Sunday, February 21, 2010

The adventurous world of under-runners

As per last week's post my cousin Mike and myself were out again yesterday on another 4wd adventure tidying the choice of descent route off of the Pisa Range for the upcoming North Otago Search and Rescue 4wd fundraiser to be held in a couple of weeks time.

Last week's problem were these things called "under-runners"...

They form in ancient glacial soils/clays comprised of loess [derived from the floodplains of glacial braided rivers that carried large volumes of glacial meltwater and sediments]. Somehow as loess was deposited by wind in certain areas [tors on hillsides seem to accompany the formation] all the particles dropped by the wind were occasionally of a similar size, and it's known that this sort of structure in the soil has no strength to resist the likes of water percolating down mountain sides, sometimes under ancient land slides. Under-runners [of water] then work away eventually under-mining the surface, which collapses inwards, to considerable depths it seems if this hole is anything to go by [stones thrown in clattered for sometime!]...

Although we'd identified this one [which was why I was not in the truck!], Mike dropped a front wheel in as an edge collapsed. At the instant I made this photo, the rear end of the truck [on the left looking] lurched alarmingly into the air and the rear wheel left the ground...

Mike got his first Land Rover about close on 50 years ago, and in those years with 4wd driving as his hobby, I can't imagine anyone more experienced. So to get out of this literal hole he matter-of-factly asked for some weight and drove onwards, but stopping before the back wheel dropped into the hole. We then evaluated options and decided to fill the hole in enough to progress, which worked nicely...

A lot of thought last week was given to whether or not we should bring 50-100 vehicles [with accompanying vibration and base line driver skills in some cases] down this route, and the farmer was consulted. He advised there was another route, but a complex one, so with his knowledge and a very obscure map we set off yesterday from the bottom of the Kawarau gorge this time, to nut it out going upwards from a known exit point rather than last week's downward effort featuring numerous choices. As we climbed up an over grown track the views across the valley became fascinating. This one is of a huge area modified by miners, and there is a wee hut bottom left...

With just one vehicle going quietly and slowly we had ideas of fresh venison, but first morning tea break...

While driving along with the intensity of native trackers on an almost non-existent track hidden by short grasses, thankfully on gentle slopes, we were rewarded by this amazing view of the Kawarau - the road to Queenstown just on the right of the river...

Route finding problem solved we reached known ground and Mike left his marks in the form of fluro paint to aid his leading the trip...

As we gained height we encountered 45 knot winds so we adjourned to this hut down in a gully for a nice picnic lunch out of the wind...

A good clean up is needed 'else DOC may decide to remove this icon of NZ's past...

Mike keeps his boot very still as a confused lizard grapples with a whole new reality...

After lunch we serendipitously meet a 7 vehicle expedition of the Canterbury Land Rover Users Club, and keen to try out our new route down and prove it's safety/viability with very experienced drivers [and mark/flatten the grass] Mike invited them to follow and thus add some real distance and value to their outing [we also had the key to the gate]. Vehicles like this maybe great at mud slugging and handling big Canterbury rivers, but their turning circle is not so good in this terrain....

The descent went well and we were soon back down by the amazingly beautiful Kawarau river...



And for those wondering: venison eluded us.

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Blogger Bob McKerrow said...

Thanks Donald for taking me on a pleasant journey. Bob

February 22, 2010 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

Pleasure Bob. Thanks for dropping by.

Interesting how so many of us humans feel the need to express ourselves and and how the Internet gives us the where-withall.

More later - need some bad weather to catch up with things in this zone.



February 22, 2010 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Marg said...

That looks like such a fun trip that those people are going to have and what fun getting ready for it !

February 25, 2010 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Donald said...

Hi Marg

Yes a fun trip indeed. Lets hope on the day the weather is kind.

It's been a bit of work getting the route prepared - as you could imagine if there are 80 vehicles and a boggy bit that might stop most of them, the 10 mins. per vehicle minimum to get them out multiplied by 80 could make for a late night!

I hope the beginning of the school year is treating you well?



February 25, 2010 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Marg said...

Thank you very much for your thoughts about my dad this week. I've been thinking about him a lot these last couple of weeks and I think he'd be happy to know how much we all miss him.

My career started as a primary school teacher but for the last 20 I have actually been in early childhood. I retrained after teaching for 3 years in school and have never looked back although I'm not really sure about what I am looking forward into at the moment. I worked for ERO for 9 months last year and since being back from that secondment have been plagued by an unquantifiable restlessness. Which is not say that I dont love what I do or diminish my fondness for my colleagues or workplace. So in answer to your question - No Im not sure that the beginning of the year is treating me well but I am confident that there is always a way forward so long as you make room for the unexpected.

Cheers Marg

February 26, 2010 at 9:06 PM  

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