A few years ago, I spent new years eve in a cave. Our group of adventurers dressed up in second hand ball gowns, abseiled 40 metres down into the darkness had a ball in the Ballroom Chamber of one of the caves at Wee Jasper, north of Canberra. After spending one new years eve down low, I was keen to spend the next one somewhere up high.
Sefton Biv seemed like the perfect place.
This little orange hut is perched high above the Te Waewae glacier in Mount Cook National Park. It was established as a launchpad for climbs up The Footstool and Mount Sefton. Apparently its the oldest hut in the park. The DOC website has a photo of climbers hanging out at the hut sometime around 1917.
New Zealand turned on three days of perfect weather over new years. Well… maybe two and a half, but I’ll get to that later. Everything was falling into place. We visited the DOC visitor centre in Mount Cook Village and flicked through a very well used looking display folder. The folder was full of photos of the trail up to the hut and other information about everything from the weather to the gear you should take up there. The staff at DOC were super enthusiastic and helpful. They ought to be your first port of call before venturing up to the biv.
To reach your little slice of paradise, park at the White Horse Hill campsite and follow the popular Hooker Valley track. Cross two huge suspension bridges and continue on until you reach a picnic area. From there, you veer off the duckboard and follow a stream up and up and up.
What you definitely shouldn’t do, is reach a set of picnic tables, decide that it is probably the picnic area those friendly folks at DOC were talking about and start bushbashing up the nearest ridgeline. If you do that, you’ll probably find yourself battling with some particularly spikey plants and looking down to your left at an unstable looking moraine wall and wishing that you had stayed on the nicely maintained trail you can see down there on your right.
We found our way back to where we needed to be eventually.
Crossing the stream was a lot of fun. It also offered a good opportunity to cool down and refill our empty drink bottles. The sun was burning down and there was hardly any shade along the ridge that we were climbing.
The views just got better and better as we gained height.
After battling the sun and the unrelenting slope for what seemed like forever, we finally got a glimpse of a little orange triangle above us. We soon reached a small snow slope. Seconds later, snowballs were flying. It was a good chance to cool off after the long sweaty walk.
We set up camp on a patch of grass behind the hut. It was also just downhil from an open air toilet with amazing views of the mountain. This became slightly awkward when two climbers arrived later in the afternoon and wanted to lighten their loads.
Moving on! Dirtbagjens managed to squeeze two giant steaks into his pack. They were thrown on the stove and sprinkled with garlic, paprika, pepper and mixed herbs from a ziplock back we’d mixed up back at the car. The little Optimus Crux stove had no troubles getting that steak to the perfect point of medium rare deliciousness. There was nothing left to do but crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy our feast.
Sunset was beautiful. First, the streams started to turn gold, then the tops of the mountains turned pink. The lights in Mount Cook Village came on and the stars came out.
Early the next morning we got to watch two climbers working their way up the Footstool. As they crossed over the ridge to make their final summit push, we rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next job for the stove was to provide us with our morning coffee. The little stove had a pretty good view that morning.
The morning was spent lazing around and laughing at the entries in the DOC visitors book inside the hut. The time came to wander back down. With gravity on our side, we soon reached the Hooker Valley track and made our way back to camp.
The tent fly was unzipped the next morning to reveal a grey sky. Cloudy but not raining, yet. We decided to squeeze in some climbing before the weather turned. We started up a multi pitch sports route called Lets Go Bushwalking. It’s in the Red Arete area at Sebastapol Bluffs, marked LGB on the topo below.
We raced up the first two pitches, enjoying good views, great rock and some fun slabby climbing. Dirtbagjens continued up the next pitch (marked MP on the topo). The heavens opened somewhere between the second and third bolts. The rock soon became slick and wet. Time to bail.
By the time we reached the car, we were completely soaked, but satisfied that we’d still squeezed one last adventure in before leaving the national park. On our way out, the rear vision mirror showed a wall of swirling white clouds, hiding the mountains that had stood there only hours before. We drove on in search of sunshine and the next adventure.