Finally, we found an opportunity to make our way into Twin Stream. We decided to interpret the weather forecast as nobody else would, and worked out if we head in on Tuesday, we can sit out the bad weather Thursday and then climb the rest of the cloudy and showering days.
Twin Stream was such a monumentally epic trip that there is no way I can describe it in a single recollection, so unfortunately you’ll have to read through two episodes of my rambling making the unforgettable ‘Twin Stream: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’. Check out ‘The Bad and The Ugly‘ here if you prefer the bad news first, otherwise continue reading.
Twin Stream is absolutely epic! We arrived by helicopter – for $225 up to 5 people can get choppered in, which is great value if there are more than 2 of you. The chopper ride was awesome, neither Em nor I had been in a helicopter before and it was a strange feeling being in an aircraft dipping and darting through the valley with such agility.
‘Skids’, our pilot was a dirty Hamiltonian, and explained plenty to us on the short flight. He pointed out the Rotokauri for the walk back, and taught us about the Tar prints (a local mountain goat) where we landed. The views up the stream from the chopper were breathtaking, it’s understandable why there were queues of tourists waiting for the alpine scenic flights.
Watching the chopper disappear into the distance left us with a sudden realisation of the isolation in this desolate landscape. Living in the middle of an ampitheatre with huge mountain tops and glaciers surrounding us on three sides was truly amazing. For 8 days we didn’t see a soul, other than the half dozen helicopters that passed overhead on the scenic tours, and the array of wildlife which socialised with us.
Our first new friends were a really cool pair of Alpine Rock Wren – an extremely rare wee bird that DOC are hunting for (they’re interested in my sightings). These guys flitted about happy as can be, with the highest pitch little tweet I have ever heard. They were around us most of the time – I think just keeping an eye on us to make sure we treated the place with the respect it deserved. There were also the ‘Alpine Sheep’ as Em dubbed them. One day we heard a ‘baa’ echoing from across the valley, and urgently found my binoculars hoping to see a tar. What we instead found was a herd of about 40 sheep, happily hanging out on the extremely precarious side of a mountain, eating what looked to be the worst patches of grass for miles. There were also a pack of Keas – main stars of ‘The Bad and The Ugly‘.
I suppose at some stage I should mention the rock. Truly outstanding. The main cliff was a massive 250m+ fortress of rock, towering over the campsite. With endless potential for new routes, the climbing throughout the valley was truly breathtaking. We began on the ‘short’ 80m ‘Half Moon Slab’, as the guidebook called it an excellent introduction to the area. Our first line was an extremely technical 17 – ‘Moon Rise’. It was awesome. True alpine climbing, with some BIG run-outs (easily 5m+) and consistently technical, wandering climbing. It required thinking all the time and digging into the full arsenal of climbing experience I have developed over the years. At times there were seemingly impassable sections until traversing a few meters back and forth, with closer and closer inspection of the rock eventually leading to a hold presenting a line of weakness. Lots of tricky moves on sidepulls, and intricate body positioning made both 40m pitches of solid slab climbing physically and mentally draining. It was mostly bolted, but the sporadic placements were very tricky to get gear in. The mental threat of the bolting lead to many pauses before attempting sections, and trying to find gear placements chewed up a lot of time. It took us over 3 hours to complete the line, but what an achievement it felt like.
A two hour scree slog up to Upper Shindig Gully lead to Fibrilator (22). A two pitch line worthy of its 3 stars in the guidebook. Making its way up a seemingly blank slab through wonderous rock it was a real highlight of the trip.
Life at camp was surreal. It is lucky Em and I are happy with each others company – we managed to fill our down time with activities such as rock petanque, sketching, learning French, cards, and reading and writing.
Our other time filler was of course our good friend whiskey. The isolation of the place really made me think about the people in my life, with a lot of time for reflection I thought of those at home and abroad. Luckily my final addition to the pack as we were preparing for the helicopter was grabbing the last of my 12 year old Bushmills whiskey (gifted to me by my parents on their return from Europe) which was encased in my beautiful hip-flask, which had been gifted to me by my awesome friends for my 21st. Little things like this bought back great memories throughout the trip.
Twin Stream was an experience of a life time, and I have full intentions of returning later in life and dragging along anyone I can convince to join me to share the experience. Of course there were a few things not so good… On to Twin Stream: The Bad, and The Ugly