Snowflake!

The trip started with a small disappointment: The idea for this weekend trip was to climb Snowflake (near Kaikoura) coming through Kowhai River and Snowflake Stream, to traverse the peak and to come back over Homestead Spur. But the local farmer and owner of the Swyncombe farm, worrying about his cattle, did not give us his permission. This was his given right (no real reason to be angry) and in the end we were actually lucky – we would never have made it (too long and too technical with all the snow)!

So, Jacob, Søren, Henry and I went on with plan B, and started at the Mt Fyffe car park, following the Kowhai River for some kilometres, then turning into Snowflake Stream. Walking up this ‘milky’ looking stream mainly resulted in an endless river crossings with a sometimes quite ‘exciting’ boulder hopping (you never know whether the next stone is good or not). The walk to the planned camp spot took longer than expected. On the way we had to pass three waterfalls. Finally, we reached the small plateau after around six hours.

Boulder hopping and river crossings!
Boulder hopping and river crossings!

To be honest my sleep in the tent was the best in that week – I was sleeping like a baby. Our tent site was in a wind free area (nice after the refreshers weekend!) and all sleeping mats were bedded on a soft and thick tussock layer. Just perfect!

Next day we started our climb to Snowflake around 6am in the light of our head torches. The ascent started just 10m after our last tent with a brutal slope through high tussock. After 200m it was clear:
I underestimated the grade for this trip when I initially advertised it as medium/hard. It would take us much longer to get to the peak and back and from now on and based on the CUTC rating, I’d definitely rate it a hard trip now with over 9 hours of walking. I also worried about frozen boots in combination with the coming snow… Søren and Henry finally decided to stay at the camp site, so Jacob and set ourselves a time limit of 6 hours to get to the peak and back.

The plan was to get to the peak by 9:30am and then back to the tents, but with deep powdery snow and high tussock the spur slowed us down more than I liked. As we had promised to be back in time we sped up the closer we got to our own time limit. With a rising, suddenly strong wind we finally reached the top at 9:35am – not really. We just made it to the smaller brother of Snowflake, a peak just 300m away and around 25m lower than the actual Snowflake peak. It would have taken a lot of time to get to the real peak and back – Trips Officer Enda had also warned us before the trip that this last part might be very time consuming. As we were running out of time, we started the descent after enjoying the great view for a short and precious moment. We may not have summited Snowflake in the end, but the view was awesome and worth it to come up all the long way nonetheless. Jacob and I made it back to tents in time with just 5 minutes left.

View from the summit
View from the summit

On the way back, we again had to perform an endless series of jumps from stone to stone, making it an 11 hour trip on day two. And who ever has been tramping with me before may know by now that I was thinking about fish & chips in Kaikoura on the last kilometre before we would start the drive back to Christchurch.

And the moral of the story is: “Damn, Philipp, learn how to rate a trip grade properly!”


 

Fish & Chips rating for Coopers Catch in Kaikoura:

Taste: very good (plus extra lemons for the fish and free sauces!)

Date: Aug 1-2, 2015
Location: Kaikoura Ranges

Words & images: Hans-Philipp Sültrop

Tramps: Jacob Klenner, Henry Warder, Søren Læsaa Müller Pedersen and Phillip Sültrop