Backyard and Beyond 2012 Expedition

Backyard and Beyond Trailers

September 2012

Its been a while coming but finally here it is, the second teaser for the Backyard and Beyond movie.

This is the second trailer in our Backyard and Beyond climbing and video project. Shelley Hersey is the narrator. Troy Mattingley and Tony Rac filmed, and Tony did the editing. Paul Hersey scripted and directed. Music is by Joss Weatherby.

Welcome Tony Rac

June 2012

The Backyard and Beyond team would like to welcome Tony Rac on board.

Tony is a climber/artist/photographer/accountant from across the ditch in Sydney. Tony has spent a number of summers both climbing and filming in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, and considers New Zealand his second – if not first – home. Despite the unlikely mix of being both an artist and accountant, Tony brings a strong skill set to the filming and editing portion of the BAB project.

The BAB team is currently involved in the post production phase of the documentary. This is likely to still take some time, and the final product will not be completed until next year. However, the BAB team will soon release some short trailers highlighting the project. Keep an eye out!

A Brief Round Up of Our Adventure

February 2012

Whew! All members of the BAB team are back in Christchurch, and trying to make sense of ‘normality’. Things like flushing toilets, endless food choices, clean clothes and armpits, and so much space indoors all feel rather overwhelming. Not to mention the noise, and the rapid travel of everyone and everything seemingly without awareness of surroundings. The assimilation back into society isn’t going particularly well just yet.

How to describe the trip? Words seem so inadequate, so limiting, so misleading. Superlatives wouldn’t scratch the surface. We only hope that, in time, the video will do justice in capturing our experiences.

To the stats, or things that can be quantified: We biked nearly 200km in three days from Christchurch, across the Canterbury Plains, to Erewhon Station near the head of the Rangitata River. From there we started hiking up the Havelock Valley and managed to locate an exciting version of Twilight Col in a whiteout. There appears to be a discrepancy on different maps as to the actual location of the Col, but our version worked out fine thanks to Jamie’s route-finding ability.

After dropping into the Godley Valley, we climbed again above Godley Glacier, camping near Trident Tarn for an attempt on Mt D’Archiac that didn’t happen. We hardly even saw the summit. Deteriorating weather chased us back down valley and up over Armadillo Saddle into the Murchison Valley. Traversing a terrace on the western side of the Liebig Range proved challenging in the rain, but we still squeezed in a first ascent of Mt Conrad’s West Face in a five hour weather window.

12 days after leaving Erewhon Station we reached Mount Cook Village, just before the worst storm of summer hit. Half a metre of snow fell on our proposed route over the Mt Scissors slabs into the head of the Landsborough Valley.

After waiting for six long days at the New Zealand Alpine Club’s Unwin Lodge (thanks heaps to wardens Chas and Katrina for putting up with our morose pacing) we changed plans and plugged over a snowed-up Jamieson Saddle into the Dobson Valley. Usually a doddle, new snow meant the Jamieson required two attempts to cross. Not wanting to repeat the drama, we avoided Tragedy Col, instead walking around 35km in a day down the long, long Dobson, and then round into the start of the Hopkins Valley. By now, the weather window had squeezed shut, with gale force northwest winds buffeting us during travel up to Huxley Forks Hut, and then heavy rain and rising river levels before Brodrick Hut. Our satellite phone died, meaning the end to weather forecasts.

Yet the following day we still managed to push over Brodrick Pass and into the Landsborough Valley. Smiles returned as we felt the journey was, finally, back on track. The smiles widened after crossing the Landsborough River and discovering our food stash (thanks heaps to Becky and DOC) just above Pass Creek. We celebrated by taking a rest day and eating as much as we could. It rained again.

Reaching the Upper Otoko Pass proved considerably more challenging than expected, and to look over into the head of the Otoko Valley was a huge relief. After another rest day, Jamie and Shelley climbed the steep and rather loose rock band of Mt Hooker’s North Face, linking up with the North East Ridge route a few hundred metres from the summit.

That night the rain set in again, and followed us down through the thick forest of the Otoko Valley. Yet, surprisingly, the last day was possibly the best weather of the trip and, 12 days after leaving Mount Cook Village, we arrived at Paringa on the West Coast (thanks heaps to Cornelia for picking us up and Alice for meeting us at Franz Josef).

That’s a brief physical description of the trip. The weather was never settled for very long and, in hindsight, we were probably pretty lucky to complete the traverse, not to mention climbing two first ascents. But, we would agree that the journey was so much more than the climbing. The skills of each member made us that much stronger as a team. And the varied environment we travelled through – especially Trident Tarn in the head of the Godley, the Landsborough and the Otoko – were absolute highlights.
Over the next few months we will continue working on production of the video from footage we took during the journey. Stay tuned.

Thanks to all our sponsors and supporters – SPARC, Bivouac Outdoor, Cactus Climbing Equipment, The Roxx, New Zealand Alpine Club, and Department of Conservation, we couldn’t have done it without them.

Trans-Alpine Expedition Route

This is the approximate route that our self-powered trans-alpine expedition took, starting in Christchurch and finishing at Paringa Valley on the West Coast.  We  completed this in January 2012.


And We’re Off

December 2011

The last couple of weeks have been frantic with packing, last minute details, Christmas and a further round of earthquakes. The 27th has finally arrived and it’s time to hit the road. This comes almost as relief: there is no more second guessing about what essential piece of equipment has been left behind. Uncertainty and adventure lies ahead. Anticipation breeds energy. The journey begins.

Putting it Out There

November 2011

As well as preparation and training for their expedition in January, the Backyard and Beyond team have been busy promoting the project and getting the adventure message out there.

On Thursday 3 November Paul spoke to a small but interested crowd from the NZAC Canterbury Section about how the project came about and some of the challenges the team have faced through the year and those still to come.

The next night, Friday 4 November, Jamie spoke at the NZAC annual panel discussion on why climbing in NZ was just as exciting and thrilling as going on overseas expeditions.  He managed to convince most of the audience this was the case although he still has a few tough old nuts to crack on the topic.  In any case, if his enthusiasm for climbing in NZ is anything to go by then the future is certainly going to be exciting.

In written media, BAB featured in Issue 26 of Bivmail with an update on what the team has been up to and preparations for January.

What’s Been Happening?

November 2011

Over the last few months the BAB team have been busy with preparations for their big trip in January, as well as getting into the hills as much as possible to climb and train. So what’s been happening?

In early October Jamie ventured into the Mt Cook area with a friend and climbed a new start to a classic route on the south face of Mt Hicks.  The climbed involved seven pitches of new climbing with several of these being quite technical.  Along the way Jamie captured some exciting video footage which Troy has made into a short movie.  Check it out:

On the same weekend that Jamie was climbing Hicks, Paul and Shelley explored the lower section of the Murchison Glacier which forms part of the route for the big trip.  The glacier turned out to be more rugged than expected and is sure to be a good test for the team in January.

Shelley at Onslow Hut in the Murchison

More recently Paul, Shelley and Troy went tramping in the Ahuriri Valley in the Mackenzie Basin in search of new terrain for climbing and to practice filming techniques.

During the week, the team have been training at the Roxx and organising food drops, gear and camera equipment.  So its all happening and with not much more than a month till Christmas and the expedition start everyone is starting to get just a little bit excited.

BAB Camera Man – Troy Mattingley

November 2011

The Backyard and Beyond team is pleased to announce that talented photographer, Troy Mattingley, has now joined the trans-alpine expedition as its dedicated camera man.

Troy is an experienced climber and respected amateur photographer based in Christchurch.  His photos are highly regarded within climbing and outdoor media circles in NZ.  Recently he has broadened from still photography into motion filming.  The latest three videos on the BAB website are products of his work.

Troy is a key addition to the BAB team.  His skill and experience at seeing outdoor life through the lens, not to mention being competent at doing this safely in the mountains, is greatly appreciated by the other team members.  With Troy onboard, the BAB project is now well positioned to capture the trials and tribulations of expedition life as the team take on their big adventure in January.

‘White Strike’ – The Movie

September 2011

Backyard and Beyond team member Troy Mattingley continues to improve his film making with support from the rest of the team.  This latest production tells the story of Jamie and Paul’s recent ascent of the White Strike on the Dasler Pinnacles in the Hopkins Valley.

White Strike, First Ascent, Dasler Pinnacles, Hopkins Valley

September 2011

On Saturday, Jamie and Paul established White Strike, a new five pitch ice and mixed route on the northwest face of the Dasler Pinnacles in the Hopkins Valley.  The route ascended the striking line on the southern (lower right) tier of the face and went at grade WI3, M4, with sparse protection (all rock gear).  It was especially satisfactory for Paul who has visited the area on a number of occasions, hoping to find new winter routes but rarely finding enough ice has formed to make even a small climb possible.  He commented that it may have been his last trip to the area if it hadn’t been for White Strike.  But now that he knows that it does form up, even if just occasionally, its all back on again.  Such is the way of adventure – never give up.

Jamie and Paul on route to Dasler Biv in the Hopkins Valley
The view of the northwest face of Dasler that greeted them as they emerged from the bush
Paul seconding the 3rd and crux pitch of the route which involved a tight squeeze between the wall on his left and blank slab on his right
The ascent line of White Strike

Honey Badger – The Movie

September 2011

Our new team photographer, Troy Mattingley, put this little beauty together from footage we captured on the recent first ascent of the Honey Badger (WI4). Enjoy!

Honey Badger, Hopkins Valley

August 2011

On Saturday BAB team members Paul Hersey and Jamie Vinton-Boot completed Honey Badger (WI4), a stunning 4 pitch route in a new ice climbing area up the Hopkins.  Paul had started the route a few weeks earlier with Graham Zimmerman and Shelley Hersey but they didn’t make it past the 2nd pitch after an unlucky encounter with falling ice.  Fortunately they lived to tell the tale.  Their theme from that day was the fearless honey badger.

Up and coming photographer Troy Mattingley came along to capture the action.  See his great shot of the climb here

Not wanting to miss out on the action friends of the team, Kester Brown and Steve Fortune, turned up on Saturday night.  Despite the warming conditions they snatched the 2nd ascent of Honey Badger on Sunday.  Below are some pics of their ascent.

Steve leading up pitch 1 of the Honey Badger
Kester leading the 3rd and crux pitch
Steve on the final pitch

Ice is Nice

August 2011

Chasing the elusive ice this winter has been rather stop-start. Continuing earthquakes, sinking homes, near misses, injuries, and now a one in 50 year storm has kept the team edgy for more.

But we can’t help but love the medium. It’s so finicky, so ephemeral, so beautiful. That is, until it falls on us, and then we want nothing to do with the stuff. Thinking shifts to a surf swept tropical beach paradise, sipping pina colada, and enjoying having warm extremeties.

Of course, that wears off. The bad memories fade, or at least glob together in the bottom of the scroggin bag: like when all that crystalized ginger pretends to be pineapple and gangs up on your taste buds. You spit it out in disgust, and quickly dive for the chocolate-coated raisins.

Here’s a small montage of a couple of recent ice climbing trips into some of our favourite valleys in the Southern Alps.

Prominent Female Outdoor Athletes

August 2011

BAB team members Ali Scarlet and Shelley Hersey featured in a recent article in Wilderness Magazine on prominent female New Zealand outdoor athletes.

In her profile, Ali was described as a ‘multisporter extreme’. She lamented having too many outdoor hobbies and not enough spare time to do them all: ‘I always want something to train for and really want to be the best I can be, but because there are so many things I love doing I don’t want to segregate one at the expense of all the others.’

Shelley was reported saying that, as a youngster on family walks ‘I always wanted to go just a little bit further or a bit higher, much to my Mum’s horror. I loved being in the mountains and had little fear of heights’. Shelley pointed out that her whole adult life had been shaped around her passion for the outdoors and had allowed her to meet like-minded individuals.

Christchurch Students Look to the Great Outdoors

June 2011

Students from Hammersley Park School, in Shirley, Christchurch, have been studying the benefits of challenging themselves in the outdoors. BAB team member Shelley Hersey went to see how their study was going, answering their many questions on what it was like to be an adventurer and climber.

The students have been exploring why it is beneficial to step outside their comfort zone, and to test themselves with new challenges.  When Shelley explained the Backyard and Beyond expedition, the students especially loved the idea of living outside continuously for a month.

Teacher Antony Johnson and his Year 6 class hope to travel to Stewart Island later this year, with the intention of developing their own outdoor skills.

Hammersley Park students check out some climbing equipment. (Watch out for the budding ice climbers).

Don’t Drop the Chandelier, Temple Stream, South Branch

June 2011

Paul and Jamie ventured into the Temple Stream South Branch in search of ice over the weekend.  Jamie reports below on what they found.

“We pinned our hopes on the South Face of Peak 2200 which is just to the south of Steeple Peak. Our expectations were not high given the lack of snow, but cold temperatures over the past few days made us think we might get lucky.

The South Face of Peak 2200. Our route is on the lower left rock band

We got our first glimpse of the south face on Sunday morning after two hours of scrub and scree bashing.  Initially it seemed that our effort was all in vain, but with the aid of Paul’s binoculars we spied something that looked feasible on the lower part of the face, close to where Paul had climbed a route previously.

Our route followed the ice visible in the centre of the photo

We got to the base of the ice and despite water flowing over the rock in places it looked on. I took the lead and started swinging my tools for the first time in months. The first pitch was quickly dispatched and two more fun pitches followed. The crux was the middle pitch where two rock steps had to be negotiated via some precarious chandeliers. Paul managed to break one of these off, almost taking his ice tool with it.  He recovered but arrived at the belay rather animated! We named the route ‘Don’t Drop the Chandelier’ and graded it M5 WI4.”

Jamie at the first crux on the middle pitch

Keep watching this space because they got some good movie footage of the climb and are in the process of making a short video.

Rock Climbing at Mount Somers

June 2011

Life continues – as it must. At least there’s no need for an alarm clock these days, with early morning aftershocks doing the trick. This morning’s effort sends houses into more funky jigs, and pets scurrying for their hidey holes. All across Christchurch, residents lie in bed in the half light, trying to find motivation to get up and turn the coffee machine or kettle on; knowing that, soon after the first cup, we’ll have to make the long cold trudge to the nearest portable toilet in the street.
Motivation is a topical word these days. We try to find the energy to bring normality back into our lives. Yet with so much physical and emotional destruction still apparent, the task feels huge.

Small steps, like finding good things in each day, seem the best approach. For the BAB team, training routines in the outdoors offer a chance for mental and physical release. But the Port Hills and coastline – popular training zones for the BAB team – are off limits. So the team heads further afield, in search of the outdoor adventure that we crave so much.

Just one small step, as we take a collective breath and look to the future…

Tramping in the Rain

April 2011

On Easter weekend all four members of the Backyard and Beyond team headed into the Hopkins Valley for our first adventure with the whole team.  The objective was a small unclimbed peak in the South Huxley.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t playing ball and on Day 2 we woke to the sound of boulders tumbling down the flooded North Huxley River.

The North Huxley river in flood

Still optimistic of the weather clearing we continued up into the South Huxley that afternoon.  In response to our optimism it rained incessantly for the rest of the day.  We reached the hobbit sized South Huxley bivouac rather sodden.

Wet gear drying in the bivy

On Day 3 the mountains were still covered in cloud and the rain continued.  We decided to call it a day and head for home before the weather got the better of our team spirit.

Paul sharing another one of his jokes

And of course just as we left the bivy the weather started to clear.

The team outside the bivy (yes its miniature)

But the clear weather didn’t last long and by lunchtime the wind was howling again.

Heading out of the Huxley Valley

So while our first team adventure was not a success in terms of ascents, we learnt a few things, practiced our rivers crossings, and just enjoyed the great outdoors!

Crossing the Huxley

BAB and a Small School in Canada

April 2011

A few weeks back, the Backyard and Beyond team was contacted about being involved with a rural school in Ontario, Canada. After watching the videos on the BAB blogsite and discussing them in class lessons, the students emailed a series of tricky questions including: ‘What does it feel like to wake up in water?’ and ‘How do you go to the bathroom while in a tent?’

Teacher Stephen McRae, who had previously lived in New Zealand and knew about the BAB team’s plans, said the students were greatly inspired by our adventures, and some even decided to go off on adventures of their own.

Recently, Stephen McRae sent us an update:

‘I would like to thank the Backyard and Beyond crew for inspiring students halfway around the world.

I was given the opportunity to take over as teacher at Brooke Valley School near Perth Ontario Canada for two weeks this spring. Brooke Valley school is an independently run single teacher school with 12 students from grade one to five.

The head teacher, Coral Nault, had left me with plans to continue on her wonderful program but also some room to do something different with the students. Adventure is generally studied as something done by people a long time ago when there were countries to “discover”. Backyard and Beyond provided me the opportunity to show the students that it is happening today with real people having real experiences. Technology and your willingness to share all aspects of your adventures (the kids thought waking up with a river going through your tent was pretty funny) gave me plenty of fuel to motivate the students to think about their own ideas of adventure.

We watched your climbing videos which showed a landscape and a sport quite different to what the student experience here. The most exciting part for the students was getting responses to their questions which they got to ask about your climbing.

Thank you so much for your time. The next week after I had finished the lessons a parent came into the school and told me how her child and a friend got up early the other morning, packed there own backpacks and went climbing on their property. In this risk adverse world I had a moment of panic over what she would say next and was relieved when she said that that was great and exactly what she did when she was young.

In this day of shopping and video games we need more people who are willing to show us what we have forgotten. That there is adventure even in our own backyards.’

Stephen McRae, Ontario, Canada

The students of Brooke Valley School

Life After the (Second) Christchurch Earthquake

March 2011

On Tuesday February 22, at 12.51pm, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake devastated our home town of Christchurch. In just 20 seconds our lives, along with the lives of tens of thousands of others, were turned upside down. Backyard and Beyond team member Paul Hersey experienced the quake at its worst, as he happened to be walking through the central city. His account can be read here.

In the days following the quake, the scale and extent of the devastation has become all too apparent – whole suburbs, businesses, roads and lives have been destroyed. All of the BAB team are lucky to still have homes that are safe enough to live in, although some will need major repairs or replacement. Our normal everyday lives have been put on hold. Now even simple tasks, the things you take for granted like buying food, going to the toilet, or catching up with friends, are a challenge. It’s funny to think that, before the quake, it was challenge and adventure that we sought to enrich our lives, to escape the normality of everyday life.

But amongst the challenges of post-quake life in Christchurch, one thing stands out as a beacon of hope: our sense of community. We are all in this together, and we need to work together to rebuild our lives, homes and businesses. For the BAB team, the challenge is even greater than it was before. Possibly because we are outdoor enthusiasts – experienced with making decisions about risk, eating basic food, using gas cookers or digging a hole in the backyard for a toilet – our friends, neighbours and family members look to us for help, direction and, possibly, a sense of calmness. Responding to natural challenges is something that we are used to. And so, for the time being, the important challenges and adventures before us are focussed more in our own backyard.

And now, in the last few days, total devastation has hit Japan. We have watched in horror the extreme nature of the earthquake, tsunami and risk of radiation exposure. While we are still occupied with patching together our own lives, our hearts and thoughts go out to those suffering in Japan. It’s difficult to find the right words to describe the enormity of this catastrophe, and the ongoing implications. The events of the last few weeks highlight the fragile nature of our lives, and how all of our plans and dreams can be wiped out in seconds. What can be taken from this? Maybe, at this stage, nothing more than the reminder that our lives are indeed precious, and we only need to look to our loved ones to be reminded of this.

Mount Williams, Hopkins Valley

February 2011

Backyard and Beyond team members Jamie Vinton-Boot and Paul Hersey ventured into the Hopkins Valley to try and ascend the unclimbed South West Face of Mt Williams. Given a small weather window, they found there wasn’t enough time to rope-climb the face. So Jamie opted to solo the 400m rock route.

Thanks SPARC

January 2011

The Backyard and Beyond team of Ali Scarlet, Hugh Barnard, Jamie Vinton-Boot, Shelley and Paul Hersey would like to thank Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) for awarding it with a Hillary Expedition Grant. This grant has helped enable the team to pursue its goal of seeking and promoting adventure in this country.

SPARC is the national body responsible for supporting high performance sport and recreation, and this is the fourth time it has offered grants for elite expeditions. Backyard and Beyond team member Paul Hersey was a previous recipient, as part of the 2009 expedition to climb Karim Sar (6180m) in Pakistan with top Kiwi alpinist Pat Deavoll. During that expedition Paul climbed to within 1000 metres of the summit, after partially recovering from a debilitating illness at base camp. From their high camp, Pat continued alone, making the first successful ascent of the remote mountain.

In this round of SPARC funding eight teams were selected for the grant, Backyard and Beyond being the only New Zealand-based climbing expedition. Other expeditions include waka ama, caving, kayaking, speed flying and overseas mountaineering.

Recently, team members from the different expeditions met at a Hillary Expedition workshop in Christchurch, along with SPARC representatives, advisors and mentors. Backyard and Beyond team member Paul Hersey attended the workshop, commenting that it was an invaluable experience. ‘After listening to other grant recipients talk about their expeditions, it made me better appreciate what we are trying to achieve,’ Paul said. ‘And when adventure legends like Graeme Dingle and Colin Monteath offer advice, it’s like gold.’

The workshop was an opportunity to share ideas and approaches in different facets of adventure. Each expedition faces its own challenges, and having the opportunity to discuss these with peers certainly helped in identifying ways of overcoming these challenges.

Good luck to all the expeditions!

Mount Walter

January 2011

The Backyard and Beyond team kicked off its year of adventures with a trip into a remote corner of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Jamie, Shelley and Paul teamed up with Kester Brown to attempt two new routes on the west side of Mount Walter.

While access down the Stevenson Glacier proved difficult, the group found fantastic rock leading up to Walter’s outlier summit (2782m). Two quality new routes were climbed (West Rib, eight pitches, crux 16 – ascended by all four; and ‘Stuntman and Chronic’, five pitches, crux 18 – by Jamie and Paul).


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