Tramping - The Five Passes

Published: January 27th 2010
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Tattoo TravellerTattoo TravellerTattoo Traveller

The Five Passes tramp began with a farewell at Auckland Airport. Son Sam (24) was returning to Sydney and taking back with him a pretty stunning tattoo. Here Ross and I have persuaded him to lift his shirt in the international terminal and we are pointing out where we live - me from Auckland and Ross from Leigh. Before the tattoo was done, Sam asked me to come along with him to the Dermagraphic Studio in Ponsonby for the initial consultation. I felt honoured to be included in such a personal decision. Later, I dropped back to see the work in progress and to meet the young tattoo artist. Sam said it didn't hurt too much at the time, and afterwards it was like having a bad case of sunburn.

Feral Mike and The Beast of Burden are Back

Gentle Readers, by the time you read this the solo bike ride will be about to resume. I fly from Auckland to Wellington tomorrow (Friday, 29 January 2010) to unshackle the Beast and free him from the dungeon where he has lain for the past few weeks. Together we take a ferry to Picton and the adventure resumes.
In the meantime, here's a little of what's been happening since the journey went on hold.

Tramping - The Five Passes

This was the adventure highlight of the summer. A tough tramp in Mt Aspiring National Park. It ranges through rugged, stunningly beautiful country in an area where there are no huts and few tracks. Finding your way can (and was to) be an issue.
But I had The Dream Team to travel with - three very fit individuals all with lots of outdoor experience, though not necessarily tramping. And we were fortunate that the weather never deteriorated to the point where it caused us problems.
This tramp doesn't get a lot of traffic and help was always going to be a long way off - so
It's a HighwayIt's a HighwayIt's a Highway

The Five Passes tramp begins from the same place as the popular Routeburn Track, near Glenorchy. I was amused by the sign warning of traffic.
we took an emergency locator beacon and a mountain radio so we could get weather forecasts and report in with our location and intentions. The four of us shared two small tents, but on two of the six nights we stayed in rock bivvies - natural shelters provided by the huge boulders that litter the landscape in places.
I think all four of us found The Five Passes a challenging tramp. Two of us sprained ankles, twice we made mistakes with our navigation and became 'temporarily dislocated', and on one occasion we accidentally became seperated into two groups of two - never a wise move in rugged country. We lost a water bottle and a fuel bottle (fortunately on the second to last day and we had just enough fuel for our second stove). But otherwise we came through the trip unharmed and in excellent spirits.
Ross - you're a trooper. Reliable and steady, and once again I loved your dry sense of humour. Stephen - another reliable, positive person to tramp with. Thanks for the excellent work as our radio operator. That 'broadcast voice' certainly got the messages across. And Vicki, it was a pleasure to meet
The Rock BurnThe Rock BurnThe Rock Burn

This river provides the easiest access route into the region we wanted to visit. The picture was taken from alongside our first campsite.
you and have the opportunity to enjoy your company. Any suggestions for next time, anyone?

Sailing in the Hauraki Gulf

Judy and I spent seven days sailing in the inner Hauraki Gulf. We deliberately stayed close to home this year as Judy is recovering from a fractured leg. The weather was kind, the wine and food was fine but the water was cold.

Pedalling in the Pedal Car

We used my little Fraser kit car for a car camping holiday for a week in Northland, so I could show Judy one or two of the places I'd visited on the Beast of Burden. It was a lot of fun, and often in campgrounds we would be joined by petrolheads who would ask me technical questions I struggled to answer.

Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 24


The TeamThe Team
The Team

Stephen Parker, friend and colleague; me; Vicki Connor, competitive long distance runner; Ross McLean, brother-in-law and former Ironman contestant.
Negotiating the WayNegotiating the Way
Negotiating the Way

Once out of the two river valleys that provide entry and exit, much of the way is untracked - leaving it up to trampers to choose their own paths.
Rock BivvyRock Bivvy
Rock Bivvy

The view from a rock bivvy where we stayed for a night - looking down the Rock Burn.
Home is Where you Find ItHome is Where you Find It
Home is Where you Find It

Rock bivvy, upper Rock Burn.
Snug as a Bug in a RugSnug as a Bug in a Rug
Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Ross is in the background reading a Stephen King novel by the light of his headlamp.
Stephen Parker & Vicki ConnorStephen Parker & Vicki Connor
Stephen Parker & Vicki Connor

At times they were like a couple of playful puppies frolicking about the mountains.
Towards Cow SaddleTowards Cow Saddle
Towards Cow Saddle

On the right of the picture, a hillside of red ultramafic rock can be seen. It provides a fine grip for trampers' boots.
Fiery Col, 1546mFiery Col, 1546m
Fiery Col, 1546m

It looks intimidating,but it wasn't too bad. We were able to avoid most of the snow. Finding it in the first place was harder. It was on our way up to Fiery Col that we made the biggest navigation blunder of our trip - ending up 600 metres from where we should have been. We were forced to descend part of the way and then climb back up on the correct route.
Vicki on Fiery ColVicki on Fiery Col
Vicki on Fiery Col

As we reached the Col, mist swept in from the north obscuring our view of the way down for a few minutes.
Who Are They?Who Are They?
Who Are They?

The two on the left look ok, but is that Gollum in the embrace of some kind of weird mountain man on the right?
Campsite at Fiery CreekCampsite at Fiery Creek
Campsite at Fiery Creek

A beautiful spot, it came with its own (cold) shower.
Campsite at Fiery CreekCampsite at Fiery Creek
Campsite at Fiery Creek

The mist rolls in, obscuring the waterfall behind us.
Crocs - Fashion Statement or Fashion DisasterCrocs - Fashion Statement or Fashion Disaster
Crocs - Fashion Statement or Fashion Disaster

Here I am heating water over a fire at the bivvy below Cow Saddle. I'm wearing my Crocs - which I find ideal to change into after a day's tramping. They are light but don't slip the way jandals do, and nor to they flick mud up the back of your legs. And it's even possible to wear thin socks under them to stop the sandflies biting. My last pair were destroyed by keas at Cascade Saddle, last summer. In the latest Wilderness magazine (Jan 2010), mountain guide Jo Haines describes her red Crocs as her favourite piece of outdoor kit. Picture: Ross McLean
Rock Bivvy Below Cow SaddleRock Bivvy Below Cow Saddle
Rock Bivvy Below Cow Saddle

It was my turn to deliver up a 'special surprise' - so here I am getting a fire going to boil four little steam puddings. Unfortunately, smoke from the fire drifted into the bivvy almost forcing an evacuation.
Lots of TechnologyLots of Technology
Lots of Technology

A GPS was the final backstop for navigation. While its accuracy is fantastic, it's a nuisance to use because it requires a hand to hold it clear of the body so it can get satellite signals. Other equipment included a mountain radio so we could get weather forecasts and provide information on our location, and we also had an emergency location beacon if we ended up in serious trouble. It's a far cry from the Maori travellers who explored this country, and from the Europeans who followed them - like Charlie Douglas and Arawhata Bill.

28th January 2010

good luck with the next adventure
Hi Mike, I really enjoyed reliving the trip with your photos and narrative. Have a great second leg of your NZ cycling odyssey. Thanks again for an aweinspiring trip. Take care!
29th January 2010

The Five Passes
Hi, it was fantastic. But your message has arrived without a name attached. Which of the 'Fab Four' are you? Cheers, Feral Mike
18th December 2010
Tattoo Traveller

How much did that tattoo cost you? Ived always wanted that exact tattoo!
23rd December 2010

New Zild Tattoo
Hi there, Sam got it done at the Dermagraphic Studio in Ponsonby, Auckland in early 2010. It cost him in the region of $400 - $450, but prices might have gone up since then. cheers

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