Wakatipu reflections

Friday Flashback to 1979

If you ever get to visit Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island, you won’t know where to point your camera first. The area is a photographer’s paradise. Lake Wakatipu is a good place to start in any season, whatever the weather.

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A very cold morning in August 1979. I was grateful for the red boat to inject some warmth into the scene.

The Remarkables make a spectacular backdrop and you won’t have much trouble finding an angle to fit them in. An Australian travel writer once noted that if they were located in a less reserved country they’d be called the Bloody Astoundings.

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Winter sun disolves the clouds to reveal the jagged face of the Remarkables.

You probably shouldn’t expect to find tranquil urban scenes like this, today, anywhere close to town. It’s safe to say, without linking to boring pages of stats and charts, that Queenstown’s resident population has at least doubled in the past 40 years – and is expected to double again in the next 40, although it’s anybody’s guess where they’re going to live with the area bursting at the seams already. And then you can add the tourists….. These images were made when most of the daytime action was still on the skifields, before Queenstown became the self-styled, year round, all seasons ‘Adventure Capital of the World.’

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 The Cecil Peak barge moored at Queenstown wharf. This is an essential piece of farm equipment for the station across the lake which has no road access.

Now we have tandem paragliding, zip lines, and – heaven help us – the hydro attack, not to mention people jumping out of perfectly functioning aircraft at 15,000 feet. Before the bungy was invented there was the lake, Earnslaw cruises, amazing scenery, and fresh mountain air. They’re still there if you want them.

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Cecil Peak is on the left, Walter Peak with cloud cap at centre. The red funnel at right belongs to the vintage lake steamer t.s.s. Earnslaw.

Next Friday – a flight to Milford Sound.

Winter sports

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The Southern Alps are a favourite climbing ground for tourists who find in snow and ice a playground for their winter holidays, and the comfortable “Hermitage” hotel at the base of the main range is a popular rendezvous for patrons of the winter sports. The Hermitage is a modern hotel in the heart of the Alps, reached by a good motor road, and providing every convenience for climbers. The summit looks right down upon the hotel.

The Hermitage has expanded considerably since this was written in 1928.

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I think this is from Sealy Tarns, not Mount Sealy.

The ascent of Mount Cook and its neighbouring peaks is the aim of many mountain climbers and the record of conquests is extremely small. The lofty peak of Mt. Cook is 12,349 feet [3764m] above the level of the sea, and its ascent is a task to try out the steel in a climber’s nerves. The track lies over crumbling glaciers and brittle snowfields where the first false step will probably be the last.
‘Beautiful New Zealand’ series, Three Castles cigarettes (W.D. & H.O. Wills) 1928.
Original images from the New Zealand Government Publicity Office.

Writers who record the heights of mountains should add “at time of writing” because it seems nothing is permanent. Aoraki/Mount Cook lost about 30 metres from its summit in a single rockfall in 1991. Luckily there were no climbers standing in the way. Then, in 2014, modern instruments measured it at 12,218 feet (3,724 metres). Its reputation as a dangerous mountain, however, has not been reduced and the warning about false steps still holds true. Many experienced climbers have died on its slopes since it was first climbed in 1894. The last unclimbed route wasn’t conquered until 1970.

The Southern Alps were a training ground for New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary who first climbed Aoraki/Mount Cook in 1948 and went on to famously “knock off” Everest five years later.

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Aoraki/Mount Cook towers above Lake Pukaki on a hot December day in 2013. Perspective is compressed by a 270mm (equivalent) lens. The mountain is about 60 or 70km away (40 miles).

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The view from State Highway 8 at the bottom end of Lake Pukaki.

Follow this link for some spectacular images of the Southern Alps.