Mt Aicken, Arthur's Pass

 7 April 2013

 A clear calm autumn day found four of us, Mike, Steinar, Agnete & Dennis assembled at the Yaldhurst Hotel at 7.00am for Mike’s “Hard” rated trip to the summit of Mt Aicken.
After what seemed a quick drive, we were putting on tramping gear in the rather cold Devil’s Punchbowl Falls car park. Fifteen minutes later we were branching off the Falls track onto the Mt Aicken track. Not long after we came across relics of the tunnel, headstock and water pipe that fed water down to the power station in the Bealey River to provide electricity to Arthur’s Pass before it was connected to the national grid.

Climbing steadily with a break for morning tea, we came out of the bush to a DOC warning sign that there were no more track markers and to continue was for experienced & well equipped trampers only. We looked each other up and down and decided that we met the criteria and carried on. Actually there were poles to follow but they were widely spaced with cairns in the gaps
between. Mike was trialling out his brand new birthday present Garmin GPS and we spent some time interpreting what it was telling us. From which we quickly drew the conclusion that to use it effectively, you really had to get very familiar with it.
By midday we were on the main ridge to the top admiring views. In particular, great views of Avalanche Peak, Mt Rolleston & the upper end of Devil’s Punchbowl Creek with the rugged Blimit guarding the headwaters. At this point, not being very fit, I decided to go no further while Mike, Steinar and Agnete climbed and edged their way along a very rocky ridge. I watched them for a while and 30 min later could just make out their silhouettes on the far ridge while they had their lunch. In the meantime another three trampers arrived in time for their lunch and I had my lunch with them.
Now Mt Aicken is a rather odd peak in that it is not actually the highest point on the ridge in that vicinity. It is off the main ridge and on the map, it looks perfectly simple. But when they got there Mike and team were surrounded by peaks and they couldn’t figure out which exactly was Mt Aicken. So Mike followed the GPS and when he arrived at the “right” place, the GPS decided Mt Aicken was somewhere else. So when Mike and the team returned, they were somewhat mystified as to exactly which peak was Mt Aicken and were fairly sure they had not actually climbed it.
After lunch I dropped down to the bush line and found a comfortable place to sit and watch for their return. After I’d been there for a while a flock (5) keas turned up and decided that I was good for something. In order to ensure at least one of them got a bite at something, they split up and came in at 5 different angles. Frustrated that I or my gear wasn’t for eating or playing, one kea set to work and demolished a cairn nearby, pushing even quite large rocks off with his beak and making sure they rolled down the bank on which the cairn was built. Just to demonstrate he was in charge of that environment and not the human intruders! After we all met up again, we were soon back at the car and later enjoyed refreshments at Springfield. Thanks Mike – a really interesting trip.

Dennis