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Trip Report – Turner Peak

By: Neil Sloan

To go or not to go????? Third time to postpone or…?

Keith decided to take the plunge, do the drive and risk the dodgy forecast. The Makarora was fordable which was a great start and soon we were carefully ducking through electric fences and heading up the Wilkin pushed by a gusty southerly. While it was a lot more scenic than the Waimakariri, it is still a massively wide valley and it was a pity the jet boats were too far away to be flagged down. However, it was a great chance to yak and get to know each other. We lunched on a green grassy terrace close to the invitingly open gut slicing up through the beech to the bush line. Keith’s short cut through the bush popped us out neatly just where the gut opened out and from there we chased Geoff. The steep-sided gut had been scraped off by avalanches and in a few spots made for edgy travel with little vegetation to hang onto.

A couple of hours later we clambered up the remnant avalanche debris and searched for a flattish area for our crew on the tussock shelf. An agreeable area was located and a variety of sleeping arrangements were set up. Heather opted for a bivvy bag, Andy had his lightweight tent which Gina quickly recognised as having tons of room for her as well, while Keith and Jeff occupied yellow coffin tents. Geoff and I opted for the suburbs nearby.

The weather elicited some hope for a summit. We could see it, which was a reasonable start despite the 90% cloud cover pushing over all the other peaks. Splashes of sunlight fell on us and the wind had dropped. We should have appreciated these pleasant conditions more. Things were to get worse…

turnerPeak1 OTA yelp in the morning from the CBD woke me to dawn. It had rained overnight and the cloud level was only marginally above our encampment. Geoff and I thought it prudent to spend another hour asleep but were shamed by the rapid movement of headlamps across the way. Within an hour we had hidden our gear from the pair of reticent keas and were stomping off up through tussock into the murk. I slunk along at the back wondering what the point was. Tussock gave way to soft, breakable-crust snow and we revolved around at the front making holes for the remainder of the group to wallow into. Wrapped tightly in cloud the scenery remained hidden. Then bright sunlight! We had our shadows back! Hope was born of popping out of the clag with blue sky above and summits spiking through the ice cap-like cloud top. Faces lit up with excitement and a sense of purpose was clear. Very quickly the gloom fell over us however and we stomped on up that white slope inside that cloying white envelope. Black rocks appeared mysteriously distant – or maybe quite close; the slope had become steeper and an ice axe was thought to be prudent and next minute we were off that endless white slope and on a ridge. Big excitement. The altimeter numbers indicated an imminent summit or a misreading piece of technology.

Light snow driven by a light northerly saw us approaching a pile of rocks which we cautiously thought might be the summit cairn. The ridge sloped down and we unanimously decided e’d made it. First summit for Heather for a long while and a satisfying step in her recovery. But we all felt pleased to at least get to the top after all the effort.

Food, photos and, chilling down quickly, it was time to go. This should have been a fabulous view point peak but not today. The snow was abysmally deep by now but fortunately bum sliding was feasible in places and soon enough we were back lunching at camp below cloud line. The video continued to rewind as we headed off down the avalanche gut. Some decided to make additional footage for the descent, from inside the bush but soon we all reunited back at our grassy lunch spot from the day before. All that remained was the three hour wander back down valley to the cars in late afternoon sun.

Despite any negativity which may be gleaned from the above, it was a very enjoyable trip. Despite the lack of views!

From the Wanaka based contingent, it was just great to actually have an Alpine Club trip to make up for what is not happening in the apparently still-born Central Otago section.

Trip members: Keith Moffat (organiser) Gina Andrews, Jeff Cleugh, Jeff Collie, Andy Pohl, Heather Rhodes and Neil Sloan (writer)

Source: Otago Section Newsletter

Posted: 07/12/16

Posted By: Narina Sutherland