tributary.

Like many journeys involving exploration and adventure a hero will emerge amongst the group who stands up above the others when the call is needed. In this particular instance, steering down the barrel of a swift Clyde River, our hero stepped forward, it was James, known by many in his native Amberley as a more hip if not slightly shorter version of Barry Crump, the 5 foot 5 modern age ‘Crumpy’ used a combination of brute force and mathematical genius to successfully calculate the vehicle’s trajectory downstream and across the river. Any good keen man would have been impressed with the performance, after which the group triumphantly marched on towards the Clyde/ Sinclair confluence.

From here a 4.5 hour walk and an 800m climb to the head of the valley was required at which point camp guardian and alpine sage Charles declared to all that the advanced base camp had been reached. This site was truly one to behold – endless bivvy spots with wide, flat, open spaces, good water supplies and a nearby tarn for those brave enough. Better still was the four course meal put on by Charles and Matt which consisted of lamb madras on a bed of rice, seared beef cutlets, spiced tomato mince accompanied with pasta, finished off with Christmas pudding with dollops of custard. Satisfied the troop retired in preparation for the early start the following morning.

Like all well planned trips an official timekeeper had been appointed for the journey. Due to his impressive early morning ethic and atomically accurate chronograph this great honour was bestowed upon Piotr, who diligently set his multifunctional timepiece to 4 o’clock. Unfortunately, for the tech savvy alpinist the alarm set button proved too challenging a task, although by mid-afternoon, on the way back down the Sinclair, when James’ alarm came to life, the group were humorously reminded by the comical fiend that it was time to wake up. Fortunately, however, for the group night owl Tim woke everyone in reasonable time and after a latish start the group were on Crossbow Saddle at 7am where we got our first view of the impressive summit towering 500m above us. Good conditions meant that we could crampon around the head of the Kirk Glacier to Battleaxe Col without any issues. Generally the group stayed close, however, Ben, sporting the world’s smallest day pack, likened by some as a cross between a camelback and a reggae hemp satchel, was busy laying down a marker as the would-be fittest man on game day. From the Battleaxe the blackened, broken South Ridge of The Warrior stood imposingly before us, unfazed, we continued up the ridge for a closer look, however, after an hour of negotiating loose shattered rock John summed up what everyone was thinking – The Warrior in these conditions was an improbable summit, others meanwhile, chose more colourful language to describe the mountain’s fractured ridge. After a team talk we bailed out of our primary objective and turned our focus towards nearby Amazon Peak which lay only a straightforward 30mins and 180m above Battleaxe Col. The views from the summit were impressive looking directly across the Clyde and Havelock Valleys to Mt D’Archiac, the Garden of Eden and Mt Lambert, nearly half an hour went by as the group basked in the glory of reaching the summit and enjoying the shared sense of achievement. The trip back down to Crossbow Saddle and then below to our base camp was rapid in just over 1.5 hours and without any issues except for a small meteorite that seemed to be gravitating into the orbit of Tim below us. Never has a man moved so quickly or calmly as he showed the speed of Jessie Owens and the footwork of Kane Williamson to evade the sofa sized boulder hurtling towards him.

By mid-afternoon we were on safe ground in the Sinclair and like many high performance athletes after a big game into the ice baths of the nearby tarn we went.

Undoubtedly our mile high campsite at the head of the Sinclair River would have to be one of the best bivvy sites around. After packing up we headed back down the Sinclair River and within four hours we had reached the Clyde Valley where the 4WD was parked amongst more excellent bivvy spots. The two chefs for the evening meal, Tim and John, were not to be outdone by their contemporaries as they laid on plenty of food for the group who had been on the move for 12 hours – whoever knew that tofu could be so tasty! Once again the group stayed up late around the campsite, exchanging war stories and thoughts on the world at large before gradually turning in.

Team talk on Battleaxe Col.  Ramsay Glacier and Lauper Peak in the distance.  Photo: J. Hobson

Team talk on Battleaxe Col. Ramsay Glacier and Lauper Peak in the distance. Photo: J. Hobson

The following morning saw low cloud and a number of sand flies descend into the valley. After a short walk by Charles and Ben to Black Bluff, Tim and Matt volunteered to run the remaining 10kms to Erewhon Station. Looking more like Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett in a classic 1,500m duel the pair rapidly disappeared into the morning fog, scorching over the 4WD track to arrive at the starting point at 10am, a full 30mins before their more cautious support crew. Back in civilisation a team ‘debriefing’ was held in the sunshine of Mt Somers over a meat pie and a coffee before a relaxing journey back to Christchurch.

All told it was an excellent weekend out with fellow NZAC members. Successfully the team had summited a peak, however, more importantly the trip provided an environment where seven individuals could come together as a collective unit to share a commonly held passion – the mountains. As a result we learned, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company, what better way to spend a long Waitangi weekend.

Posted: 04/03/16

Posted By: Narina Sutherland