Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008. Castle Rock and The Tors, Port Hills

It was A & P Show Time again in Christchurch, so I left people to play on Canterbury Plains and drove to the Port Hills, up Dyers Pass to the Sign of the Kiwi, turned left along Summit Road, and parked at Castle Rock corner next to a Park Ranger's ute.

2008. From Castle Rock corner: Summit Road; Great Tor; Witch Hill; Mount Vernon; Scott Scenic Reserve; Sugarloaf with TV transmitter

Although it was sunny in the Port Hills, a fog bank covered Pegasus Bay and fog rolled in towards Christchurch CBD below me. I stepped over a stile and clambered over the spine of Castle Rock (436m), then climbed down again, pushed through some manuka branches to a point where I removed my slops to climb to the top again.

2008. Castle Rock overlooking Christchurch & foggy Pacific Ocean

Not quite, as I needed to do a five foot chin-up with a precipice beside me, so I declined that "Hillary Step" and snapped Christchurch from Castle Rock top by leaning on the rock on tiptoe and placing my Minolta on top of the rock. Not recommended for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights. Two girls, a young couple and a single bloke carrying a camera tripod clambered around Castle Rock near me.

I looked down Horotane Valley to the left of Castle Rock, where every Xmas / New Year Leah bought tomatoes and plums for scoffing and apricots for jam-making. Heathcote Valley was to the right, more residential, with the lower Gondola station and entrance to Lyttelton Tunnel. Above Heathcote Valley was Mount Cavendish Gondola Station / restaurant, and far below was the Bridle Path which I'd walked some days before.

2008. From Castle Rock: Bridle Path; Summit Road; Mount Cavendish; Banks Peninsula

From Castle Rock, I could almost see 360 degrees with Christchurch and Canterbury Plains in front and Mount Thomas and snowy Alps backdrop, with snowy Kaikouras to the north and snowy Mount Hutt to the south. In the opposite direction, partly obscured by a Crater Rim Tor, I saw Mount Herbert on Banks Peninsula. Summit Road snaked along Port Hills, and near my car was a concrete roof of a WW2 concrete guard hut.

2008. WW2 Guard Hut below Castle Rock, Port Hills, Christchurch

During the 4 Sept 2010 earthquake, big chunks of Castle Rock collapsed & tumbled into Heathcote Valley, the rock slide ending near Bridle Path.

2008. Survey Beacon on The Tors overlooking Cass Bay, Quail Island, Mount Herbert on Banks Peninsula

I had The Tors to myself, so I crossed Summit Road, stepped over another stile, crossed the Crater Rim Track and climbed what I called Tor 1 (452m), an easy climb over volcanic rock to a survey beacon on top labelled, "Geodetic Survey Mark."

There I enjoyed a fresh breeze and 360 degree views overlooking Castle Rock and Christchurch towards Pegasus Bay and Southern Alps. On the Crater Rim side I looked towards Cass Bay and Quail Island near Lyttelton port. Past Antarctic expeditions, like Shakleton's and Scott's, had used Quail Island as a quarantine base for their sled dogs before sailing south to the Antarctic.

Tor 1 had a rocky summit plateau, boomerang shaped and green. At both ends and Crater Rim side Tor 1 had cliffs, stopping me from continuing to what I called Tor 2, a smaller extension of Tor 1, so I climbed half way down the way I'd come up and followed cow-pats and hoof-prints to Tor 2, also an easy climb from Summit Road side.

2008. Top of The Tors, Port Hills with Christchurch behind

On Tor 2 rocky summit plateau, I saw the fog bank had almost completely burnt off Pegasus Bay. Tor 1 and Tor 2 had tussock grass, Alpine lichens, xerophytes and small blue NZ harebells, Wahlenbergia gracilis, as well as maroon legume flowers I'd seen on Godley Head. Like Tor 1, Tor 2 had cliffs on the Crater Rim side, so I clambered down Summit Road side and trekked to what I called Tor 3, aka Great Tor.

Like on Tor 1 and Tor 2, I saw someone had cut down yellow broom bushes and sprayed mauve weedkiller on the stumps. By the time I reached the rocky base of Great Tor, yellow broom bushes were still growing well. As Great Tor was more precipitous with all-round cliffs, I climbed barefooted to the rocky top - worth the effort as Great Tor also gave 360 degree views. Lake Ellesmere to the south was snot-green colour with farm pollutants, which spoilt my almost perfect, 360 degree afternoon.

2008. From Top of Tor 2: Castle Rock; Avon-Heathcote Estuary; Pacific Ocean

2008. Horotane Valley & Avon Heathcote-Estuary from top of Great Tor, Port Hills

As it was gusty on top of Great Tor, I climbed down barefoot and walked along Summit Road a few hundred metres back to my car. The afternoon heat blistered tar on the road - 24C the forecasted temperature.

2008. Summit Road, Castle Rock & Pacific Ocean from top of Great Tor, Port Hills

2008. Cass Bay, Quail Island, Mount Bradley on Banks Peninsula from base of Great Tor, Port Hills

I caught up with the Park Ranger by my car. The door of his Mazda ute stated:

CCC. Your People Your City.

The Park Ranger left Castle Rock corner the same time as me - 3.30pm. I'd clambered over Castle Rock and The Tors for two hours. The return drive from our Burnside home was 50 kilometres.

Coda: During the 04.09.10 earthquake, a big chunk of Castle Rock collapsed and slid into Heathcote Valley beside the Bridle Path. Post 22.02.11 quake, Summit Road was closed for a couple of years, due to all the rock falls on Summit Road.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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