Thursday, 9 February 2012

Shotover Saddle: not a route guide

I'll start with a disclaimer: this isn't an official route guide.  Rather, because I couldn't find a detailed route guide on line, I thought it'd be helpful to others if I described the way I've got up to Shotover Saddle, twice.
Shotover Saddle is a 1100m climb in about 2000m horizontally, so it's pretty steep tramping, but not climbing.  There are bluffy bits that are best avoided.  There was no available water when we did it (both times in February), but some of the gullies might contain streamlets after rain.  Take water, and a GPS is a very useful thing to have.
From the Land Information New Zealand website
The first thing to get right is the start of the route (A on the map).  You'll probably have come up the West Matukituki valley by 4WD (requires permission and a key for the locked gate), bike, or on foot.  The route we took begins about 1 km upstream from the prominent zig-zag in the 4wd track, right opposite the downstream end of a small island in the river bed, and across from a stream that drains a large shingle fan.  Another way to find it is to follow the main valley track across the side stream of the Bride's Veil waterfall, which is very prominent, and then cross two more small streams, although in dry weather these might not be very prominent.  There's a row of small wild Irishman (Discaria) trees along the riverbank, clearly seen in this photo looking down on the start of the route.
The lower part of the route, looking down from about 700m.
 So we left the main track there and headed south towards the fence, going between a couple of clumps of small straggly trees.  Across the fence, the next obstacle is a low bluff.  There seems to be a small ridge leading up it on your right, and you can get up that way although the sheep track narrows and steepens at the top; rather it's a lot easier to go around the bluff on the left, following the sheep tracks (B).  Once you're on top of this bluff it levels out briefly before the real climbing begins.  We went straight up here, sticking to the ridge between the two streams, past a few prominent rocks.  We used a GPS to make a waypoint each 100 m of the hike; we figured it'd help if we got fogged in on the way down.
We followed the middle of the ridge until we got to 900m above sea level.  From 900m, we had been advised to start sidling slightly towards the east, or left hand side, heading for a prominent small ridge that outcrops there (C).  From a clump of boulders in a ferny little gully at 1100m, you'll need to pick a way to sidle across a steep slope and onto this ridge, through a lot of spiny wild Spaniard (Aciphylla).  We did this by heading uphill a bit, then crossing the little gully and striking out to the left across a steep slope just above a couple of big boulders to meet the ridge above a prominent rock outcrop.  There are some sheep tracks through this bit and if you're lucky you'll find one of them.
Once on the ridge, it's easy going, although quite steep, for about 300 m, to reach a broad tussock-filled basin (D) that leads to the saddle.  Picking a route through it is quite straightforward; the important thing will be finding your way back to the right place on the ridge when you come down, so make plenty of waypoints on your GPS.
The tarn below Shotover Saddle
 Just below the saddle is a narrow small tarn (E); the water doesn't look very drinkable.  From here it's an short scramble up a steep tussock slope to the saddle.  Keep off steep slopes of Marsippospermum (a glossy green rush) because they're very slippery.
Looking down on the Shotover Saddle from the ridge to Red Rock.
 Getting back down is straightforward with your GPS waypoints, but it could be tricky otherwise, especially in fog.  Getting onto the little ridge and off it again in the right place is probably the key to it.  It took us about 3.5 hours to get up and 2.5 to get down.  If you're lucky to have a clear day, the views are spectacular.
Upper West Matukituki Valley from below Red Rock, looking towards Shovel Flat and Hector's Col in the distance.  Mt Aspiring is in the clouds on the right, behind Mt Rob Roy.

No comments:

Post a Comment