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Dragonfly Peak, 2165m

29 March 2011

Coordinates 44°24.535′ S, 168°52.756′ E

Dragonfly Peak from the ridge connecting to Eostre. Photo D Hegg

Dragonfly Peak is the highest elevation in the range to the east of the Matukituki River East Branch. Located 500m above Albert Burn Saddle, the mountain overlooks the Albert Burn to the north, while its jagged south ridge divides the two branches of Mill Creek. Without any permanent snow-fields and with its moderate-angled faces of rotten rock, Dragonfly Peak is really a trampers’ mountain. Thanks to the ease of access and the outstanding views of Mount Aspiring, it gets climbed fairly often, which probably explains why it was included in the New Zealand Alpine Club’s list of ‘100 Great Peaks of New Zealand‘.

History

Given the ease of access, it is likely that Dragonfly Peak was first visited by run-holders, surveyors or deer hunters – or all of the above. The first recorded ascent was completed by Bruce Moore and Paul Powell in March 1962 [1]. Even then, it was not on a climbing expedition – Paul Powell was Chief Search and Rescue Officer of the New Zealand Federated Mountain Clubs in Otago, and searched the area around Albert Burn Saddle for a missing aircraft, Dragonfly ZK-AFB [2]. The mountain received its name on the occasion [1,3].

On the north ridge near the summit of Dragonfly Peak. Photo D Hegg

The aircraft Dragonfly ZK-AFB disappeared on February 12, 1962, while on a scenic flight from Christchurch to Milford Sound. There were no confirmed position reports for the aircraft after it left Christchurch. This means searchers had no clue as to where to even start looking, the outcome being the biggest air search ever conducted in New Zealand. No trace of the plane, or of its five occupants, has ever been found [4]. The region around Mount Aspiring became one of the focal areas of the search. Given the complete lack of evidence pointing to the area, the effort put in by search parties on foot seems absurd – and Paul Powell’s conviction that the wreckage would be in the mountains east of the Matukituki Valley [2] seems to be a plain stab in the dark.

Route descriptions

Dragonfly Peak is most commonly climbed from Albert Burn Saddle via the north ridge. A traverse over the summit and over Mt Eostre to Cameron Flat makes for a very pleasant, rewarding weekend trip. The mountain is part of the Mt Aspiring pastoral lease at present and permission should be sought to cross that land. Permission can be gained from Randall Aspinall 03-4437155 and will be readily given provided that people guarantee not to disturb the cattle grazing on either side of the ridgeline.

Dragonfly Peak map. 1 grid square = 1km. Left click on map to enlarge

1. North ridge

Rating: tramping, off track, hard                     February 2010

From Albert Burn Saddle, pick a route up the broad spur through vegetated rock steps, until the rocky north-east ridge is reached 50m below the summit. A fixed rope may be found on the bluffs at the 1800m contour – this was probably put in place by the heli-walking guiding companies, and is really an overkill. The top four meters to the summit are up a vertical rock step. Time: 1.5hrs from the saddle to the summit.

2. South-west ridge

Rating: alpine, grade 1                                         February 2010

From the summit of Mt Eostre, follow the long ridge to the north, sidling any asperities on steep snow-grass on the east side. North of unnamed peak 1801 stick to the crest of the ridge until the 1900m contour is reached; from here there are two options:

2.1. climb scree and snow slopes on the south side of the ridge, to where the latter merges into the north-west shoulder. Veer right to reach the north ridge route (1.) just north of the summit

2.2. sidle across the southern aspect of the mountain on scree and snow, to reach a steep, confined scree gully, which leads to the south ridge in a notch between the summit needle and a jagged low peak. The last 50m to the summit are an easy scramble up steep scree and very loose rock.

Time: 2 to 3 hours from Mt Eostre to Dragonfly Peak. See Mt Eostre for a more detailed route description in reverse.

Dragonfly Peak route topo, from the south. Left click to enlarge. Photo D Hegg

References

[1] p150,152 in Powell, P. (1967) Men Aspiring. AH & AW Reed, Wellington, 183 pages

[2] Chapter 15, same as above

[3] New Zealand Alpine Club, Otago Section Newsletter, November 1968

[4] DH90A Dragonfly ZK-AFB, www.findlostaircraft.co.nz

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