Peaks 31 & 32: Mt Cheeseman & Mt Cockayne
Another week, another peak in the Craigieburns! Some great (ish) conditions led me to head out with a group of mates & Caralyn across the top of the ski fields towards Mt Cheeseman (2031m) and join them for some ski touring.
I wasn’t on skis but that didn’t matter, the weather started with a light drizzle and cleared throughout the day to reveal amazing views of stormy skies from the top ridge. The start point was Cheeseman Ski Field and we clambered up the slopes to the top hut (away from the ski runs so not to damage the precious snow). This was a gut wrenching climb and needed all of our strength to get up to the top – it’s not often you have to climb back up a black run at a ski field – and they are pretty steep let me tell you!
Anyway, we reached the top, put on our crampons and headed out across the thin ridge towards Mt Cheeseman.
There was fresh snow across the tops, it seemed that overnight they had a bit of powder, which meant a snowy start to the trek.
After traversing around the ridge for around 1km, we hit a rocky patch at spot height 1950m – where the ski tourers had to either take their skis off and go boots, or find a sketchy route around the rocks on patches of ice – not pleasant to watch them struggle and slip (with a little bit of exposure – only a 600m drop either side) – but we nailed it, got over the rocks and headed further along the mellowed out ridgeline.
From there the going was easy and I was freed up to run a little – hard in crampons, but you’ve got to try.
There were some awesome views of the rest of the Craigieburn Range through to Mt Izard, Enys (soon to be on the peak list) and towards Porters skifield at the gateway to the National Park.
The skiiers caught us up as we trudged up the final 150m of climb to the top of Mt Cheeseman 2031m) – Peak 31 – in the bag!
Turn around! Back down the mountain, towards the ski field with the skiiers – heading off elsewhere…
Well, what’s the fun in going up if you can’t come down eh?
Retracing our footsteps to Mt Cockayne was a little harder than heading out (as we were now descending – so you could see the run-outs more easily disappearing into the snowy valleys below).
The clouds were moving faster overhead and we lost sight of our end point a couple of times. Still – incredible views when the mountains reappeared – looking into the Cass-Lagoon valleys and onwards towards Mt Wall, Hamilton Peak and Nervous Knob.
A good set of cornices on the lee side of the slope, we stayed to the Hamilton River side of the ridge and followed our footsteps – which were not partly covered by the snow that was falling intermittently.
From the moment we made it back to the ski tow for the final time, the climb to Mt Cockayne was negligible ~100m more up and we’d made it. Peak 32 (1874m) – enough time to head down to the ski lodge for a beer and a relax before the drive back to Chch.