SNOW GRASS AND SCREE
PRESIDENT Mary Ph (03) 5728762
SECRETARY: Jane Ph (03) 5787441
CLUB CAPTAIN: Murray Ph (03) 5724812
TREASURER: Helen Ph (03) 5728530
E-mail address [email protected]
Mountain Film Festival. With this being the first time we have hosted this event it was decided to keep it low key and simple and use the experience for next time.
The delay at the start was pretty stressful but apart from the odd person no one seemed to mind spending half an hour chatting.
I’m still not certain why the computer and screens wouldn’t ”Talk” to each other at the start because they had worked perfectly when Steven and the Elim Tech guy, Doug, had a trial run. Ah! well, that’s technology.
We had a 500 photo slide show of club trips to show and Helen had gone to a lot of effort to put a photo display and a stand promoting the club but with the foyer being jam packed these weren’t able to be viewed to their best advantage.
Apart from the cost of the films the only expense we had was $55 for printing the colour posters the committee put up all over the district. The Elim Centre generously allowed us to use their auditorium at no cost as the proceeds were for the Nelson-Marlborough Rescue Helicopter. Their manager Paula, came over from Nelson and gave a short talk on the service they provide. I’m sure we are all now more aware of this valuable service and the huge area they cover.
Our cheque for $2000 was really appreciated as was the opportunity to promote their service.
Was it successful? Yes. Did we learn from it? Yes. Would we do it again? Hell – Yes!
Do you want a Rescue Helicopter Cap? These are really good quality caps with the logo embroidered on them.
Chris Mc Conway from Blenheim has these available and will deliver direct to you. They cost $25 are a fund raiser for the service. Make nice Xmas present. Phone or txt 021 1665522.
Itinerary Changes Bills Blue Mountain trip this weekend is now going to Big Hill. Phone Bill 5789360 or check the clubs website for details.
Andy’s trip on the 7th October is Hapuka River and hopes to get to the New lake. 6am depart 027 2327749 or 5791925 $20
We are Looking for a leader for the weekend of 3rd/4th November for the Lake Matiri / Mc Conachies Hut trip.
Email if you can help with this or run an alternative trip.
Members. Two more new members this month hailing from Spain and Italy respectively. Salvador Boix Boil and Roberto Zanchetta are enjoying club trips to explore Marlborough. Salvador has been here for a few years but Roberto is a more recent arrival.
If you have any old club photo, slides etc that you would like to pass on we would love to have them. They would be recorded digitally for club members to access and then recorded and indexed and placed with our records in the archives. By doing this they would be available for years to come. If you would like them collected ring one of the committee and we can arrange to pick them up.
Angelus 11-12 August 2018
Angelus is always stunning this time of year covered with snow and we weren’t disappointed. I had seven keen trampers for this trip leaving town at 7am. Murray picked up the 2 in Renwick and I picked up the Blenheim lot. Parking at Mt Robert car park, I decided to go via Speargrass thinking if the snow was soft on the ridge it would be a long slow trip in. By going Speargrass we would have less snow and easier. Well it’s not very often but I was wrong- the distance was less but it was soft up to the knees and more. Lift one foot out, the other would go down- what a slog, seemed never ending. But it did end and we made the ridge where the snow was a lot firmer. We were soon on the ridge above the hut, stunning view of snow covered hut and iced over lakes. Some put on crampons to go down to the hut others just went for it. Three others arrived the same time as us. Getting to the hut we soon had the fire going. The hut doesn’t need much heat to warm it especially if a few bods are cooking. WE soon set in to eating and having a good chin wag. We had two newbies with us Roberto and Salvador who have done a lot of tramping. It was decided to have a go at Mt Angelus in the morning so the keen ones had to be up by 5am departing 6am. Bill was a definite no go and I was undecided, all the others keen as. We were all in the sack by 9pm. There was some gentle snoring coming from the bottom bunk- me being on the top it didn’t worry me. But suddenly the top bunk erupted, Murray was next to me- at first I thought it’s him but it was one over, Paul was in full song. 5am the alarm sounded and I decided to stay back with Bill and had another 2hrs in bed. The summit team departed at 6.10am getting back about 11am. Some only went as far as Sunset Saddle saying it was too steep and icy. After their return a quick lunch and clean up. Bill and I had already cut more kindling and restocked the wood. The first slog out of the basin is always hard but once on the ridge we had a dream walk out with good snow and clear blue skies. Crampons on all the way to within 300m of the shelter. Everyone was in good spirits and enjoyed the trip out with a couple of short stops. I think we were out in about 4.5 hrs. Murray was struggling a bit over the weekend- he didn’t have his coke so made up for it at the shop on the way home as we all did.
A good weekend with great weather and company thanks to Paul Shipley- Roberto Zanchetta – Bill Woollcombe –Salvador Boix Boil –Murray Chapman- Nelly Lee and me Leader Kerry Millard
Hunters Hut 26 August 2018
When the June-August itinerary was put together I agreed to lead a tramp… destination unknown… it was at the end the itinerary, plenty of time to think about it! Well time flies, a week before the tramp we were up Tapi. Where we were going the following weekend was still a mystery!
I had a vague thought of an exploration tramp to Hunters Hut on the TeAraroa trail, starting in the forestry off Top House Road before Golden Downs and tramping via a DOC track that follows the Left Branch of the Motueka River. Come Monday before the tramp and fresh from the Tapi trip, I thought I’d better do some research and tell Mary the definite plan, so she could inform the troops.
Discussions with DOC quickly scuttled any thoughts of accessing the Motueka River track into the Hut… forestry harvest was in full swing, best keep away!
Hunters Hut remained the target, access through Inwood Lookout was an option. Forestry harvest in this area had been completed, tracks graded and in relatively good order was the advice from DOC. We would start at the Lookout at just over 1000m, climb and cross the Gordon Range at 1500m and drop down to the hut at around 800m, nestled at the northern end of the distinctive Red Hills, a day walk, returning on the same track. There was even the possibility of a side exploration of Gordon’s Knob if time allowed.
At 6am in Renwick, Paul Shipley (Leader and Scribe), Jill Spooner, Geoff Butcher, Murray Chapman, Helmut Adendorff, Simon Marangon, Nally Lee and Bill Woollcombe assembled for the two-hour drive to Inward Lookout.
Finding our way through the maze of forestry tracks and skid sites to the access track that would lead us to Inwood Lookout proved a challenge, solved with the aid of Murray’s cell phone and satellite GPS tracking.
A little after 8am we set off on our exploration, climbing the Gordon Range on a fine day with great views of the Arthur Range to the West and stiff Southwest breeze coming across the face of the Range until we were in the lee of Gordon’s Knob. Murray was quiet keen on venturing off to the Knob later in the day, it really didn’t look that far away, he assured us. A bit of soft snow greeted us over the top of the Range and as we dropped down to the bush line to begin our steep descent down to the Left Branch of the Motueka River. We met a couple, members of the Waimea Tramping Club, on their way out having spent the night at Hunters Hut.
Several creek/river crossings greeted us at the bottom of the valley (most managed to rock hop and maintain dry boots) and then a short steep climb up to the hut site above the valley floor to have lunch at around 1pm, sitting at the picnic table in the sun with great views looking to Mt Ellis to the north, and from where we had descended to the west, Gordon Range and the contrasting distinctive Red Hill range to the South and East.
We took in the story of Bush Edge Hut which was taken out by a flood/slip on 23 February 1995 with the loss of two DOC hunters who were sheltering there, Hunters Hut being its replacement.
Bill managed a power nap in the hut to set himself up for retracing our steps back up the steep walk to the top of the Gordon Range.
Sadly, time didn’t allow for Murray to slip on down a saddle and up to Gordon’s Knob. It was getting on to 6pm with a setting sun when we were all back at the car park with two and a half hours drive home.
Stats: Inwood Lookout – Hunters Hut 9½ hrs return (including 1 hour for lunch). Distance return 20km. Elevation gain 1500m
Branch Cottage to the Heavens 8, 9 September
I’d often in years past gazed down the southern flanks of Mts Tapuae-o-uenuku and Alarm scoping the terrain and wondering??
Well that wondering was finally to be satisfied as Bluff Station for the last couple of seasons had been winter grazing merino hoggets in the vineyard and upon spring muster I inquired as to whether the tramping club could spend a weekend at the Branch Cottage perched under the towering south face of the 2885 meter Mt Tapuae-o-uenuku.
Hamish suggested early September as lambing was in October and the rest is now history although not completely straightforward as I needed to lure in a couple of members with four wheel driving skills as on the map it looked as though we had to negotiate our way across a couple of reasonably sizeable looking Clarence River side feeders.
Geoff and Bill stepped up to the plate and between the three of us we could accommodate fifteen passengers and as the cottage had twelve bunks a few could sleep on the floor if need be.
And so around eight thirty our wee convoy of three loaded to the gunnels passed through the Bluff Station gate just in the Kekerengu Valley Road to wind through the foothills of the Lady and Sawtooth Ranges going passed Ragged Robin before crossing Beehive, Rag and Chaytors Saddles. Numerous gates later we arrived at Coverham and from here all streams fed into the mighty Clarence River, most feeding off the spectacular Chalk Range.
Coverham was only half way as our four wheel drive road followed high terraces along the Chalk Range past Mead Hill to drop steeply into the Mead Stream crossing and Mead hut and stockyards on the far bank. From here we again rose steeply to sidle the upper slopes of Limestone Hill before eventually descending all the way down into the Dee Stream to a very passive crossing but in adverse weather conditions it was obvious it could become very challenging. Whilst climbing back up out of the Dee we were treated to exquisite views of the south eastern aspect of Mt Tapy.
Forty point five ks after entering the farm gate we rolled onto a broad plateau with Branch Cottage being central. It had taken a good three hours from the farm entrance, the journey somewhat prolonged by numerous stops for photo opportunities.
With bunks all sorted lunch was consumed on the sun soaked northern veranda before restlessness began to set in. Jane and Geoff decided to have a wander around the surrounding flats while Paul, Teleri, Bill, Jill, Janice, Roberto, Salvador, Kerry and myself decided to head up to the airstrip and do a bit of a recce to suss out the intended route for early tomorrow morning. Over lunch we had pencilled in what seemed like the logical route to the top and now was an opportune time to feel the lay of the land we would be doing by headlamp early tomorrow morning.
Easy pastures were crossed before we dropped down into a wee tributary of Branch Stream, a strong smell of sulphur wafting through the air along with a slight discolouration of the stream had us dreaming of soaking up the warmth of a hot thermal spring.
Alas we could only feel cold water so resumed our journey, picking up the remnants and following a very old flat iron standard fence doing a sidle to gain a spur running parallel and east of Branch Stream. It was very enjoyable scrambling through a mix of tussock and alpine scrub with a little scree added to the mix. It was so enjoyable that in no time we found ourselves at around 1300 odd meters, a rough cairn marking the start of a deviation from the ridge to the North West.
All decided the deviation was for tomorrow and we were comfortable with the fact that the rocky ribs rising up from Branch Stream should be relatively simple to sidle through tomorrow morning.
Bill although was ruing the fact the tents were not brought along for did we want to do this all over again tomorrow morning as we relaxed in the warm afternoon sun admiring the south face of Tapy, the towers on the ridge leading to point 2711 and west of that the menacing south face of Mt Alarms summit pyramid, it being only eight meters lower than the summit of Mt Tapuae-o-uenuku.
Feeling confident we had the route sussed we high tailed it back down the ridge, the shadows lengthening across the valley.
The warm confines of Branch Cottage were welcome as the last rays of the day were reflecting off the upper snow slopes of the Seaward Kaikoura Range, Geoff and Jane having kept the fire stoked in our absence.
Having driven all the way in we could have treated ourselves to some really decadent and sumptuous meals but for most of us we settled for the tried and prized freeze dry meals, the stand out for me being the “Beef pasta hotpot”
We had the luxury of plentiful hot water to clean up the dishes as the old coal range was fitted with a wet back. There was even the possibility of a hot shower but that was really a road too far as it wouldn’t be tramping without a little grubbiness.
By candlelight a summiting plan was prepared with a wakeup call at four am and an alpine start of five am. The sheer scale of tomorrows climb had brought about a few defections with the summit team now being Kerry, Roberto, Paul, Salvador, Teleri and Myself while the support team would consist of Bill, Geoff, Janice, Jill and Jane who were doing the sensible thing by having a sleep in followed by a leisurely start to follow in our footsteps.
We crawled into our pits just on eight pm to catch some zzzzzzzzs. Because of way to many cups of tea I resigned myself to at some stage having to get up for a pee. One thirty am and sure enough I was tip toeing out to see stars from horizon to horizon and so crawled back into the pit happy that it was looking good for later in the morning. I must have slept well for most of the others had snuck out for a pee as well without disturbing my slumber but that all changed when spot on four am my cell phone blasted out a shrill tune of some description.
Some were slower than others to rise but five am found us cramming packs on the back of the Ute and squeezing six inside for the short drive up onto the airstrip.
There was a very noticeable temperature change as we exited the Ute to scramble over the airstrip fence and begin what we all envisaged to be a very long day.
Landmarks from the previous day passed by under the headlamp beams until we witnessed a spectacular sunrise just before the cairn, our high point of yesterday.
In the early morning light only a three quarters of a k sidle lay between us and a scarp we needed to follow to get us onto the business end of the trip. Tooo easy we thought, this is in the bag. Famous last words!!
Well it was a very interesting three quarters of a k sidling frozen scree and negotiating rotten ribs that had runnels disappearing off down into the Branch Stream. With the help of strategically placed cairns which we took a little time out to add to, we just about managed to get through without incident until I managed to slide on my backside down a steep runnel, dropping my pole while trying to protect the camera.
Murphy’s law had the pole sliding a further twenty odd meters down the gully. On retrieval it was a rather precarious grovel back up rotten rock, well that was enough excitement for me for the day!!!
Once on the escarpment it was pretty much plain sailing although like everything today the distance across was deceivingly longer than anticipated. Thankfully Kerry who was on a mission stopped to give us a break at the foot of Tapys south east ridge. While catching our breath I suggested we may as well chuck on the crampons to save stopping again even though we had the odd patch of tussock and scree to clamber over.
From here our intended route was into a gentler valley system to the west of point 2711 eventually leading into the saddle between Mt Alarm and point 2711. This looked to be another three k longer than if we just went straight up a giant couloir between point 2711 and Mt Tapy, it was a lot shorter but significantly steeper so hopefully the guys and gals flexible tramping boots would be up to the task. The team it was a no brainer as they were happy for anything that meant shorter. With that decided we set into a pretty steady rhythm but the enormity of this gulley took us by surprise as every time I looked up the point I was aiming for was no closer and when I did eventually pass this point to ease into a little plateau a good hour had passed.
As we eased in behind a huge rock to get a little respite from the windblown spindle drift the enormity of it really began to sink in as we were only half way up having already covered a k and five hundred vertical meters.
Kerry was gazing upwards and took us a little by surprise as he announced he was going to pull the pin and head back down.
I scanned the slopes looking for a less exhausting option which I did spy and thought OK that will take the pressure off everyone.
Famous last words as three quarters of an hour later we had steadily arced our way around cresting the easy ground to a nasty surprise as the other side fell away to nothing leaving me annoyed at myself for not getting the map out of the top pocket and checking first, even without the map the feature behind should have told me it wasn’t leading me to where I wanted to be.
The ridge now wasn’t an option because it was beyond mosts skill level and it was definitely above my fear threshold so chose a rather delicate traverse around rock outcrops to get back into that main couloir. Nothing ventured nothing gained as I dropped over the edge chopping out foot holds for the others to follow in, the steps getting a little thin around the toe of the rock outcrops due to thawing and refreezing, regaining the couloir around the two and a half thousand meter mark.
This wee excursion having cost us the best part of three quarters of an hour so in our time of need out came the sugary soft jubes for a team turbo charge. I put Salvador out in front for the last hundred meters onto the south west ridge cause I was Knackered.
Our expected summiting time kept passing with us having to do a reset only to have that pass. We eventually crested the south west ridge just after one pm having been going for eight hours and we still had two hundred and fifty vertical meters of the south west ridge between us and the top.
Time was almost against us as I wanted to get back through the cairned section on the lower slopes before it got dark as I felt with fatigue setting in doing this section with headlamps would be a disaster waiting to happen. So I made the decision that no matter where we were the turnaround time would be two pm and as Salvador was probably the fittest of us I said we may as well get at least one to the top so you go for it.
Salvador took off like a sprinter out of the blocks while the rest of us followed at our own pace being buffeted around like rag dolls by the bitterly cold south easterly wind, the ridge intermittently changing from icy sastrugi to windblown powder.
I looked up and snapped off a shot of Salvador within meters of the summit while just below me Paul, Teleri and Roberto had pulled the pin, sheltering in the lee on the north western side.
The rigours of the day were catching up on me fast as I looked up the final bit ,only five minutes away but I was seriously beginning to question whether I could do that last little bit safely as I was being buffeted around.
Salvador had gone from sight so I knew he was there so I put my mind to the task, step, step, plant axe, step, step, plant axe until the ice gave way to the rounded summit and the almost buried trig point at one forty five.
Salvador’s phone battery had succumbed to the cold so I grabbed a few shots of him on the summit and surrounds before beating a hasty retreat back down towards the others. At least the bitingly cold wind was now more or less to our backs.
A regroup at the top of the couloir for a much needed refuel just after two pm had Roberto and Salvador sold on the magic powers of de fizzed coke but it was fair to say Paul and Teleri were unconvinced.
The time had come to descend the couloir so over I went kicking steps with Salvador on my heels making them a little bigger for the rest. It was laboriously slow having dropped little over one hundred meters and already we were in deep shadow. Some drastic action was needed so I grouped everyone up and got them to stand facing out leaning a little forward to keep the centre of gravity over the feet, take big steps letting the crampons slide on the powdery surface. After a tentative start all grew in confidence getting into a good rhythm.
With a bit of guidance around icy patches we absolutely smashed it down the last nine hundred meters of the couloir picking up Kerry’s track at the base sidling up onto the scarp.
Four pm and we were ditching the crampons and
axes for walking poles as we shuffled and skidded our way down to the start of the cairned traverse, filling up water bottles before starting to link the cairns, the slope again in deep shadow but at least not frozen like this morning. Great care was taken where I had arsed up this morning as we carefully chimney our way up the runnel to gain the ridge and begin the bone jarring descent towards civilisation, surprising the odd deer out for an evening graze.
Again we were ticking off the familiar features one by one, the derelict fence, the sulphur smelling stream before the low saddle leading to the airstrip and finally the blue steed parked up beside the superphosphate bin.
The relief was immense as weary bodies hurled packs unceremoniously onto the back and squeezed in thirteen hours after exiting.
I was just damn pleased I was driving and not opening and closing what seemed like a thousand gates.
Trip Stats Day one recce...9.04 ks for a vertical gain of 754 meters over 3 hours 54 minutes.
Day two... 20 ks for a vertical gain of 2365 meters over 13 hours.
Bounding up Bounds. 15,16 September 2018
Well surprise, surprise, Saturday morning the phones ringing at nine am and Bills name pops up on the screen.
“Weathers looking good so I wouldn’t mind to come.”
I had set the departure time from home at ten am so as to accommodate a hunting party doing their thing in the lower reaches of Gosling Stream but as Bill hadn’t packed I entertained Paul and Nally with a morning cuppa while awaiting Bills arrival.
It was an incredibly balmy spring day with just the hint of a northerly breeze and cloudless from horizon to horizon as we waded the Waihopai River around mid day to begin the boulder hop up valley.
It was like a midsummer day as the heat shimmered up of the rocks and we were left wondering what it was doing to the white stuff high above and with us nearing the end of the wide open braids lunch became the main topic of conversation. Paul, Nally and I settled down in the middle of the riverbed while Bill sought the shade of some beech trees.
Having made ourselves very comfortable propped up against our packs we entertained ourselves with “Spot the wilding pine tree”. Sadly the more we looked the more we saw.
We had made ourselves so comfortable lazing in the sun that the expedition ran the risk of grinding to a holt. The inevitable did happen as the lure of the mountain was too strong as we hoisted way too heavy packs to our shoulders and resumed the boulder hop to turn the corner ninety degrees and enter the gorge.
Stream crossings became more frequent and while Bill, Paul and I were managing to keep our feet dry, Nally was not quite so fortunate even with the waterproof socks????
Before long we had passed below the huge waterfall feeding the Gosling and knew the bypass was only five minutes away. I’d walked this valley so many times I knew instinctively where to enter the bypass but had brought a length of danger tape to make it a little easier for those less familiar..
The bypass although starting to get a little overgrown was passed through with ease to break back out into the riverbed and there perched atop the terrace was the Marlborough Tramping Club Hut, splendid in bright orange and guarded by steep walls.
After claiming a bunk I retrieved a pair of pine tree prunning loppers from my pack and wandered back down to the bypass to clear regenerating scrub, leaving the others to light the fire and gather more wood.
I returned an hour and a half later with mission accomplished to find the open fire roaring, Nally stoking it up to dry her boots and socks for tomorrow while Paul and Bill had feet up in front.
Well it was that time of the evening when thoughts of dinner were coming to the fore and being a man of routine I pulled out my “Beef pasta hotpot”
Nally was excitedly showing off her first freeze dry purchase, a glossy package showing a vast array of vegetables with mashed spud. Unfortunately for Nally all that was in the packet was mashed spud, the moral of the story here being, read the ingredient list rather than relying on the glossy packaging pictures. Luckily we were all able to rally around and produce ingredients to take away the blandness of just mashed spud.
The rest of the evening was spent in front of the fire giving Nally a geography lesson. She may have had an intricate knowledge of every twist and turn of Singapore but New Zealand’s backcountry left her a little bewildered with that “Where the Hell am I” expression spreading across her face on many occasions and just to add a little more spice to the conversation Paul informs us his brain didn’t work anymore.
On that note we began to turn our attention to tomorrow as a nor west front was supposed to rear its ugly head mid afternoon so we felt a seven am hut departure was appropriate so I set the alarm for six am.
Alas to many cups of sugary tea had me tip toeing out the hut door around mid night to a sky full of stars but it was way too mild for any sort of a freeze.
Six am rolled around to the shrill tune of a no doubt popular tune of the day, but for me it was just an annoying noise. With the lengthening daylight hours breakfasts of porridge, muesli and in Nallys case, mashed spud, was gobbled without the need for headlamps.
Fuelled up we eagerly set off into the big boulder section just beyond the hut and rather disappointingly seeing the top of Mt Bounds disappear into a bit of clag.
Its only one and a half ks from the hut to gain our exit stream on the on the true left but it still took an hour, care being taken not to get wet feet.
From here the business end of the trip begins with the stream rising very steeply and being south facing the rocks were very slick with thought going into each step.
The stream gave way to alpine scrub before we entered a high grove of beech having survived burns of yesteryear. On exiting we filled water bottles, Nally being a little concerned about the wee floaty things. “Just a bit of protein” I suggested.
We were just ten minutes short of where I wanted to be at nine am, a wee tongue of snow making the last grunt out of the wee circ a little more manageable.
The big basin spread out before us, the summit of Mt Bounds intermittently disappearing and then reappearing. Although the snow was soft I suggested we chuck on crampons here as there may have been a freeze higher up.
While putting on the crampons we were able to marvel at Tapy , to far east to yet be affected by this incoming front and trace our route up the south west ridge from the previous weekend.
There was certainly no hint of any freeze as we sunk to our calves while beginning the traverse across the big basin. It’s deceptively big being over one km across and from its base still five hundred vertical meters to the summit. It was very much a case of getting into a quiet rhythm of small step, weight, sink, small step weight, and sink without looking too far ahead.
We eventually broke from the lee slope to feel the full chilly blast of the nor wester as we gained the north ridge, following tongues of wind frozen snow towards the summit.
Exactly four hour after leaving the hut we departed the stormy summit for warmer climates far below, stopping briefly to ditch the crampons and axes for walking poles, whilst north forgetting a quick carbo load before again resuming the rapid plunge into the valley below. With the altitude drop came the temperature rise and once back in the stream the layers were being stripped back.
Two pm had us scrambling back up the head wall to the hut and with time on our side I fired up the cooker for a hot brew before we packed and tidied the hut.
We bade the hut farewell just on three with just a hint of moisture in the air. It was an incentive not to dally but by the time we hit the wide braids of the lower Gosling our pace had become very pedestrian with the conversation dwindling.
By the time we reached the Waihopai and our stashed shoes, Paul and Nally were cheerfully chatting away again, Bill had long disappeared into the distance leaving me to reflect on yet another great alpine tramp with some body trashing chucked in for good measure.
Trip stats Day one..7.6 ks for 404 vertical meters of gain over 2 hours 50 minutes
Day two..18.38 ks for 1321 vertical meters of gain over 11 hours 12 minutes.
In Search of Waihopai Saddle..... 2nd Sept 2018
It was going to be a weekend for the hardcore warriors as YR had snow and more snow while the Met service was a little more optimistic with a clearance around midday which I glossed up just a little to take away any ideas Paul and Simon may have had of spitting the dummy.
The light drizzle had turned to steady rain by the time eighty odd ks had passed to reach the unfordable crossing of the Waihopai just shy of Blue Mountain hut.
With boots under our arms we paddled the Waihopai in crocs and sandals, scooting up the four hundred odd meters to the dry refuge of Blue Mountain hut. Whilst putting on our boots and over trousers we were left to then contemplate whether the distance just travelled constituted a trip. I knew Tizzy wouldn’t let us hear the end of it if we caved so all decided to soldier on in the direction of Waihopai Saddle.
It was surprisingly warm all rugged up but that all changed for Simon as while boulder hopping Waterfall stream a slight miss judgement found him up to his knees in bloody chilly water.
It’s amazing how time flies when you are having fun??? with mid day finding us just short of the bottle neck corner which leads you into the alpine scrub and tussock country. With the worms biting and the rain seemingly intensifying we decided to gate crash a goat party, chasing them out from under an overhang to refuel in the relative dry, although a tad smelly but no one was complaining.
With lunch dispatched with I suggested we nip through the wee short bit of gorge to round the corner and get e wee bit of a peek towards the Waihopai Saddle for this was all new territory for Simon and maybe then look at pulling the pin. It wasn’t a biggy for Paul or I as we had been over this a few times and so to get a peek towards the destination didn’t have the same importance.
The rising stream at this bottleneck did pose a wee problem as my feet were still dry and I wanted to keep it that way so hauled myself up a steep bank to enter a thicket of regenerating beech, pushing through for one hundred meters to exit back into the stream now surrounded by alpine scrub and tussock with a good smattering of Spaniards.
Miraculously the rain had suddenly eased to just a few spots and all of a sudden the destination looked very achievable although still hidden in the murk way above.
But first I had to link up again with the team whom I had lost in the thicket. They eventually emerged high above me and we set a converging course to reunite just below a central rib that
would lead us onto the snow. This rib was again re infested with wilding
pine, DOC having cleared it to the Saddle a few years previous.
Poles were swapped for ice axes as we then looked for firmish snow, Simon who had a slightly knackered look across his face muttered “Don’t know if I’ve got the energy to get back down”
On the bright side, with a day like today you didn’t have to go through the anguish of aiming for a saddle that never seemed to get any closer. That final moment arrived around two pm when the legs stopped having to be lifted and the ground started to fall away and the altimeter was indicating 1750 odd meters.
The conditions weren’t conducive to sticking around to admire the view so with backs to the wind driven snow we had a quick refuel before high tailing it back down for a warmer climate.
The day was brightening to the south east revealing the massive broken north face of Mt Boundary, a solitary patch of sun glinting on the upper slopes. It didn’t take long before we were back to the tedium of rock hopping our way downriver. Paul and Simon stole a bit of a march on me here as I stopped to photograph wilding pine covered slopes to use as ammunition to hopefully get the Crown to remove what they instigated in the seventies and eighties.
By the time I caught up around the Fork Spur junction a slight gloom was setting in leaving us wondering if we would make the Blue Mountain Hut river crossing before darkness set in.
I was frantic to get there before dark as I had spied a shingle reef that morning that only looked about calf deep and provided I pulled the gaiter draw chords super tight reckoned I could sprint across it and keep the feet dry.
With seconds to spare I peered into the gloom mapping in my mind were the shallow water was, Simon just downstream already had his headlamp on and was probing his way across, the water by now well above his knees.
Oh well no guts no glory as I hesitated then charged across at breakneck speed.
Trip Stats 30.9 ks return for 1140 meters of vertical gain over 10 hours 20 minutes