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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 5 (August 1, 1939)

Snow in the Fowler Pass — Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound

page 61

Snow in the Fowler Pass
Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound

(Govt. Publicity photo.) A glimpse of Lake Manapouri, South Island.

(Govt. Publicity photo.)
A glimpse of Lake Manapouri, South Island.

Three days of steady rain in the birch forest on the shores of Lake Manapouri. Curling mists over that “lake of a hundred isles,” and on the third morning a blanket of snow on the Takitimo Range, that lifts its hump back from the Otago Plains.

The fourth day sunshine broke over the lake, asparkle for the twenty-two mile launch trip to West Arm. But up there mist again was crowding the peaks, and long before the track leaves the Spey River to wind up the Dash-wood to Wilmot Pass, rain was concealing all but the near loveliness. So over the 2,225 feet of the Pass and down to the hut at Deep Cove, the head of Doubtful Sound—eleven miles of beauty.

A snowfall on the peaks above—Fowler and Wilmot behind us, sentinels of the Pass—the third dawn; and again sunshine for the twenty-eight mile trip down the Sound to Secretary Island, then north and east to the Camelot River at the head of Gaer Arm.

Two miles up the river, forest all the way, in the dinghy. Rain again. Through magnificent timber country, following up the banks of the Camelot, five miles to Bedevere Hut. A promise of snow in the cold air, in the foam-pale waterfall that faced the hut.

All through the next morning we climbed, steeply, over root and rock steps. We waded into the mountain torrent below, hoping that it would not prove as cold as it looked.

It did! But let it be said that this is the only unbridged stream on the whole of the 110-mile round trip—except in persistent storm, when back waters may flood the track.

After that, upward again, the flowers of the high country in profusion, sickly-sweet scent of the lace-bark in the rain-laden air. And so to the very head-waters of the Camelot, with snow peaks towering over us. A short, ladder-like climb, to a wide plateau level, where the birch trees were scattered over native grass. Sheer cliff walled in the hidden meadow-land, through which the crystal stream from Lake Teraki chuckled. Our imagination was captured by thoughts of the Lost Tribe: here surely was a possible stronghold—elsewhere in the mighty Kepler Range, that stretches from Manapouri to the south fiord of Lake Te Anau, would be such plateaux, these uncrossed by the summer tracks of the white man.

(Govt. Publicity photo.) Picturesque Doubtful Sound, South Island.

(Govt. Publicity photo.)
Picturesque Doubtful Sound, South Island.

Then to the task of the Fowler. The Fowler Chimney slopes a little from the perpendicular, and in fair weather is easy climbing. In bad weather, too, for the hardened tramper or the mountaineer, it is easy climbing. For those who make the distinction between walking and tramping, and belong to the former class, snow in the Chimney is an experience not to be forgotten.

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From the white above an icy cascade tumbles into our faces; packed in every foothold is treacherous snow, not long fallen, so that it slides downward with the weight of a step. A wind that we in the cities do not know whips from the peaks, numbing hands and feet in very little time. Soon we are watching our hands to see if we are actually gripping the ledges by which we must pull ourselves upward. Beside me, as I wait for our guide to find the footholds, melted snow in the cascade is freezing on to the rock edges.

We can no longer look ahead to the summit of the climb; the immediate step fully occupies our attention. Slowly, slowly the rock cleft stretches out to the plateau, now some hundred feet below. Snow gradually envelops the sheer sides of the Chimney; even the kiwi whose track we saw in the snow on Lake Teraki shores does not seem to have followed this only practicable crossing of the divide.

Once at the top of that 3,200-foot climb, we are in snow to a depth of four to six feet. The stone cairns that mark the way down to Lake Minerva are no guide: we can but stagger down the Chimney, this slope being fortunately not half as steep as the western side.

Sometimes one would sink through two feet to packed snow, and laboriously extricate one submerged foot after the other. Rarely did the jagged rocks pierce the softness; and the stream beneath could be vaguely avoided by the coloration, though sometimes one splashed noisily through into an icy pool.

Here were wapiti tracks, giant-like with the spread of the snow, as were our own footmarks. For a while we were very grateful to that cream-coloured beast, for surely he knew, as we did not, the safest and easiest way. His queer little detours, and right-angle turns, always had reason behind them, as we found if we took a shortcut.

In the valley of Lake Minerva the bitter wind was not felt. The roof that peeped from the edge of the birch forest on the lake shore drew us onward, grazed hands and knees almost forgotten in our eagerness to reach the hut.

While the weka screeched through the darkness, and the kiwi screamed, we drew close round the blazing log-fire, talked of things remote from snowclad Fowler Pass, from a lake locked in these sheer peaks that no man knows.

On the morrow, round the western shores of Lake Minerva, to the outlet that is the Freeman River. Then through age-old forest all the way, eight miles to the Freeman Hut, and on to North Arm Hut, Lake Manapouri. White of lace-bark where the kaka calls, bush-canary and wren hopping on the fuchsia boughs; everywhere the scarlet flame of mistletoe, lending a soft red to the distant green of birch and rimu and totara.

(Photo., Thelma R. Kent.) Cascade Hut, a mountaineering base near the Dart Valley, South Island, New Zealand.

(Photo., Thelma R. Kent.)
Cascade Hut, a mountaineering base near the Dart Valley, South Island, New Zealand.

Sixteen miles back, in the heart of the Kepler Range, the Fowler Pass is blanketed in snow, no longer violated by human presence; watching over the secret of its fastness with the moose and wapiti; and the kiwi climbing by the blue lake of Teraki, somewhere to the white-glowing needles above.

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Panorama of the Playground
“Mile Of The Century”-1939.

Sydney Wooderson, outstanding English miler, holder of world records for 800 metres, 880 yards and one mile, failed to defeat the cream of American milers at Princeton (New Jersey) on June 17th, but the result of the race has only been to further complicate discussions on Wooderson's ability.

It seems strange to state that an athlete holding three world records, and credited with being the first runner to break three minutes for three-quarters of a mile, should have doubts cast on his ability as a racer, but that is the position.

Wooderson's best efforts have been made in races in which he has received the benefit of pacing from competitors on marks scheduled to pull Wooderson out and assist him to run his laps in preconceived times. In actual competition, against classy milers, Wooderson has yet to prove himself, although he has many fine times to his credit.

In the “Mile of the Century,” Wooderson finished last, behind Chuck Fenske, my choice for first, Glenn Cunningham, my choice for second, and San Romani and Rideout. The time, 4min. 11sec., was just a fraction of a second faster than Lovelock's winning time when he won the “Mile of the Century” in 1935. There seems to be an “annual Mile of the Century” contested at Princeton.

Although Wooderson failed to live up to his reputation as the fastest miler in the world, he met with misfortune during the race, and should not be written off for his lack of success. He was passed by Blaine Rideout, who apparently bumped him slightly, with the result that the Englishman stumbled. The majority of critics, however, claim that Wooderson's attempt to lead from start to finish had taken the steam out of him and that the bump made no difference to the result.

* * *

Louis-Galen to Fight.

Yet another big sporting fixture was held in America during June, Tony Galento, known to the sporting fraternity as “Beer-barrel Tony,” or the “Fighting Falstaff,” failing in his attempt to win the world heavyweight boxing championship from Joe Louis, who has more ring names than a centipede has legs.

It was a good thing for boxing that Galento did not win. This unusual shaped boxer owns a “beer house” and trains on cigars and liquor, with the result that his line of publicity featured these commodities. Eventually, the Boxing Commissioners in America insisted that no pictures be published of Galento when portraying him in his customary imbibing or inhaling poses.

But behind his clowning there must have been a stratum of physical fitness. Galento absorbed tremendous punishment before the referee stopped the bout in the fourth round and only a fit athlete could have taken the knocks and then come back for more.

There have been cases of boxers in the past who fooled their opponents by embarking on a pseudo “spree” and lulled the opposition into a feeling of false confidence. Maybe that is what Galento was doing, but, if so, it didn't work out that way.

Louis is now reported to be matched against Bob Pastor, who lost to the negro on points in 1937, and recently outpointed New Zealander Maurice Strickland. The feeling in fistic circles, however, is that Lou Nova, winner of Barlund, Farr and Baer is the most logical opponent to face the “Brown Bomber.”

* * *

A Visitor from South Africa.

A recent arrival in New Zealand is Frank Forster, leading South African professional wrestler. Forster, former captain of Northern Rhodesia at Rugby football and a Transvaal representative lock forward, is intensely interested in New Zealand Rugby football and has been impressed by several players in Wellington. (At the time of writing he had not seen any other teams in action.—W.F.I.). After an interesting newspaper article on South African football, Forster was contacted by Arthur Lambourn, New Zealand representative hooker, who asked the South African if he would attend their gymnasium and give the Petone senior forwards instruction in packing a 3-4-1 scrum. A good sportsman, Forster readily agreed and, at the request of Mr. Mark Richardson, coach to the Athletic Club, he agreed to assist that club as well. He takes up the attitude that football is a sport, and what one knows should be passed on to assist others. Who knows, perhaps his coaching may produce the page 64 forwards necessary to represent New Zealand against South Africa next year?

Forster, in his younger days, was a member of the Pretoria Harriers Club, of which club Jock Oosterlaak, South African Olympic sprinter, who was in New Zealand in 1922, was a member. Forster brought several messages from Oosterlaak, who is now employed as an electrician in Pretoria.

Oosterlaak was a member of the South African relay team to defeat New Zealand in a memorable contest at Athletic Park—a race still talked of by those fortunate enough to witness it.

* * *

Influx of Wrestlers.

Coming events cast their shadows before, and there seems good reason to suspect that the influx of high-rating American wrestlers to New Zealand this season is in no small part due to the suggested visit of Jim Londos, world champion. However, New Zealanders are confident that their own champion, Lofty Blomfield, and the British Empire champion, Earl McCready, will be found tough enough to withstand the challenges from Kirchmeyer, Cox, Martinez, Donovan and Jones, and win the right to battle out an elimination contest, the winner to meet Londos for the title. Hard matches will be fought before this great contest, but New Zealanders look to Blomfield to hold the fort.

New Zealand League Team on Tour.

In previous years there has not been a great deal of interest, outside of Auckland, in the selection of a New Zealand Rugby League team to visit England, but the gradual increase in playing standard and public support for that code has given the selection of this year's touring team a great deal of publicity. With several New Zealanders making a name for themselves in England—as members of English clubs—it has been realised that the ugly duckling of football has blossomed out, and there seems reason to advance the opinion that the interest taken in Baskerville's “All Golds” will be eclipsed when the team commences its tour.

* * *

Jack Lovelock on Stamps.

New Zealander Jack Lovelock occupies a prominent position on the official stamp being sold in America in aid of funds to send an American team to the Olympic Games in Finland. The illustration depicts the start of the 1500 metres at the Games in Los Angeles, Lovelock, on the outside of the field, carrying the Silver Fern. This race was won by Luigi Beccali, of Italy. The stamps were being sold in sheets of forty, each sheet costing one dollar.

Maori Oratory.

The picturesque imagery, so characteristic of Maori oratory, was caught in the peroration of a speech by Mr. A. T. (Turi) Carroll, Chairman of the Wairoa County Council, at the celebrations to mark the official opening of the railway from Napier to Wairoa on the 1st July.

“We see,” said Mr. Carroll, “the bleak isolation which has brooded, cloud-like and menacing, over Wairoa for so many years, dispelled by the gentle and generous wind of prosperity. The railway raises the curtain to reveal, in sunshine colours, that bright and glowing future which is the District's destiny.”

(J. Stevens, photo.) The first of the “KB” type streamlined locomotives completed at the Railway Department's Workshops at Hillside, Dunedin. These locomotives are of 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, and weigh 145 tons in working order. They have an overall length of 69ft. Sins, and are intended for heavy service traffic in the South Island.

(J. Stevens, photo.)
The first of the “KB” type streamlined locomotives completed at the Railway Department's Workshops at Hillside, Dunedin. These locomotives are of 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, and weigh 145 tons in working order. They have an overall length of 69ft. Sins, and are intended for heavy service traffic in the South Island.