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Upcoming
Expeditions

Previous Expeditions
Survival Shelters
Early prospectors and explorers have traditionally depended solely on their experience for survival above the snowline. They sought the forest for shelter. Recent advances in waterproof clothing, micro-porous materials and insulated sleeping mats allow for more exposed and extended bivouacs. Mountaineers can now climb four seasons, on extended time, self-contained trips through rugged terrain in relative comfort. However, nylon tents can be flattened in gale force winds. A twisted ankle can turn a midwinter afternoon excursion into a forced overnight bivou ac or longer.
Mountain Survival
The effect of body heat loss has long been appreciated, old timers wisely wrapped an extra piece of wool around their abdomen and lay with their backs to the fire to maintain core warmth. The Scott South pole expedition photos reveal a lot of heavy balaclavas to reduce head heat loss. Driving wind and rain rapidly deplete body heat supplies prompting shivering, slurring of speech and irrational behaviour. To force a person to continue to a distant hut may risk exhaustion, s erious hypothermia, unconsciousness and even death. White out conditions on a glacier may force a party to stop, rather than risk unseen cliffs.
Bivouac
A forced bivouac can be more bearable by gaining wind and rain shelter, putting on dry clothes and ado pting the huddle position. Survival in exposed situations is greatly enhanced with a bivouac bag, stove and insulating mat. It is now common for people to survive days, using natural protection, minimum tools and personal experience to sit out a storm in a "bivouac" shelter.

Turning Back
However, if the storm persists it may have been wiser choice to have avoided the bivouac, and turned back earlier.
Rock Bivouacs
Rock bivouacs in the form of a large overhanging rock or boulder can provide the simplest form of shelter. The most common are large boulders called erratics, the remnants of past glacial action. When deciding on a suitable rock, look at the prevailing wind direction and evidence of water under the rock. The ideal roof is one, which slopes towards the entrance and diverts drips. Look for water signs, such as moss, calcite or water stains. These could reduce the shelter to a "two dry, two wet" sleeping berth in middle of the night. Water channels on the floor are a sure sign of a potential moat i n the making. A stone wall can provide protection from wind driving rain. Dry grass makes an excellent mattress and insulator from the cold rock. The type of shelter constructed usually depends on whether the bivouac is intentional or forced.

Lightning is an awe inspiring atmospheric phenomena.
The light channel we observe is the charge returning from the ground to the cloud generation and is approximately 7cm -10cm wide. When descending off a peak in an electrical storm, ridge tops and lone trees should b e avoided. If sheltering in a deep rock bivouac, sit deep inside, on pack or rope and avoiding contact with the walls. If on a ledge, huddle on outer edge. Stay out of depressions, overhangs and small caves as the current may short cut across the climber.
Constructing Shelters
Snow shelters can be weatherproof, but often laborious to build. The type of shelter constructed is dependent on the terrain, the weather and snow texture. Antarctic conditions differ considerably from those found in the maritime Southern Alps. The different types of snow shelters are:
A Bergschrund - Requires minimum digging time, but care should be taken to ensure the floor is solid and not part of a lower crevasse.
Snowcave - Should be built on a steep, avalanche free slope with safe run-out below. Snow Trench-A quick, cold, out of the wind slot. At risk from heavy & drifting snow. Snow Mound- Can be moulded on the flat (Antarctica). Preferred in winter weather than summer This traditional residence of the Canadian Inuit can be quickly built by experienced people using drifted snow with good bonding texture. They should be kept to about two metres in diameter. The walls slant snail-like inwards and upwards to keep the roof height low. A rough shelter for 2 people can be completed in two hours. The best building snow is fine grained, wind-transported snow found in drifts. A 40cm pruning saw makes the block cutting easy. Place each block on a gentle spiral, all owing one side of the a new block to rest on it's predecessor. Care taken with cutting in joints makes for a longer lasting, warmer igloo. Finishing the roof requires some patience and delicate block placement to avoid collapse. Igloos are preferred for w inter conditions. Summer firn snow bonds poorly; it's high water content makes for heavy work and high daytime temperatures or rain may result in a roof collapse.
Snow Trench A snow trench is quick to construct on a flat snow expanse, if the snowpack is light in density. Snow blocks must be cut to close it over. The shoveling and snow disposal is relatively easy. The trench opening should be kept as narrow as convenient to shovel snow blocks as cut to close it over. The entrance hole can be closed with a p ack. Adequate air ventilation is critical when cooking to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. This is not a shelter to use if heavy, drifting snow is expected.
Snow Mound
If there is insufficiently deep snow to construct a trench, building a snow mound i s fast and efficient, providing you have plenty of shovel power. It has found considerable popularity in Antarctica, because of its flat terrain power snow and thin snow cover. \par The snow mound is constructed by piling some packs in a heap and shoveling sno w on top. It should be about 3 metres in diameter and 1 and 1/2 to 2 metres high. The final 30cm is packed down firmly to form the roof. An excavation is made in its side to retrieve the packs and enlarge the internal cavity. A tunnel or igloo entrance be low the floor level can be used. The snow mound is suited to overnight emergencies; polar and winter conditions. Initially the shell is fragile, but rapidly hardens over several hours. Snowcave
In summer conditions, a snowcave is the most functional form of shelter. For an overnight stay, digging time dictates a crude hole. A comfortable four-person snowcave takes about 4-5 hours to dig in summer snow. In the winter snow that time can be halved. The ideal siting is a steep, avalanche free slope, like a short snow bank or windscoop. The entrance is angled upwards to the main cave to facilitate debris removal and warmth retention. A plastic sheet helps snow removal. If the snowcave is being built for an extended summer stay, a long tunnel and over a metre o f snow on the roof is required to allow for snow melt.. Doming and smoothing the roof will avoid water drips and allow for wall drainage. For extended stays the comfort level is increased by using a sleeping bag cover of micro-porous fabric and an insulati ng pad. Snowcaves are the favoured form of accommodation in extreme mountain wind conditions.

Due to the energy expenditure at high altitude in the Himalayas, tents are preferred to snowcaves. Care needs be taken to avoid breaking the snow shovel in froze n rain crusts. Use it as a spade and avoid leverage. Shovels with strengthening ribs are more robust than the classic wide flat bladed avalanche shovel.
Caution: climbers have slipped to their death from exposed entrances when wearing over boots.

The Copland Pass by Geoff Wayatt

Recent debate over the future of Hooker hut and collapsing moraine walls has brought the Copland Pass crossing into the spotlight. Mountain Guide, Geoff Wayatt has been guiding people over the Pass since 1966.  In this article he describes the classic alpine crossing and changes.

It's a physically tough journey and weather dependent, requiring some mountain skills. The actual Pass is glaciated, crevassed and bounded by rock ridges being one of the highest non-technical routes across the Southern Alps. In adverse weather the steep, loose, scree slopes can be icy and treacherous; storm conditions can make the crossing impassable. Yet, in past summers hundreds of people have successfully crossed the Pass, usually from east to west. For experienced trampers unfamiliar with ice axe, rope and crampon skills the crossing becomes feasible by hiring the services of a professional mountain guide. Guiding companies have stopped providing a two-day drop-off service to the west of the Pass, however groups gain considerably from guiding assistance for the whole four-day trip.

Over the past decade washouts on the Hooker Glacier moraine wall have made the route a more serious mountaineering undertaking. Parties must have ice axe, rope and crampon skills or the assistance of a Guide for the whole 4-day trip. The rewards for the effort are both spectacular and dramatic; from close up awe-inspiring views of Mt. Cook to the immense rock walls, hanging glaciers and turbulent streams on the Westland side of the Alps.

What it's like and how long it takes
Details included here are the main features and locations. The times have been averaged over several trips over a decade. A party should seriously consider whether their fitness level is adequate for the crossing, based on time taken to Fitzgerald stream.

Mt Cook campground (730m) to Fitzgerald Stream. (1,000m)
Time: 3-4hrs Elevation gain: 270m.
A well graded track leads past the Hooker river swing bridges. After another 30 mins walking, the track reaches the Hooker Glacier terminal lake. Here the track deteriorates. The old track along the terrace unusable due to large washouts. Two options exist:
1:Follow the western bouldered shoreline of Lake Hooker travelling along the moraine covered glacier to the outflow fan of Fitzgerald stream. The route involves 30 minutes of scrambling close to the splashing waves of the milky lake water dotted with ice lumps. Above the lake looms a steep, unstable moraine wall, not a place to linger or tackle when raining. The old Hooker hut sits renovated but almost inaccessible on a vegetated terrace south of Fitzgerald stream. Bounded by like moraine walls like a Tibetan monastery, it's future on the site is short, bleak and lonely, the famed ghost of Hooker hut possibly being it's only regular visitor.
2: A five-six hour alternative is possible via the east Hooker terraces to opposite the Copland Ridge. A steep, bouldery moraine gully descent, is followed by a crossing of the Hooker glacier moraine and another further moraine clamber to the ridge base.

Fitzgerald Stream to Copland Shelter (1830m)
Access onto the Copland ridge involves travelling further up the glacier to the next stream to gain access via a slumping terrace and steep scree slope. This was route was used in the 1970's by climbers returning to Hooker hut from the upper glacier. The long scrubby and bouldered terrace at the base of the ridge is one of the proposed new sites for Hooker hut. I appears relatively stable and fulfill the removal of the hut to an alternate close site and retain a strategicall y placed hut for the Copland Pass crossing. Tenting or bivouacing is possible here. A large scree slope leads to a steep, scrubby rock ridge weaving up through outcrops and short faces and scree leads to the Copland Shelter. The barrel shaped shelter has bunk space for four and watertank. Built as an emergency shelter it is sited just below the pass on an exposed ridge. It now provides the only shelter between Mt. Cook village and Douglas Rock hut.

Shelter to Copland Pass (2150m)
Time: 1 hour Elevation: 320m
Ice Axe, Crampons & rope are used from here to the Pass and crevasse conditions necessitate caution. Traverse behind the hut to the snow shoulder and climb to the north of the rock ridge. The actual pass is an obscure low point in the jagged ridge a ccessed by a snow traverse for 100m. Above a large bergschrund(crevasse).

Copland Pass to Douglas Rock Hut
Time: 6-7 hours Elevation drop: 1450m
Descend a 50m steep rock gully on the West Coast side, followed by a long scree slope into snow basin. Cross a large rock moraine at a notch and descend left into a lower snow basin. There a large rock (Elev. 1700m) in the basin which can provide some shelter and visual reference. A long scree slope emerges into a cairned route, which crosses the stream above a waterfall to the zigzags (1100m) and alpine herbfields. A well-formed track, apart from stream and avalanche washouts leads to Douglas Rock Hut (700m) at the corner of the valley, nestled in the first patch of fuschia forest. It is worth regular stops t o absorb the ambience of this part of the valley and the superb seasonal flower showings.

Douglas Rock Hut to Welcome Flat Hut
Time: 3 hours Elevation drop: 325m.
Immediately cross the Tekano stream suspension bridge and sidle on a slippery benched track a bove the Copland River gorge. After 1-1/2 hr walking, the valley opens out at the unbridged Scott's creek crossing. Some easy walking under the rata covered ramparts of Mt. Sefton and Scott's peak lead to Welcome Flat hut and it's hot springs shortly afte r crossing the Copland River bridge at the end of the Flat.

Welcome Flat to West Coast Road
Time: 5-6 hours Elevation drop: 355m.
The track improves steadily on the two-hour descent to Architect Creek. Most of the significant streams have flood bridge s. There are superb glimpses of the rugged peaks, slippery, shiny quartz-lined boulders while moving through vibrant and enveloping forest growth. Shortly after the halfway point at Pick and Shovel Flat, the track noticeably improves due to a bygone era of horseback access. The Karangarua Bridge on Highway 6 is first sighted 40 minutes from the carpark at Rough Creek, which has a flood bridge 30 minutes upstream. An intentions/signout box is available plus camping for sandfly and mosquito hardened trave lers. A vehicle track leads 100m to Highway 6 and bus shelter. It's the end of the classic alpine tramp, finishing at 50m elevation and a mere 20klm from the Tasman Sea.

ACCESS
 INFORMATION: Pass and track condition can be obtained from the Dept. of Conservation Field Centre at Mt. Cook (Ph: (3)435 1818 or the Fox Glacier Field Centre - Ph:(3)751 0807. HUTS: Copland Shelter (4 bunks)  Douglas Rock Hut (benches/10 persons) & Welcome Flat Hut (Floor-mattresses/40 persons) All the huts are radio equipped for weather updates and emergencies. Personal cooking equipment must be carried.
Maps: NZMS 1S78 Bruce Bay & 1S79 Mt. Cook

Copland Pass
A personal glimpse over a few decades by Geoff Wayatt

The happy Mesdemoiselles
" Allo? My name is Louise. I'm from Quebec and I would like to cross the Copland Pass with my girlfriend. Can you help?" "Go away and get fit; fitter than you've ever been in your life and you'll have a ball." I hadn't been on the Copland track since my first guiding season in the Sixties. The trip for the girls was to be the icing on the cake of their six-week, New Zealand tramping holiday. It would also have personal significance for me: Another life circle completed; a renaissance and a return to guide where I started 27 years ago.

They were excited about their proposed adventure when we met, but nervous about their skills and fitness. "It's why we want to hire a mountain guide for the difficult part," said Claudine, a chunky 29-year-old nurse from France. The buoyancy of the bubbly pair appeared higher when I said I was the oldest mountain guide in the country! I had meant to say - most experienced! No, it wasn't why they had come to me - every one else was fully booked. Their concerns about heavy rainfall and swollen rivers eased when I offered my guiding apprentice for the whole journey to the West Coast.

I then told my son, Chris: "It's a good opportunity to practise your French!"

There must be worse ways to fund your way through Varsity than escorting two effervescent clients through the magnificent alpine flora and lush rainforest of the Copland valley. Seventeen enthusiasts lined up at Hooker hut for the night with several of us sleeping on the snowgrass terrace under the "alpenglow of Aoraki (Mt. Cook) and the galactic splendour of our starlight hotel. Our group expectation was as high as the barometer. For the French ladies, it was to be a great adventure\'85.

The warm Hong Kong mountaineers
For the group from the Mountaineering Club of Hong Kong a month later the Pass crossing was a gruelling 13-hour wilderness effort to reach Douglas Rock hut. A snowstorm hit as we reached the pass. The scree descent was like being on an upended billiard t able full of black and white balls. Good tramping fitness, brand new New Zealand made storm clothing and the guide's route knowledge made their crossing possible. "Are you cold?" I yelled in Chan's ear. "Six layers on top, three layers on legs, no-I'm hot!" he replied as we descended the zigzags in driving sleet!

The family
The images of an off season trip in May with my wife, Beryl and two Christchurch friends are cherished. We had a brilliant Pass crossing day; crisp weather and challenging snow con ditions. Wendy abseiled for the first time in thirty years. Beryl struggled with the flu and lack of fitness, but made it. Lying, eyes closed in the hot pools I recalled the Hooker valley, at once being in a gigantic, monotonous quarry-like moraine, then glancing up to the most dramatic scenery in the world - Aoraki! With eyes opened, through the steam stood the snow stilettos of Sefton and Scott's peak and a giant rainbow bridged the valley wall apart.

The Copland's still the best!
In late February, undeterred by talk of the Copland being too dangerous and not guided, Journalist Mike White, Doctor Neil Binns and Pharmacist Rob Roy of Picton found me willing guide their 4 day mini-mountaineering expedition. Responding to questions of doubt, I said "The skills and fitness levels are a bit more demanding," "

The route-finding on the Hooker glacier is more critical for me, and without the Hooker hut use, more fitness and reasonable weather is required." We arrived at the robust tiny barrel shelter, strapped to a knife edged promontory in 6 hours. During the night it rained, so our morning Pass views were mist, opening later into the dramatic upper valley and cloud shrouded peaks.

The next day at Welcome Flat, Hame the hut warden recalled his morning drama. H e 'd finally dispatched a German male who'd been making molesting gestures to several women over a 5 day period. The Haast Police Constable conducted a dawn raid along with the unflapable helicopter pilot, James Scott of Karangarua to escort the groper from the valley.

To re-join our vehicles at Mt. Cook, it was expedient to engage James Scott, who's family in years past provided horses to weary Copland walkers. It whisked us up the U shaped valley, past flashes of red rata on green-grey schist walls . Below an emerald moraine lake, the zigzags, then the Pass was dragged into view. Seconds later we plummeted past the minute barrel and into the Hooker valley. It took only fifteen minutes to overfly our four day effort. Like a duster sweeping across a chalkboard full of words, the detail of each step was replaced briefly by a birds-eye image of two contrasting valleys and diverse climate zones linked by a high and challenging Pass.

Geoff Wayatt PO Box 204, Wanaka, NZ Phone/Fax: (03) 443 7330

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