After 10 days the storm clouds have cleared and Methven Heliski is open for the winter. Today skiers and riders enjoyed great conditions and a picnic in the sun at the bottom of Pito Peak.
Read our latest high country news and find out about life on a Canterbury high country station.
With what looks set to be a week long storm pounding the high country, any brief clearance sees everyone racing outdoors to burn off some energy.
Meanwhile on the farm, the focus is on feeding out plenty of silage to ensure the stock are well fed in the cold conditions.
It is a “feet up by the fire day” here at Lake Heron Station and Foxtrot Kilo is firmly tied down for the day. However, the great news is that it is bucketing snow in the mountains and as soon as the weather clears we will be full swing into heliskiing.
This beautiful day at Lake Heron looks as though we are still in the middle of summer – but no, this was taken on the shortest day!
Whilst snow is accumulating further west in the heliski terrain, the eastern ranges around Lake Heron are looking fairly summery. However, as has happened in the past, this can change overnight.
Every autumn merino ewes and rams are selected for mating. The rams are then put out with the ewes and hopefully they are up to the task – with 50-100 girls to get round, each ram has quite a job ahead of him.
This gorgeous girl got a run in the country last weekend, along with 90 others from the Canterbury Vintage Car Club. Their rather cloudy trip through the station did not seem to affect the spirits of the drivers and passengers. Heading for a night in Fairlie, one of the old cars sported the sign “Wanted – free-range chick to fill this old coupe.” Wonder if he got any takers?
Last week we had a great time with Team Icebreaker at Lake Heron. There were many highlights, including a moonlit soccer game, salmon spotting and overnighting at the “New Hut” – not to mention plenty of socialising. However, the most memorable event was when Maya Gaebler, Icebreaker Marketing Co-ordinator, took on the Pro-Shear gang in the woolshed. The boys in the gang certainly felt they had met their “match.” Great stuff Maya! Advising Maya is Grant Smith, who holds the world record for shearing the most merino wethers in 8 hours – 418! Achieved in 1999, this record is still standing 12 years on.
With temperatures dropping and a touch of snow on the mountains, the winter heliski season is just around the corner.
It is also the time of the annual salmon run. From the ocean to tiny Mellish Stream in the south east corner of Lake Heron, this annual event is one of life’s extraordinary cycles. Adult salmon that started life in this trickling high country stream, navigate a long journey back to this spot to spawn and die. In their persistence to complete this cycle, they leave the ocean to travel up the Rakaia River, into the Lake Stream and then across Lake Heron to Harrison’s Bight and finally Mellish Stream. Witnessing their last battle weary hours is a poignant sight.
“Caught in a trap” These 2 little beasts have come to a sticky end as part of conservation work at Lake Heron. On the left is a stoat and on the right a ferret. Both were introduced to New Zealand as the answer to the burgeoing rabbit plague. However, our indigenous birds were much easier prey, and ferrets and stoats rapidly spread through the countryside decimating native birdlife. Efforts by the Lake Heron Conservation Group (of which Philip is one of the keen volunteers) and the Department of Conservation are aimed at wiping out these predators so that the local birdlife has a long term chance of surviving. Threathened birds in the area include the Australasian crested grebe, bittern, black fronted tern and wrybill.
We have just had the first of our overseas hunters through for the tahr hunting season. The South Island of New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where Himalayan Tahr can be hunted in the wild. Since they were first introduced in the South Island, tahr readily adjusted to the high country and in a short time became recognised as a threat to native plant species. Here at Lake Heron we have adopted a policy of culling animals to prevent over-population and of providing access to keen local and overseas hunters. And keen the hunters have must be, to negotiate the high rocky ranges that the tahr frequent! This is true Kiwi hunting at its best – no fences or helicopters to give the hunters an unfair advantage. Skill, fitness and perseverance are needed to bring home a trophy.
Friday night saw 8 men, countless excited dogs, and swags of gear packed into station utes and head out to the “New Hut” for the 4 day autumn muster. This station tradition has taken place every autumn for over a hundred years and at the end of the 4 days, 3,000 Lake Heron merino wethers will have been brought down off the high peaks.
For the men, it is a chance to test out their new dogs and hone the skills of old ones, as well as gather a crop of fresh stories to tell the following year. By the afternoon of each day long mobs of sheep stream across scree and tussock faces as they are herded down to the valley floor. When Tuesday night arrives old hands and new alike, will be weary after several long, hard days “out on the hill.” And every year the tradition is the same – the stories just get bigger and better as they are related over dinner and a few beers back at the homestead.
A beautiful day at Lake Heron with an autumn freshness in the air. We have just been putting the finishing touches to the “New Hut” – a backcountry station hut built in 1923! In 1923 it was the newest of Lake Heron’s 5 station huts and once again it can proudly live up to the fond “New Hut” name. With a newly installed modern kitchen, log fire and cosy bunks, it provides a lot more comfort than it would have in 1923. 10 kms from the main homestead area, the hut was built as one of a number of station outposts for mustering sheep and cattle. Once the trip to the hut would have taken several hours on horseback, however now, it is only a short mountain bike or 4WD trip away. Despite this, it still retains a wonderful sense of being a remote haven in a large and rugged landscape.
PS… These girls are your only neighbours!
Bernie Alpers and long-time fishing guide, Nigel Birt, recently had a couple of days here on the station. This is Bernie’s second stay at Lake Heron and we hope you got what you came for this time Bernie!