Forbes Peak

Of the 18 tallest peaks in the Southern Lakes District of NZ, three are with in local heli-ski operators terrain. The tops of these peaks have not been skied, so we headed into the Richardson Mountains via helicopter on Monday. We shut down the helicopter on the glacier and climbed Centaur Peak with ice axes and crampons. Some of our group skied down and some of them down climbing the steep ice covered summit flank. Then we flew to the north Harris Mountains and climbed Mt Headlong. With two probable first ski descents under our belts before lunch we then headed over to Mt Head which wasn’t so steep. It was amazing snow and great views over to the Snowdrift Range. The helicopter then dropped us on the glacier below Mt Sir William and we headed back to Wanaka. The route above looked daunting and without much hope of summiting we headed off ‘for a look’ knowing no one had climbed the peak for several years. Two hours later we were amazed to be standing on the summit after climbing steep snow and ice. We carefully climbed down and headed up our fifth mountain of the day, Mt O’Leary. We summited very tired, right on sunset and had a bit of an epic time getting down to the Esquilant Bivy Hut. The snow got very steep, then stopped and we had to climb down in the dark down steep ice and then loose rock, arriving to the hut at 10pm. The next day we slowly climbed Mt Earnslaw and skied back to the hut, then headed off down the rarely visited Bedford Valley towards the Dart River. We bivvied out in the tussock grass at 1200m then on day three descended down steep bush to the river, pumped out the inflatable kayaks we’d cached there and paddled down towards Glenorchy Township. Six peaks in three days, tired legs, but big smiles.

Mark