Weather not on adventurers’ side

Left: The planned route of the group’s traverse of the Southern Alps. Centre:  Allan Brent...
Left: The planned route of the group’s traverse of the Southern Alps. Centre: Allan Brent reflects on his Southern Alps adventure. Right from top: Lydia McLean and Alexis Belton examine the route ahead to Rangitata Col, under Mt Nicholson, from McCoy Col. Crossing the swollen Matiri River in the Kahurangi National Park. Setting up camp in less than ideal conditions on the Annette Plateau below Mt Sealy. Photos: Stephen Jaquiery & Allan Brent.
Stuck on a glacier in the Southern Alps with almost zero visibility, Allan Brent knew he  and his friends needed to get to lower ground but he could not do anything to help.

Mr Brent, along with friends Alexis Belton and Lydia McLean, were trying to cross the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Allah ice plateaux as part of their four-month traverse of the Southern Alps when bad weather struck and forced them to  change their plans.

All three grew up in Dunedin and had been tramping and climbing in the southern South Island since they were young.

"Within 30 minutes of leaving our camp it was a whiteout and we ended up crossing these glaciers.

"I ended up getting really cold," Mr Brent said.

Although aware the two others were discussing how they were going to get off the glaciers, Mr Brent said he was in no state to help.

"It was quite scary ...  they say the symptoms of hyperthermia are you get angry and can’t make decisions.

"I was just irate with the guys and was aware they were talking about what to do but I couldn’t really contribute.

"So that wasn’t very good," he said.

After more than two hours the group found their way off the glaciers but unfortunately their ordeal was not  over.

"We found ourselves at the head of Perth River, which is kind of nowhere, and the storm was fully breaking."

They set up their tent on  the only bit of grass they could see but at about 2am the tent  was ripped apart by the strong winds.

"We made this mad dash to a rock nearby, just put everything in the nearest dry bag and then spent the night in a tahr hole just out of the rain  ...  then got going at about five in the morning."

Two days later, they reached Scone Hut, which in better weather could have taken only about eight hours.

"Those couple of days were definitely the gnarliest of the whole trip. 

"At the time these things aren’t a lot fun but you deal with it and get it done."

Bad weather had been the one constant in the traverse, which started on November 2 and still had about six weeks to go.

"I think all up we have had about nine days of good weather, which has meant we haven’t been able to do a lot of the things we wanted to do.

"We had plans to climb some of the 3000m peaks but the weather has just been against us, so that hasn’t happened."

The group is now taking a short break before heading off on the final stage of the traverse through Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

"We’re going to kayak the length of both Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau and I’m not sure what our arm strength is like, so it will be interesting.

"But it’s all part of the experience, I guess. Another member of the team, Mark Leslie, of Wellington,  had to pull out of the expedition  after injuring a  knee. Throughout the traverse, friends and family have helped the adventurers by making  with food and equipment drops.]

"I can honestly say without those guys we couldn’t have done even a small part of what we have done,  so they have been a major help."

● Follow the traverse on the group’s website: 

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