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The Marlborough Pinnacle,
April 24-26 2015
“Let’s go Thursday night - we’ll be able to get the sleeper ferry service and a cabin …” So we turn up at 10pm to get our cabin but are told all the pre-bookable cabins are gone and so we have to wait until general boarding at 2 a.m. and try to get one on the boat. Oh God. We head off to the pub, then another, then another, eventually returning to the Bluebridge terminal to drive onto the boat. Of course, several cabins were available, so we got a three hour sleep which felt like three minutes. Three tired fellas drove up the Wairau, turning up the Branch and Leatham Rivers and coaxing the soft-roader up Boulder Stream to a kilometre shy of Boulder Forks Hut.
Our plan was to repeat a trip led by John Nankervis in 2009, climbing Pinnacle from a camp to the southwest. We left climbing ropes, harnesses, gear and crampons in Wellington so the amble up the riverbed of Boulder Stream was light and easy. After 3 hours we climbed into a tributary - Krushen Stream - where we came to a nice terrace with stands of re-generating black beech and mountain totara. Deciding 900m was a high enough camp, we pitched the tent and drifted off to sleep on the ground in the afternoon sun.
Suddenly we were all awake and on our feet as the ground heaved up and down like a massive lung. Rocks were falling from a nearby stream bank cliff, causing clouds of dust to rise. We looked to the high slopes above the camp, expecting large boulders to tumble, but saw nothing. We later found out a 6.2 MM earthquake had occurred, centred about 20km from our campsite!
Next day we were expecting northerly gales high up but no precip. The tops were all obscured in cloud. Despite much prodding, Hayden could not be moved from his bag so just Stu and Dave headed up the hill into the gloom. Reaching the southwest ridge brought us into the cloud base and a fresh gale. With 300 further vertical metres of scrambling, we hesitated and discussed whether to call it off. Eventually a non-decision was effected when Stu said, “Let’s go up to that rock and have a look.” There, an easy face of slabs and screes on the western side enticed us to go further up into the cloud with Dave leading the way. So it continued until a rock step near the summit. Crawling around an exposed goat ledge which Nank used last time, we emerged onto the summit slopes, where it was warmer and the wind was slacker. We confirmed we had reached the summit using a GPS app on phone (in a supermarket pick & mix bag).
Descent from the summit entertained us for an hour of downclimbing tiny ramps and ledges until we reached screes and could run down the hill back to camp. There was Hayden carving a pipe with penknife. Stu cockily pointed out the likeness of the pipe to a human part, opening a rich vein of humour for the rest of the trip. Dinner was further spiced with fresh chilli, and we sat by an excellent camp fire. At two in the morning we woke to sounds of a possum or rat eating our bacon rashers. We nicknamed it Paul!
Next baconless morning, we packed quick and headed down valley as anticipated rain came in. We were safely past the main river crossings before it really set in, and cruised back to Wellington a day early. Pinnacle is a good fun climb, especially with great companions and lots of laughs.
- Party members
- Dave Grainger, Stu Hutson (scribe), Hayden Richards