Ore Stream

5th January 2022

v4a5IV***

Haast Pass / Tioripātea,

Mount Aspiring National Park

Descent with Rachel Jones, Patrick Timm, and Gareth Riches.

I hadn’t met Patrick or Gareth before, but after the one canyon I’d done with Rachel (Mather Creek) she vouched for my experience and the team chose Ore Stream as the objective for the day. This was to be the highest aquatic grade canyon that I had descended, and I was more than a little nervous, but knew I was in expert hands.

We crossed the Makarora River and ditched our river shoes by the footbridge at the bottom of the canyon, so as not to take Didymo into Ore Stream. A near-vertical bush-bash uphill for 45mins brought us to some red webbing tied around a tree, marking the start of the near-vertical bush-bash downhill for another half hour to get to the stream. Bits of this descent were loose, and we used a rope as a hand line for the final 15 metres or so. At one point I leant on a tree for support, which promptly collapsed sending me head first down the bank for a heart-stopping moment.

One of the first abseil pitches ended with a delicate balance across a log, wedged just above a frothy whitewater pool. Further pitches generally avoided the flow in descent, ending in some deep blue pools. Gareth was the first person to descent the fourth pitch, which transitions to free-hanging after a few metres. He made it to the bottom safely, but upon pulling up a bight of rope for me to attach to we discovered that the entire sheath had snapped leaving about 50cm of the rope’s core exposed. After swapping the rope around, the rest of us also made it down the pitch safely.

Rachel was the first to descend the final pitch, ending in a pool with a very large undercut waiting to swallow anyone who strays too close. After reaching the pool and detaching from the rope she boosted across the flow and established herself as a meat anchor on the dead rope to create a guided abseil for the rest of us.

Despite the concerns I had about the high aquatic grade of this canyon, I had Type 1 fun throughout! Bring on the next one!

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Beginning the near-vertical bush-bash downhill to the stream, after the near-vertical bush-bash uphill to the tree with the red webbing

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

A handline was used to descend the final few metres to the stream

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

One of the first pitches finished with a delicate traverse of a wedged log

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Patrick negotiating the log above frothy white water

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Gareth manages the rope at the anchor, while Patrick indicates that the rock is more than a little slippery

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Rachel descends a pitch just above the flow

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Gareth waits on a ledge while Patrick completes a small pitch

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

The pitch that cut the rope. The transition from slab to free-hanging gets sharper the further from the flow, and the desire to avoid the flow can set you up for a swing after the transition, slicing the rope

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Rachel acts as a meat anchor to provide a guided abseil for Gareth, allowing him to avoid the current wanting to pull you into a deep undercut

Ore Stream 5th January 2022

Patrick descends the guided abseil, cruising majestically over the current and past the undercut

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