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Mt Wakefield

Lee Cook had a disappointing outing at the Avalanche Peak Challenge last month with a DNS, but this has far from slowed Lee down as he has been running and scrambling up peak’s from his home. And home for him is Mt Cook Village, so there are some pretty unique running to be had. Below is a great trip report and video of a recent adventure of Lee’s up Mt Wakefield.

wakefeild1

Mt wakefield- Lee ascended the summit from right to left, returning the same way

This week I thought I’d take advantage of what looks to be the end of the undeviating sunshine and have a stab at running Mt Wakefield (2,058m). I walked up the mountain last year so I was sufficiently aware of the terrain and that in sections it would not be feasible to run as such. I have been feeling like training has been a little stale of late though and thought it would be a solid challenge. The idea was kind of a spare of the moment thing. Id already run up Mt Sebastapol and Mueller hut in previous days, so I was conscious that my legs would doubtless be heavy. I was also somewhat unsure how long it would take as I was doing it after work. It concerned me that potentially I could be coming down in the dark. Regardless. I let one of the girls on reception know what I was doing and then raced home to strap my ankles, get changed and throw my bag together.

From the start, the track rises steeply from the Tasman bridge up through dense vegetation. It requires a whole load of levering up on bush roots and branches. If you come out of it without blood seeping out of numerous scratches to your legs then you probably haven’t gone through it hard enough! Straight away I started to feel the onset of lower back pain, the same issue that caused me to pull out of Avalanche Peak very early on. However, this time it wasn’t as excruciating and unquestionably more manageable.

Once out of the bush line the gradient eased and I was able to open out my stride. I was also welcomed by staggering views once up on the ridge. The Hooker Valley side of the ridge is dominated by the perpetual avalanching on Mt Sefton. Looking down the Tasman Valley I could see the huge icebergs that have just recently calved off the terminal face of the Tasman Glacier into the lake. Apparently its the most ice there has been in the Tasman Lake since the Christchurch earthquake so well worth a look. There’s a certain point on the ridge where it develops into a lot of technical scrambling. Rather than carrying on, I decided to drop down from the ridge on the Tasman side and work my way along the scree/vegetation. A quick skip through a boulder field and an arduous ascent of a scree slope got me up to the saddle.

From the saddle I managed to locate a nice bit of deep scree that I could fly down into the basin before a final ascent to the summit. At this point I stopped to pick out a route to the summit as it was far from apparent. As I started the ascent I found my way onto a pitch of snow which made far faster progress than the loose rock. However, after a couple of minutes my bare hands were f*****g freezing and I couldn’t tolerate the snow any longer. Back onto the rock, I was scrambling up gullies trying not to think about the consequences of a fall. It wasn’t really dangerous as such, just the speed I was trying to do it at was making it so. As I reached the top of the gully I was relieved to see it level off and the summit in close proximity. As I reached the summit, I had an overwhelming relief that I’d taped my ankles as it truly was ankle breaking territory. From the summit, you get a first proper view of the towering Aoraki Mount Cook. As if I don’t see it enough!! 1 hr 42mins to get to the top, well satisfied.

The route back I took was exactly the same. Quite a lot of the descent is on the video attached so I won’t bore you with a description. Was very pleased to get back down in a 2hrs 35 mins total considering Alpine Guides advise to allow 10-13 hrs.

The GODZone adventure race was recently in Mount Cook and the first leg was over the Annette plateau to Mueller Hut and then all the way around to the Tasman car park. So I think my next project will be see if I can get close to the winning teams time….bearing in mind they still had 4.5 days of non-stop racing to do!!!


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  1. Cool video and nice shot of mt cook.
    another way up is the guide route from the gate in the hooker valley and for a really big outing continue through to ball pass.

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