Friday, 31 October 2014

Flashback: A new high for a pair of hippies


HIPPIES ON TOP: Peter Gough, left, and John Glasgow after their historic climb.

 I  was finishing a year at Vanda Station in Antarctica in November 1970 when I got the news that Pete Gough and John Glasgow had done the first ascent of the Caroline Face of Mt. Cook Aoraki. This was the hallowed  piece de resistance of New Zealand mountaineering and I could not have thought of two better people to take it, than these two. Competition was fierce with Graeme Dingle, George Harris and Murray Jones all eying the unclimbed grueling route, notorious for its spectacular - and deadly- ice avalanches.
The sky turned purple and green when John Glasgow and Peter Gough came down off Mt Cook.
It was November 7, 1970, and the pair had become the first to scale the Caroline Face of New Zealand's highest peak, also known as Aoraki
The face had tempted climbers for years. The bodies of John Cousins and Michael Goldsmith, were never recovered after their fatal attempt in 1963.
                           The Caroline Face of Aoraki Mount Cook. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The mountain had beaten Gough and Glasgow before. The previous year they had aborted a climb, with two others, after a harrowing trip across a crevasse, only to come across a storm.
After that attempt, involving a night-time clamber down a gully, jumping down waterfalls with little idea what was below, they vowed never to climb a mountain again, Glasgow said.
The vow didn't last, and in November 1970 the pair returned.
The crevasse that had hindered their mission the previous year was no longer there.
Gough would say the first day of the two-day climb was the worst, as the face often had avalanches.
The Evening Post would report that the face - "virtually a snow and ice climb" - was one of the greatest climbing challenges in the world.

 STILL OUTDOORS: These days John Glasgow is a guide in the Abel Tasman area at the top of the South Island.

Its safest route was up a sharp, rocky ridge, but it still had spectacular ice avalanches that could wipe climbers off the mountain, and had done so previously.
They set up a bivouac on a ridge that night, almost 1000 metres from the summit, where Glasgow recalled: "A small avalanche went past 20 to 30 metres below us. You just look at it and hope the big one doesn't come after."
That night was a meal of tins of stew, chocolate, biscuits, and hot drinks.
They survived the night and set out the next morning into the "crux pitch" - a sheer ice climb and reportedly the hardest challenge they would face that day.
But luck and good timing were on their side. A crack they could climb had appeared in the ice face. Ice conditions were ideal, with the sun softening the ice on the surface but leaving firm ice to anchor to beneath.
With people watching through binoculars from below, including some at the Hermitage Hotel, they emerged on to the ice fields, along the ridge of the mountain.
Crossing the field was "like a roof", Glasgow said - ice sheets dropping away on either side with nothing of the mountain visible beneath.
They reached the ridge but never bothered with the nearby summit - that had been done before - then dropped down the west face, an easier descent.
"I remember a degree of relief at getting off it," Glasgow said. "I remember Pete saying, 'You're a bit of an idiot, Glasgow, but it was good to do it with you'."
Approaching the Gardiner Hut - at 1700m on Noeline Rock, above Hooker Glacier - the sun had set and the sky to the south flashed green and purple.
Neither man mentioned the psychedelic sky. "We thought we were just tired," Glasgow said.
What was really playing out as they re-entered civilisation was the natural phenomenon Aurora Australis.
Back at the Hermitage Hotel there was "quite a furore" over their successful climb. The story was splashed across the front pages of newspapers around New Zealand.
An American woman approached the pair at the Hermitage and asked to speak to their manager. They had no manager, so she volunteered for a day.
She bought a stack of copies of The Press and got Glasgow and Gough to sign each one. She sold them for $15 each and gave the two climbers the proceeds.
"That was our one day of having a manager."
In the hype that followed their climb, Glasgow would describe it as a "triumph for hippies".
Both men had beards and long hair, and Glasgow - who would go on to live in a commune near Motueka - was pictured wearing John Lennon-style sunglasses.
"I was using the word in its original sense - someone hip and aware and on to it," Glasgow said.
Both men are still involved in the outdoors. Glasgow is a guide in the Abel Tasman area at the top of the South Island, while Gough was climbing near Las Vegas this week. Thanks to The Dominion Post for permission to use excerpts from their article.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Oil exploration West Coast, South Island, New Zealand.

One hundred and fifty years after gold was found on the West Coast, oil exploration appears set to take off.
Two companies have found oil in areas inland of Greymouth and the Government has just closed bids on a block offer covering 6700 square kilometres.
Mosman Oil and Gas took over an exploration permit near Lake Brunner last December.
The Perth-based company has found oil in two of the three exploratory holes drilled in its Petroleum Creek project.
Mosman technical director Andy Carroll said the oil around Petroleum Creek was so shallow it could be seen leaking out of the surface.
Oil was first spotted in the area in the late 1800s when a railway was built and there have been multiple wells drilled since.
"We've demonstrated there's oil underground and the next question is what rates it produces," Carroll said.
Over the next two months, the first two wells will be put through their paces in extended flow tests.
"Even a few barrels a day would be both technically and commercially satisfactory to get started," Carroll said.
After that, Mosman has its eyes on drilling further west where the oil should be deeper and therefore produce higher flow rates.
"We've drilled three wells now since we started here. We drilled in June, July and October, we think we'll drill multiple wells in the next 12 months."
About 10 kilometres to the south-west another historic well site, Niagara, is being explored by Gloriavale Christian Community.
Based in Haupiri, inland from Greymouth, the community supports itself with a number of industries, including deer and dairy farming and a meat rendering plant.
Through its company, Ocean Harvest International Limited, the community has held a permit to explore Niagara since 2001.
Geological consultant Murry Cave said Ocean Harvest had imported a new drill in June and expected to resume drilling at Niagara early next year.
In the meantime, the drill had been put into service at Whataroa to delve into the Alpine Fault as part of a scientific project led by GNS Science.
 If oil is found in profitable quantities, tough conservation measures will have to be enforced to preserve the biodiversity and scenic beauty of the area. Photo: Kira Birchfield

 With two companies already prospecting, there could soon be more faces looking for oil on the West Coast.
In April, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals opened up 405,000 square kilometres of land for a block offer bid in three onshore and five offshore areas.
About 6700 square kilometres of that was on the West Coast, covering a stretch of land north-east of Westport to the south-west of Hokitika, including Department of Conservation-administered Victoria Forest Park.
At the time, Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges came under fire for admitting he did not know where the conservation park was.

 This map of the area around Lake Brunner on the West Coast of the South Island outlines the extent of the impressive KĊtuku oilfield, discovered in 1900. The map shows both oil seeps and gas escapes, and it also indicates boreholes and areas recommended for further boring. Little came of the bores put down. The only New Zealand locality where drilling on seeps has been successful is the small-scale Moturoa oilfield, on the New Plymouth foreshore.

Cave and Carroll both said Victoria Park would hold little interest for those exploring for oil.
"The Victoria Forest should have got cut out in that consultation process," Carroll said.
"We're certainly not interested in trying to push into anything like a national park. There's no need because there's enough area without getting into those sort of issues."
Bids for the block offer closed last week. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment refused to provide information about how many bids had been received or for which areas.
Carroll said Mosman had made four bids but did not specify where, except to say the company was interested in the area it was already working in.
"The applications we've put in won't involve any sensitive areas," he said.
The bids would be assessed and permits were expected to be granted from December.

Thanks to the Press for permission to run excerpts from their publication.