This trip started with an unexpected call for a challenge. While having breakfast I was reading a TROG from 2006 and found exactly the same trip we would start just a couple of hours later: “Gloriana Peak: …not every CUTC group made it to the peak – give your best…” Ok, challenge accepted! The weather forecast did not look ideal at that time but with Jack, Wolf, Caroline and Phil we would start with a strong team. Everything would mainly depend on the weather!
We left the UCSA car park at 7am and soon we were on the Main N Road 1 in a strong rain – the wind screen wiper running on its maximum level. Not a good start…
But once we passed the sign to Lewis Pass the weather got better – suddenly dry and warm but cloudy. To my surprise even the car park at Lewis Pass was covered in snow. I did not expect that much snow on such a low level.
After around 4 hours walking over the beginning of the St. James Walkway we were just 200m away from Ada Pass Hut and started into the bush bashing part of the trip, following a stream up to the tree level. The river crossing, keeping dry boots, was the biggest challenge. Nearly all stones were very slippery and we got a few left or right wet boots. Meanwhile, it had become quite warm and we had to continue our trip through mostly wet snow. Typically, warm weather is the friend of every tramper, but in this case it was our biggest enemy: passing the tree line, we were surrounded by many previous Loose Wet Avalanches. The chances to get to the peak were suddenly quite small. We discussed our route again and again – no reason to take a risk – and stopped at dawn to camp below the three tarns on the planned route.
The night was relatively calm but early in the morning the wind suddenly raised. So, in combination with the high avalanche risk, we decided to stay in the tents – back to dreamland. Another glory for Gloriana Peak in the competition between peak and CUTC (we will get our revenge in summer!). Waking up after sunrise started with my next surprise. My tent was covered in snow – inside! My snow walls around the tent had failed and the wind had blown fresh new snow inside. I now know exactly why my tent is only rated as a three-season tent. The others had similar ‘experiences’ (Kathmandu solo tents with the size of an opossum trap are also not the best choice for light snow storm- ask Jack!).
We finally left our campsite and walked back to Ada Pass Hut for breakfast (my second one that day). The warm weather and some rain in the night had done their best and most of the snow had vanished. So, the same way back looked a little bit different. Just the small bridge guard was still sitting in the same place.
And they all lived happily even after and had fish and chips in Culverden…
Recommendation for the next similar trip: bring avalanche receivers, probes and snow shovels! Snow stakes for your tent are also a good choice.
Fish & Chips in Culverden: just 3/5 (don’t buy sauce – you also get it for free 😉 )
Location: Gloriana Peak, Lewis Pass
Tramps: Jack Wicks, Arthur Wolf Whitehead, Caroline Bellamy, Phillip Wallace, Philipp Sültrop
Words & images by Philipp Sültrop