Mt Owen 26-28 March – Group A trip report

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I’ve been wanting to do a nice relaxed 3 day trip up to Granity Pass and Mt Owen for several years.  Last year’s attempt was cancelled due to it being the first weekend of lockdown, so I rescheduled the trip for the last weekend of February this year – the most reliable time for good weather right?  However, the forecast was all over the place, a completely different story depending which hour you looked at it, and we nearly cancelled the trip again.  Good thing we didn’t as we definitely got the most optimistic version of the range of forecasts!

We set off on Friday morning along with Andrea’s intrepid Mt Bell group – a total of 9 people.  After a very civilised morning tea at Mike’s place, and a drama-free crossing of the Dart Ford, we were on our way.  We headed up the ridge track in very sweaty humid weather, with glimpses out to the impressive rocky peaks.  After picking our way down the Devil’s Staircase, we arrived at Granity Pass Hut about 4pm.  Great spot, stunning views.  We shared the hut with one other person – a Swedish backpacker who had stuck it out since before lockdown.

Saturday morning dawned reasonably clear, and we headed off along the clear ground trail towards Mt Owen.  After a short while Group B branched off towards Mt Bell.  The rest of us continued on through the karst formations, picking our way around a few tricky bits, to arrive at the summit for a very early lunch.  There were clouds blocking the distant views, but we got a good view of the closer surroundings, including the 4 tiny dots of the other group on the Mt Bell summit, before the clouds started swirling in.  Well worth the effort.  We got back to the hut mid-afternoon, with plenty of time for chilling, or going for short walks.

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It was a bit claggier on Sunday.  Andrea and Chris had managed to persuade my entire group to follow them out over Billy’s Knob, enticing us with the promise that we would avoid the Devil’s Staircase and walking in the stream bed.  Instead we got a strenuous climb up a steep hill though myriad Spaniards!  We arrived at the base of the grey imposing mound of Billy’s Knob, which was fortunately much less intimidating than it looked.  Sadly no views from the top as the clag had well and truly come in.  After a steep descent back to the track, we continued back to the car via the Blue Creek route which was very steep and slippery.  Some made a short detour to the Resurgence which was well worth a look.  The rain held off until we were almost back at the cars.  Back to Mike’s for afternoon tea before heading home to soak our Spaniard cuts.  A fun varied weekend with great scenery and great company, thanks everyone!

We were:
Group A: Michele (leader and scribe of this report), Peter, Richard, Leah, Christine.
Group B: Andrea (leader ), Chris, Mike, Rob.

Mt Bell Group B Trip Report
20210227 094913After arriving at the hut Friday arvo, Chris and I rocked around a circuit of Billies Knob. The access is to start up the lookout track, you loose the markers pretty quickly in the scrub but no matter ,its open enough to head up the valley to around point E1563962 N5402817. Here you see an obvious grassy scrubby gully. Suggest polyro and gaiters, you will go a few rounds with the Spaniards. Also starting out on the right, close to the rocks, but still expect some bush battles. Pick your way up the gully, we started right and then transversed left picking up a track in places. Near the top of the gully go just right of the high point and you will come out facing the rather imposing face of Billies.  Pretty much head straight across to about 100m right of the summit, there are no rock slabs just easy scree. From the summit keep to the obvious Western flanks, traversing high above bluffs until you see the grassy saddle and DOC track, then just head on straight down, no dramas. Round trip took up 4 hours and 563m climbing.
Saturday, with super visibility, Mike, Chris, Rob and Myself initially climbed Mt Bell. Not quite finding the option to access the tops near the hut,we 
accessed it via the large scree slope East of Sentinel hill, straddled by Bell and then so called Fred at 1764m. Climb was sweet and we hung out until we saw the five dots on the summit of Owen. On return Rob and myself went up to point 1764m, We could see the route onwards along the ridge but still unsure what the drop off would entail.  In retrospect it would have been cool to drop back to the saddle and cimb point 1669. We came back eastside of the Blue Creek for something different, all doable and different perspective. Altogether 844m climbing in the morning.
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A wee Pit Stop at the hut and then Rob headed off to climb a peak South of Cullifords accessing via Sanctuary Basin. Chris and I climbed peak 1416m. the best way to access this would be via Sanctuary Basin and head to the Saddle North of the peak. We headed East of the summit from the track, then round to the saddle and up.  Bit sketchy this way. 328m climbing for the Arvo. Sweet views again.
Great to rendezvous and hear the tails of group A that evening and time to sell the route back via Billies the following day. Haha. Sales pitch may have been a bit glossed up, few lost battles with the spaniards prompted some choice language. And the reward?? beautifully clagged in tops! Choice again.
Thanks heaps to team A and B, splendid company as usual. Super enthusiasm. Scribe - Andrea