29 March 2007

McPherson - Talbot

At long last I have tried my hand at mountaineering. Michael took me up the McPherson - Talbot traverse which starts at the Homer Tunnel (on the way to Milford Sound) and climbs up and over the big snow cap that hangs over the large water fall North of the Tunnel. Map.

The climb up from Homer Tunnel to the Saddle was nice and straight forward (so long as you don't try a direct line, but instead walk to the water fall and then up). But the ridge up to McPherson, with 900 metre drops either side scared me a bit.

The traverse across the snow up to Talbot Pass was very relaxing with spectacular views. I really enjoyed this intro to crampons and axes.

Getting of the snow cap and onto the Talbot Traverse was a bit tricky. The traverse is quite taxing so the further you can get on the snow the better. Scrambling the boulders on the traverse was a little technical and took some time, but the views remained stunning. Getting off the traverse becomes obvious where the snow on the other side (Gertrude Valley side) comes up to meet the Traverse Pass.

Again, a little tricky getting onto the snow. The easy snow walking didn't last long as it continued to get steeper and steeper. We ended up front pointing down, digging toes and axes in and stepping down at a very slow rate. I was quite nervous on the icey sections, and slipped once requiring a self arrest with my axe! Quite a heart starter that is. Without the axe it would be 100s of metres down to the valley rocks!

Eventually we made it onto the spurs that deliver down into Gertrude Valley. Finding a route down these spurs would have been a challenge if the clouds were thicker and the cairn rocks piles where any more sparse... very beautiful rock slabs with abundant alpine flowers.

We made it down to the Black Lake where quite a few others arrived from different trips in the Darren Mountains. Two guys had just returned from 5 days setting up alpine sport routes! They placed 50 bolts with a petrol drill, laying multi pitch routs of grade 16, 18 and 20.

From there it was a very straight forward walk down the Gertrude Valley back to the road and up to the car at Homer Tunnel, ending a 12 hour trip and starting a 4.5 hour drive home.

What an amazing excursion! many thanks Mike for leading me through it! Our combined photos here.