Thursday, 8 January 2009

Journey to Arthur's Pass

We stopped at Mt. Rolleston, and gazed at the Bealey Face. Photo: Bob McKerrow

It's 11 days into 2009. I have been in New Zealand since 13 November for major surgery: Total knee replacement on both legs. Quite an undertaking.

My Christmas and New Year present were two spanking, brand new knees that work so well and I feel no pain. The joy of striding across green fields with a strength in my knees is a feeling I have been devoid of for many years, and, to cap it off, no pain.

On Thursday 8 January I felt I was back to normal seven weeks after the operation as I did totally normal things such as day outings into the mountains and to be in the thick of beech forests in Arthur's Pass.

My good friend Robin Judkins, the creator of New Zealand's famous Coast to Coast endurance event, pulled up in his BMW yesterday, and said, "we are off to do my pre-Coast to Coast checks and PR." Being the owner of one of the largest, longest-running, and potentiallly dangerous mountain triathlon, Robin Judkins and his team leave no stone unturned when it comes to organisation and safety. With his car stacked with his sponsors products, Speight's beer, we headed off towards Arthur's Pass.

The first stop was at Jim Adams farm near Sheffield. Jim is a sheep farmer with a large land area and stock, provides a paddock on the road as a car park, during the Coast to Caost. Robin drops off a few crates of beer and talks to him about the car park and how it will be organised. Robin has the common touch, and mixes freely in a warm and endearing manner.

Robin Judkins discussing carparks and safety with farmer Jim Adams. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Looking towards the high peaks of Arthur's Pass. Mt. Avalanche is the prominent one in the left. Photo: Bob McKerrow

How I enjoyed driving up towards Porter's Pass with temperatures soaring up to 35 oC and the wind blowing in my hair. We visited Castle Hill village and beyond that we struck the view of the high peaks of Arthur's Pass. This is part of the mighty Southern Alps that string almost the length of the South Island.
I always pay a visit to Oscar Coberger ski depot which is now the Wobbly Kea. It is a pilgrimage to a great mountain man who brought the European alpine village concept to New Zealand and was a ski instructor, mountain guide and gear hire depot at Arthur's Pass. His grand daughter Annelise won a silver medal in slalom skiing in the 1992 winter olympics, the first and only New Zealander to do so.

The brief story of Oscar Coberger's shop. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The memorial tablet to those in the Corberger family who have passed away. Photo: Bob McKerrow

This larger building was built by Hans Bohny, a Swiss mountain guide and is now the Wobbly Kea. Photo: Bob McKerrow

After pulling over at the Mt. Rolleston car park, we took in the amazing view of the Otira Face of Rolleston. There were many cars with kayaks and racing cycles on the tacks and the owners were here for training on the kayak section on the Waimakariri River. Robin stopped to talk to the competitors who all knew this living New Zealand treasure.

As we drove, Robin Judkins studied the landscape carefully. Being an artist he's always looking for inspiration. Here is one of his paintings of this area.

Robin Judkins pointing up the mouth of the Mingha River (thanks Jamie) which is where the mountain run finishes. Photo: Bob McKerrow

We then inspected the situation at Klondyke Corner. Robin was delighted one strand of the river came right to the foot of the carpark. He checked all the facilities and talked to competitors who had just run form the West Coast over the Goat pass via the Minga and Deception rivers.

We called in at the Bealey Pub which was built and still owned by Paddy Freaey mountaineer, publican and the 'man who rediscovered the Moa'. Robin and I have known Paddy for years and he came from his house across the road with his wife Rochelle to join us. Here is a living legend. An Irishman who joined the SAS in the UK and rose through the ranks to be an outstanding soldier and an even greater mountaineer. From his base at Arthur's Pass he inspired and trained many of New Zealand's great climbers such as Russell Bryce and Rob Hall. Paddy who is in his early 70s or more, is still actively climbing and doing trips to Patagonia, and other major trips with Rochelle.

At the Bealey Pub, L to R, Robin Judkins, Bob McKerrow, Rochelle and Paddy Freany

Robin with the new manager of the Bealey Pub. During the Coast to Coast, he books out the entire pub for the weekend. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Next it was onto Mt.White bridge the change over from the cycling leg to the long kayak stretch down the Waimakariri River. Here Robin goes in for a swim to check out the kayak landing. To keep his clothes dry he swims naked, not a pretty sight.

At Mt. White bridge, Robin surveying the landing point. Photo: Bob McKerrow

One of the other key people in the region is station master and rail repair man at Cass, Barry Drummond. Cass is an isolated spot on the railway line between Christchurch and Greymouth and its Barry's job, to maintain the track. After Cass, we drove down from Porter's Pass to be blasted by a hot furnace as Christchurch was sweltering in 35.7 oC. As we came into Christchurch the car swayed and lurched in a dangerous manner. We skidded to a halt to find the rear tyre had blown open. Never a dull moment with Robin Judkins. A day where I met Jim, Barry, Rochelle, Paddy and lots of Coast to Coast competitors. Above all, I renewed my relationship with Tane Mahuta and the high Maunga.


Unknown said...

Haha, good on you Bob, great to see the photos of home!

Couple of typos for the net historians of the future, thats the bealey face of Mt Rolleston (fancy climbing a mountain so long ago you can't remember what it looks like!!) and the mouth of the Mingha.

Awesome you're getting back to full speed


Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Dear Jamie - Kia Ora

For 20 years I thought that was the Otira Face ! Maybe I climbed the Eigerwand !

Also thanks for your correctyion about the Mingha.

Unknown said...

The Eigerwand, sometime I am going to go and sit below that and suck in the history. What great stories!


Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Jamie, Kia Ora! I fixed the caption on the first photo. Thanks.

Know I have my new knees, why don't we climb it together. Rann Fienes climbed it at 61 with many of his fingers missing. God Jamie, you could do it solo ! Will we see you before I leave Mobday ? Are you an orienteer. I saw your namesake doing well ?



Anonymous said...

Just a wee correction to your enjoyable article. The Wobbly Kea wasn't built by Hans Bohny. Hans built the Chalet Restaurant further west in the village. It is now known as Arthur's Chalet.

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