Day 1 - Kea Flat to Arthur Creek campsite, 13km +870m -690m
Our plans for this trip were disrupted by 160mm of rain on our scheduled first day. On day two the chopper was unable to fly us into the Landsborough due to high winds. We moved our drop-off point further up the valley to Kea Flat, above this is a designated wilderness area. A 7.30am chopper flight from the Copeland track carpark had us fly over the Bannock Brae range and down Zora Creek providing us with good views of the middle section of the Landsborough. Much of the morning on the first day had us travelling thru open beech forest on terraces above the river on the true left. From then on it was a constant battle walking up the side of the river and negotiating huge boulders while sometimes climbing shingle/moraine banks to by-pass these. We spent a bit of time on a few of the side streams locating suitable crossing places due to elevated flows. It was hard to concentrate on where to place our feet when you are surrounded by stunning views in all directions. Our day one campsite tent platforms were fabricated from a silt bank beside a huge flat top boulder the size of a house.
Travel was slower on day two as the river became more confined and the banks steeper. We had lunch beside the Sentinel where there was an excellent campsite. We now had to spend more time in the water by-passing boulders that would have been difficult to climb over or around if the river level was much higher. We even managed to keep our feet dry on our last crossing of the Landsborough before camping on day two a km below the Karangarua Saddle. This looked as documented impossible from this distance and proved to be more than a match for us the following day.
The gpx file we had downloaded from the web indicated once we were at the top of the scree fan we could pickup a ledge leading up to the saddle. However this was out by hundreds of meters so gave us little confidence that we could us this as a guide. I think it would have been ok following someone who had completed this route previously and knew the way with some certainty. After some deliberation we decided we didn't have the confidence to do this route and decided to continue up the valley and exit the Landsborough via Douglas Pass. The views as we ascended Douglas Pass onto the silt flats below the McKerrow Glacier were spectacular. Huge rock faces calved from glaciers towered above us on both sides and we had glimpses of snow covered peaks thru the clouds. Definitely awe inspiring terrain!!! The ascent of the southern side of Douglas Pass was relatively straight forward and once at the saddle we had even more spectacular views, this time north to the Douglas Neve atop the Sierra Range and huge dry glaciated mud flats left over from long receded glaciers. The descent off the pass required navigating around a series of gullies and bluffs. The huge boulders at the Harpers Rock biv looked like they were the ruminants of the Fitzgerald Glacier moraine wall which had receded 4km up the valley. After locating a suitable exit point to descend down the Douglas Glacier moraine wall we enjoyed the views across the valley before the cloud cover started building up and we slowly made our way down to the valley floor. We located a suitable campsite amongst the glacier moraine debris somewhat away from any potential rock fall.
The weather had been slowly deteriorating all day and our "Inreach" forecast that night indicated that our fine weather window had closed and heavy rain was forecast. We decided we had better get out whilst we still could so organised to have James Scott pick us up the following morning once we had made our way over to Horace Walker hut. Once there was a suitable weather window up the valley James flew in and had us back at the Copeland carpark in under 10 minutes. This was probably a once in a lifetime trip for us and it certainly far exceeded my expectations. This is a fabulous area of the country to explore if you have the experience and pick a good weather window.