Monday, 8 September 2008
Chasing moon beams and red Lions.
Moonbeam Hut (above)is one of my favourite West Coast Huts as it stands midst pristine bush, and is a gateway, upstream, to the high mountains and, downstream, a start for some of the best kayaking on the West Coast. It is one of those rare huts where you can have climbers, kayakers, shooters and trampers under one roof for the night.
At the head on County Stream, which forks off from the Waitaha valley, is Mt. Evans (left)and Red Lion Peak (high peak) right. The photo was taken on the first winter ascent of both peaks of Red Lion in August 1992. Photo: Bob McKerrow.
But read on, for at the end of the article, I have just discovered news that developers (westpower) may ruin the lower reaches of the Waitaha River by building a hydro-electric plant on the lower reaches at Morgan Gorge. GOD SAVE NEW ZEALAND !!!
Moonbeam hut can be found on the true left of the Waitaha valley on a terrace 10 minutes upriver from Moonbeam Torrent. Surrounded by pleasant montane rata/ kamahi forest it provides a mid-valley stopover for those heading to the head basins of the Waitaha River or the County Stream.
County Hut looking up County Stream to Smyth Saddle: Photo Warren Chinn 2005)
I used Moonbeam and County Huts after the first winter ascent of the high and low peaks of Red Lion in 1992. I climbed the Red Lion peaks with an overweight and unfit Publican who was 'Le Patron' of the Red Lion Hotel in Hokitika, and the peak was named after his pub in 1865 by two surveyors who used to drink at the Red Lion Hotel, and who first surveyed the area. What an affort it was getting Peter Hill (photo below)up an 8,000 foot mountain in winter. But with a few friends we managed it.
I remember clearly our final camp at 5,000 feet in the upper couny stream. Getting Peter Hill ready for the climb was a hoot. It was 8 degrees Celsius below. He didn't know how to put his gaiters or putties on so Rod Buchanan offered to help. The cotton gaiters had frozen and Rod was wrestling to get them on with his head between Peter's legs. As he looked up, he remarked, " Now I know hos Queen Victoria's gynaecologist must have felt."
Peter Hill, on the top of the low peak of Red Lion, heading for the high Peak on the left. Photo: Bob McKerrow
County Hut is located in the headwaters of the County Stream in the Waitaha valley. This is an area of superb, rugged, and remote West Coast high-country. The upper County basin is open tussock and extends up to the pristine alpine snowfields, glaciers and ice plateaux of the Mt. Evans massif.The Hut is perched above the true right of the County Stream just below the Bloomfield Creek confluence. Vegetation around it is mixed alpine scrub and tussock and there are views of the Smyth, Bloomfield and Hitchen Ranges.
Mt.Evans taken from Red Lion Peak. Photo Bob McKerrow
I have written and showed photos of what is above my Moonbeam Hut, but below it, is some of the best white water paddling in New Zealand. Thanks to Zak Shaw for providing this information.
Paddling through the Waitaha Gorge.Photo: Zak Shaw
Image - Zak Shaw
The Waitaha is a big day by any one's standards. Most parties take between six and nine hours to break down the continuous class 4-5 rapids that exist below Moonbeam hut. The difficulty of the whitewater is unrelenting and is mostly found in several committing bedrock gorges.
Once the third gorge opens out and the valley walls widen the intensity backs off briefly before smooth schist walls rise again and the river dramatically carves its way into the heart of Morgan gorge.
New Zealands Waitaha under threat
This is what they are planning to ruin with a dam. Morgan Gorge. Photo: David Taylor Maurier
We stand to loose one of New Zealand's most stunning river gorges, the Morgan Gorge. An area of pristine wilderness and supreme beauty the Waitaha river in years to come will find itself becoming increasingly threatened.
In the words of kayaker Zak Shaw "Its the classic river dichotomy. To construct a single turbine hydro scheme or realise that 40mw of power is bugger all and the sacrifice is far from being worth it. This time its the Waitaha that will be exploited. "We stand to loose one of New Zealand's most stunning river gorges, the Morgan Gorge. An area of pristine wilderness and supreme beauty the Waitaha river in years to come will find itself becoming increasingly threatened." Read Zak's blog
What has Westpower to say about this ?
15/11/2007 - Lines company Westpower is looking at building a 120Gwh hydro power scheme on the Waitaha River, 15km south of Ross on the West Coast.
Chairman Mike Newcombe said on Wednesday the scheme would be situated where the river flowed through the Morgan Gorge, below Kiwi Flat, at the head of the valley.
The proposal -- which would generate about half the power of Trustpower's proposed 46MW Arnold River scheme near Greymouth -- would have a peak output of about 20MW.
Westpower said it had already undertaken an environmental risk assessment and started flow monitoring of the Waitaha. Consultation with interested groups would be held.
Green Party conservation spokeswoman Metiria Turei said she would be keeping an eye on developments.
"A hydro scheme in the Morgan Gorge would intrude on a pristine and rugged valley, much valued for its biodiversity and recreational opportunities," she said.
Westpower is also working on reopening the old Amethyst hydro scheme on a tributary of the Wanganui River, near Harihari.
It hoped to lodge the consent application for that scheme in the new year.
Meridian Energy has an even larger proposal for the Mokihinui River, in northern Buller.
That would generate about 20MW more than the Arnold River scheme, and the company also hoped to lodge the consent application soon.
Source: AAP NewsWire