Southern Alps, NZ

If you like photos of mountains, you are in the right place.  Alex wisely let the pictures do the talking in her most recent post from the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers. Since then, we’ve spent about three weeks in Wanaka, a gateway to Mt Aspiring Nat’l Park and the Southern Alps of NZ. I will follow Alex’s lead and let more photos do most of the talking.

That is Liverpool Hut, where Coco, Holly, William and I spent a night humming Sound of Music songs for some reason.

Coco on the final approach to Liverpool, following a brutal 700-meter climb straight up the south-east flank of Mount Barff.

Dawn’s early light. On Barff.

The long slog down from the alpine zone.

Alex, Coco, and Phoebe walking in to the iconic Aspiring Hut, where our entire group (minus Big Phoebe, off on her own adventure) spent the night prior to Liverpool.

Aspiring Hut.  No reservations needed – just show up and a bunk awaits you.  God Bless NZ.

A few days later, Alex, William and I got another thrill when Tony the Pilot dropped us at Bevan Col for a couple of days of climbing with Aritza, our stoic Basque-by-way-of-Peru guide.

Colin Todd Hut.

The hut sits at the base of Shipowner’s Ridge, the most common route to the summit of Mt. Aspiring. We’ll get to that next time.

Alex and William hamming it up with Aritza in the hut.  We eventually got him to crack a smile.

Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Dawn over the Bonar Glacier.

Alex getting vertical.

William plotting something with an ice screw.

Back at the helicopter pad.  A storm rolled in and the clouds descended and Aritza dragged us across the glacier just in time for Tony the Pilot to scoop us up. Hard to see in this shot but Aritza is frantically watching his satellite phone for some assurance that Tony is on his way (sparing Aritza two unplanned bonus nights in the hut with us).

Reunited in warm, sunny Wanaka.

A warmer, drier form of climbing to celebrate Coco’s 10th birthday.  That is the birthday girl at the top of the rope.

Festivities that night.

Our next adventure had us at the Top Forks Hut, at the head of the Wilkin River, for three nights of tramping (Kiwi version of hiking).

Rabbit Pass. We swam in some very, very cold glacial lakes up there.

Another long slog out from the high country.

Departing the Wilkin Valley.

We’ve taken a quick trip down to Milford Sound and Te Anau, where I am typing this now.  Both are parts of the mighty Fiordlands (sic), where the bottom of the planet does indeed feel close at hand.  It is easily one of the most dramatic spots on Earth, but we are paying a brief visit and there is no way we leave here with the breadth of memories that we took from Wanaka.  We were very lucky to spend such a nice stretch in Wanaka, and I am happy to say that we made good use of that time.

Speaking of time, could I interest anyone in a loveable and quirky 2001 Nissan van (we call her Dusty) with only 235,000 kms on it in the next week? Dusty is priced to move, have no doubt! Here she is on the Te Anau – Milford road, looking both regal and stout and ready for more adventures with the right crew.

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