Sometimes we get feedback from our guests that is too good not to share. Following is Chris Barker’s recounting and images of his Malte Brun expedition with Suzanne Husser in late summer 2012. Enjoy.
Mt Malte Brun 2012
A picture hangs upon my wall.
Within the frame is a photograph displaying my forebears proudly posing on the classic “Cheval” of New Zealand’s Mt Malte Brun.
They are, my grand father, grand aunt along with Swiss climber Marcel Kurz and my grand uncle Harold Porter (He took the pic). The 1920’s vintage depiction is a wonderful glimpse of the mountaineering garb and equipment used in the early era of NZ’s mountaineering scene way back then.
Many years ago I obtained the encapsulated moment of family history from my grandad’s album, which were given to my dad on his father’s passing.
Many times I’d look at the picture and “imagine” what it must have been like for them. Harold Porter his wife Doris and their Swiss friend Marcel Kurz would have spent considerable time and funds to travel by ship from England and Switzerland to the Southern Alps. I often thought how amazing it would be to climb “Malte”. My brother Rod and his partner Erin had also climbed “Malte” in 2004.
From foreground to background are grand aunt Doris Porter, Marcel Kurz, sitting upon the “Cheval” and bent over with his head down and right arm on the rock is my grand dad Clive Barker.
Several months of training in the autumn of 2011 helped my ambition to complete a 206 kilometre bicycle ride in South Australia, it was a memorable 50th birthday milestone.
In 2002-2003 I was fortunate to have bicycled 16,400 km around the whole of Australia. The epic ride was… in part, an insane attempt to “Do something bigger” than, and erase memories of a traumatic 5 night spell in a snow cave on Mt Elie de Beaumont with my brother Rod back in December 1998 (published in the 1999 NZ Alpine club annual journal). A year after the icy misfortune Trev Streat and I summited Aoraki/Mt Cook. (also published in the NZAC annual journal 2001).
Late last year I decided it was time to return to the Southern Alps to have a crack at another good quality challenge and climb. A couple of months of hill climbing in the Flinders ranges of South Australia along with swimming and cycling put me in good stead for a trip to “Te Maunga o Aotearoa” (The mountains of New Zealand) my home land.
On arrival at Alpine Guides Ltd/Mt Cook National Park village I was warmly greeted by my Swiss guide Suzanne Husser. Suzanne and I had eight days in which to tackle my objectives. The near flawless weather for the trip was outstanding! The only “bad” weather days (two) were well and fully utilised doing… nothing at all!
No phones, TV, and internet gave me the time to focus on nothing but the “mountains” Suzanne and I choppered into the top of the Tasman glacier and settled in at the Kelman hut to begin in earnest the expedition. Suzanne decided we climb a nice 30 metre vertical rock route directly outside and below the “Kelman” to end a successful first day.
Our first full day on day two in the hills was filled with a climb of Mt Walter from the Kelman hut. I felt like a fish out of water on steeper snow slopes but loving the thrill of the sense of danger of being outside my comfort zone. The summit views from “Walter” were astounding!
Day 3, Sunday a good rest day while the wind, rain and snow lashed the Kelman hut. It was great to be inside the safety of the solid steel and wood structure sitting on it’s rocky perch high above the picturesque Murchison Glacier.
Monday morning dawned with cloudless blue skies and a cool south wind coming up the Tasman Glacier. It made for good speed travelling down the glacier with out heating up or the need to stop for gear changes etc. Suzanne and I fell into crevasses on numerous occasions after the snow from the previous night had disguised the “cracks”.
The conditions had me on edge whilst travelling through the heavily crevassed area. My fears lessened after falling into two crevasses up to my waist. What a relief it was to finally clear the dangerously crevassed section of the glacier.
After a scary-ish climb up the moraine wall Suzanne and I set up our simple bivvy camp site next to a glacial melt water stream below the Turnbull Glacier amongst fields of rocks and boulders below Mt Rumdoodle.
After several hot drinks, an excellent hot feed and preparing our climbing gear for tomorrow’s event we had a short siesta.
Later that afternoon clouds dropped down over the Main Divide to our west and also covered the top of Malte Brun obscuring our views of tomorrows significant challenge.
Tuesday 25/1/12: a great nights sleep put me in a happy peace of mind and gave me a good sense of being… I was as ready as I could ever be for a good physical, mental, emotional and spiritual day in the mountains.
Suzanne and I set off after a hearty hot breakfast and hot coffee. We climbed to the top of the Turnbull Glacier where we had a quick break and temporarily left some gear to lighten our packs.
Our upward plod across the upper Bonney Glacier was straight-forward. Stepping into a crevasse being the only
Suzanne led all the steep rock pitches up to the West Ridge, where we then “threaded” simultaneously which kept us flowing towards the place I wanted to see more than anything… the famous “Cheval”.
Suzanne offered an excellent piece of interpretation of what cheval means. It is… a horse! When arriving at the “Cheval” I did indeed ride the horse. It was quite uncanny how much it actually felt like being on the bare back of a good sized horse!
After getting pics taken whilst on the spectacular “Cheval” my emotions ran high. Tears welled up. Thoughts of my grandad and his party, all those years ago, and of Rod and Erin here eight years earlier absolutely blew me away!
I was so so happy to have visited this incredible place.
Suzanne and I continued to the top for lunch and rest before a just as challenging down climb back down to our ice axes and crampons at the Col between Mt Rumdoodle and “Malte”.
Down climbing the Turnbull Glacier got a little tricky while negotiating our way down beside a couple of water falls. Fresh rock fall from the flanks of Mt Rumdoodle onto the Turnbull Glacier indicated the brittle nature of the rock in the park. Suzanne and I ended a brilliant day with a large hot meal and many hot drinks.
Sleep was hard to find due to the the exciting days adventure! Next morning after a slightly nervous down climb of the shitty moraine wall it was a relief to be back on the “white ice” of the Tasman glacier.
Suzanne and I made our way down to the Betham Stream mouth to hook up with another guide and client to combine a joint chopper flight back to the Aoraki/Mt Cook airport. A rainy rest day was perfect!
Rod my brother had dinner with Suzanne and I at “Charlie’s” restaurant and bar in the village that night. Rod works for “DOC” (Dept of Conservation) in the Aoraki/ Mt Cook National Park as a SAR (Search and rescue) guide. He had attended a rescue the previous evening with the rest of his crew and chopper pilot.
They had flown over and near our camp at 8:15 pm on their way back to base after getting their patient to a hospital on the west coast. He spotted our walking tracks in the snow on the Bonney Glacier. Suzanne had commented the previous night that the chopper was flying late in the evening.
It was a poignant moment for me to think my brother had flown over me the very day of having climbed Mt Malte Brun! especially after what we had endured back in ‘98 in our snowcave.
Suzanne and I had a relatively easy Friday with a solid walk up to the Sefton Bivy and hut where we had hot noodles and coffee whilst enjoying the incredible panoramic views.
We ended a very successful expedition that afternoon back at Alpine Guides base at the Hermitage. Suzanne’s easy going approach to living in the mountains made my trip a total success.
Her highly skilled mountaineering abilities and experience gave me complete confidence.
Alpine Guides… you did it again! Success on three out of three trips is wicked!
Many thanks to Arthur, Dave, and the team at Alpine Guides. I was impressed with the professional vibe you guys give to Alpine Guides.
Thank you Suzanne for the awesome climbing especially Mt Malte Brun.
I look forward to my next trip.
Chris Barker 13/3/12