By Richard, 01 March 2007
Grassy Flats Hut in the
Boxing Day : Three (Richard, Hannah, Benj) stand blinking in the inky dawn waiting for the boat. Unfortunately there was due to be four of us so the waiting drags a bit… at 5.30 we decide to ring Joe’s place, unfortunately he answers the phone. Luckily his pack was packed and the little green car can get up to a good speed and Joe arrives in time for us to drive on with the ramp closing behind us (sort of).
We hook up with Ben and Belle in Greymouth, and in convoy the corolla and the wank-tank head for Hoki and the hills. We leave one car at the
Monday sees us grunting up towards Browning Biv, with lots of wet west coast bush to push through. We are saturated before we even get near to the stream bed. Higher up avalanche debris fills the stream and makes for fast travel upwards. Browning Biv is good for lunch, and to ready ourselves for the 600m up to the saddle. This bit is fairly steep with heavy packs and the legs appreciate it when we pop out onto the flat snow filled corridor that leads over to the saddle. The Crawford side is a spectacular basin filled with snow and big rocks, and we take a few photos and note the softness of the snow. It should be steep but straightforward getting down into the Crawford, but all day sun has loosened the bonding on the surface of the snow. Benj and Ben trigger some wet snow slides and the rest of us dither (in a safe place). The slides are small, but if they took us off our feet it would be difficult to avoid flying over the bluffs below us. While we dither the slope above them releases, and hisses past where they stand dithering (also a safe place). We watch those two pick their way down a snow-grassy rib to avoid the fragile slopes. All of us are entertained by another couple who reverse their route sans-ice axes and gloves. Bare hands look to be a poor substitute and have gone blue. They head over towards Browning, while we cook a feed and wait for the sun to go down. Once it leaves the slopes we pick our way down and pitch tents outside Top Crawford biv at about .
It is still sunny the next morning and a bit of a lounge around at the freshly painted and repiled biv seems appropriate. It is then a fairly quick and painless blat down to Top Crawford Hut, which is a great spot for lunch. The DoC track cutting has been superb through here and is much appreciated. A pike at the hut seems quite appealing in the hot sun, but we decide to push on, and soon are tramping through fat drops of west coast rain. Where did that come from? The Crawford Junction huts are both empty, and we grab the newer one and dive into pit while the rain crashes down. Within 30 minutes Geoff Spearpoints’ party turns up having camped at Whitehorn the night before. We burrow deeper into our pits while they check out the rat-haven old hut. There is a bit of a VUWTC connection going on, so the afternoon flies past with some good yarns. It is still raining the next morning, and we bash Joe with heavy objects to make him drop the idea of pushing on for Top Kokatahi Hut. Geoff and Co don’t go anywhere either and the Crawford gets rather large. A few people try for swims though! Thursday sees us heading off for Top Kokatahi hut, while the others wait hopefully for a clearance to do some redlining of their own. Not far above the cableway, Belle falls off a rock and her knee goes pop. We take weight out of her pack and head back to the Junction, not looking forward to the rat hut. A few of us head up to check out the impressively flooded Farquarson Creek, and on our return the other party have left, so we settle in for our third night at the Junction, and call for a helicopter. Ben and Belle depart down valley courtesy of NZ Police/taxpayer and Coastwide Choppers. The river is still pretty full on New Years Eve, and it is still drizzling as the remaining four of us head for Top Kokatahi. Slow but straightforward travel ensues, and then we spy smoke in the distance. The others have not got past Top Kokatahi hut, and when Hannah and Joe report the river looks un-crossable, it seems we will join them. A convivial NYE follows, with lots of brews, tipples, desserts and even fireworks. As an afternoons work in the rain, Joe and I permolat a wet weather route that Geoff and Jeff forge for 300m up the TR of the Kokatahi to cut out the river crossing.
Finally the 1st day of 2005 dawns fine, and we race up valley, if 4 hours of scrub thrashing for about 1.5km of distance could be called a race! The route up to Zit Saddle is quite pleasant, and most of it is via kicked steps on avalanche debris and snow guts. The others head off for Yeates Hut, while we check out options for getting down. The route down to Adventure Ridge looks convoluted and is slightly. I guess the easiest way to look at it is that you must get to the big rock at J33 2360900E/ 5802220N, and to do that you can’t drop too low too early. So you must sidle in and out of about three gulches, and at least one stream. If you follow the two snow-poles you will have about 30mins of scrub thrashing on your hands, but it spits you out right at the big rock. If you stay higher then you have some steep and slippery tussock to traverse, and you will have to drop down on top of the rock. We follow the two poles, and after a bit of a battle, lie sprawled by the big rock for a few minutes recovering from the vigorous scrub massage, and then climb and sidle our way across to Adventure Biv, which is an excellent place to spend the night. The last day sees us drop down the steep track to Cedar Flats Hut, admiring the impressive Toaroha Gorge on the way through, then it is a hop-skip and jump out to the road-end, giving the others a ride back to their car at the