Earnslaw Burn

Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

January 14 - 15, 2009

Dave and Jill Svilar


Dave passes through a field of kryptonite.

We were still tired from our trip in Fiordland, but with a somewhat settled forecast we felt compelled to do another trip.  The Earnslaw Burn, recommended by Neil had been moved to the Must Do column in my list of trip possibilities.  Trouble didn't take long to reveal itself.  After fording the river at the trailhead we passed through a field of grass in prime allergy form.  The plan was to ascend to the ridge and follow it as far as possible to Mt Earnslaw, drop down to the burn and walk out on the trail.  Because of the grass we bushwhacked instead of taking the open field in hopes of keeping my hay fever at bay.  This was a success, but with the memory of Moraine Creek still too fresh in our minds bushwhacking just didn't hold the same appeal.  Views along the ridge were fantastic - the hanging glaciers on Earnslaw, the Rees River Valley on the other side.  Our mojo was already low, and when it started to get warm and we couldn't find water the decision was made to abandon the ridge.  Back to the trail we went, which required a 90 minute bushwhack.  Getting tangled in a steep section of bush I lost my composure and began an obscenity-laced tirade to no one in particular.  The PG version of my tirade went something like, "what are we doing in this jungle?  This is a stupid way to spend a vacation."  It really was stupid to bushwhack all the way to the ridge and back, and I apologized profusely to Jill for my ineptitude as a guide.  She was understanding as usual.

Once back on the trail I calmed down and, above bushline we reached a laser-flat sandbar where we made camp.  The day had been mostly wasted with our excursion to the ridge, but the next day promised to yield some fun exploring farther up the creek towards mighty Mt Earnslaw.  The guidebook had warned of sandflies in the area, which I considered to be an ominous sign.  If Moir would bother to mention sandfly problems in a country full of them, it could be bad.  It was.  We swatted sandflies until dark only winning the battle with the help of a healthy breeze.  The following morning I woke early and headed upriver looking for a good location to shoot sunrise.  To my horror, the entire route was filled with kryptonite - field grass in full bloom.  By the time I had taken photos and returned to camp my eyes were swelling and welts were forming on my arms.  Once the sneezing fit began I had no choice - I triple dosed the antihistamine.  Trip over.  We packed amidst an overwhelming cloud of sandflies and headed - dejected and tired - back to the car.  On the two hour drive to Wanaka I couldn't stay awake as I was semi-comatosed from the drugs. 

That evening the next series of storms blew in.  We were reaching a stage of burnout with our trip to New Zealand, so we took unprecedented measures - we stayed in a motel for three consecutive nights in Wanaka.  The Earnslaw Burn is probably a great place, but for me it will have to be at a later time of year when the grass is dead. 

- compiled March 2009

More bushwhacking.  This time to ascend to the ridge.  Usually a 'schwack is good fun, but the memory of Moraine Creek was too fresh in our minds.


Jill (she's the one waving) on the ridge above Earnslaw Burn.  Neil had recommended taking this ridge, which was fantastic for the short time we were on it.  Mt Earnslaw, one of New Zealand's most well-known peaks has the distinction of being featured in Lord of the Rings.


Jill hiking along the ridge.  Good views were had down and to the right into the Rees Valley.


I try to never carry water when hiking, preferring to stop at creeks and chugging.  This was our first experience in New Zealand when we weren't surrounded by water, and after a couple of hours along the ridge both of us had passed the point of thirst.  For the rest of the trip Jill didn't hike anywhere without at least some water in her pack.


After another bushwhack back to the trail, and a couple of hours of hiking we found this flat sandbar which made an excellent camp, except for the sandflies.


Jill busied herself trying to make fire.  She did well considering all the wood was still wet.


I walked farther up the burn to snap sunrise photos.  The light was disappointing and the amount of grass (in the mountains!) was alarming.  Notice the waterfalls coming off the cliffs to the left and beneath the glacier.


By the time I came back to camp Jill was awake in her sack, but had not budged.  Sandflies by the hundred.


Hiking back to the car through open fields of kryptonite.

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Having more fun staying in a motel, watching a triathlon, and eating ice cream in Wanaka.


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