By Andrew, 30 August 2012
Trip report, Arthur’s Pass July 2012
An early morning ferry trip and an all day drive gets us to the Taipo trail head at around 6.30, after various breaks for petrol and dinner in Blenheim and Greymouth. The first group of seven set off while Sebastian, Pia, and I made the 1½ hour round trip for the shuttle, leaving a car at Klondyke corner for the end of the week. This meant that we didn’t start walking until nearly 8.30, some of us (Pia) on far fewer hours of sleep than the others. After about 2¼ hours, we knew we were getting close, and another 15 minutes got us to seven-mile creek. Tiredness, confusion over the trail (no visible markers), and darkness left us wandering around for three hours before we called it and pitched a fly for what was probably the coldest night of the week, at 1.30 in the morning.
Being as tired as we were, it was almost 9.30 before we finally got up on the second day, and we started it off with a scout of the creek, and wondering exactly what happened to the others. Luckily for us, Sebastian spotted a tramper coming the opposite direction, who had a story about a hut not too far away, with seven other trampers inside. One happy reunion and hot brekkie later, we head off, but by now it’s eleven, and our pace is pretty slack. We reach the cableway, about 2km upstream after about an hour and a half. After the inevitable delay getting people across the river, we continue up, starting with a ruthless, seemingly purposeless 100 metre climb and then descent. The track follows the river, and it’s pretty smooth walking. We stop for lunch at about 2.30, then hustle the last couple of Ks to Mid Taipo Hut, total time about 5 ½ hours, about double what DoC times suggested.
This time we’re up earlier, we want to make the most of the light at Julia hut for some hot pool goodness. We make pretty good time, as we’ve split into our component groups now, and we’ve got a good amount of separation. Day three is pretty uneventful, and we get to Julia at about 1.30, just in time to watch the sun slip below the western hills, and enjoy some lunch. The second group took it even more leisurely than we did, which was a good job, it left them with plenty of gusto to dig out the hot pools for the rest of us. Big enough for nine of us, so much for the DoC guide’s opinion of a two person pool.
This one is the big one. An early rise lets us start walking at 7.20, and so long as we’re on the marked path, we make really good time. We reach the end of this after about an hour and a half, allowing for some breaks along the way. From here though the going gets really tough. The snow is just a mushy layer lying on the rocks and scrub, and when we aren’t rock hopping up the creek, half of the time we go up to our crotches in the snow. It takes us about 4 hours to do 2km. Once we get out of the creek everything improves though. With fearless Sebastian leading the way, under Mae’s ruthless directive that we don’t get lunch until we reach the top of Harman Pass, we plod on up the hills. Along the way we have to navigate a pretty tricky traverse, any slip ups could mean a four metre tumble into the creek, and the snow still isn’t great. We power up to the pass, reaching the top at about 3.00. We don’t get the promised lunch break however, as time is of the essence, and we don’t want to be stuck in the gorge when it gets dark. There are some pretty sketchy areas coming down the eastern side, with a few avalanche risks, and a whole lot of river crossings. Ivan took an opportunity to risk hypothermia taking the most direct route down a waterfall, while the rest of us wisely chose the traverse. We get out the gorge just as darkness sets in, and eventually reach the White River, we make a few navigation mistakes however, and end up taking far longer than necessary to decide to cross to the True Right, where Carrington hut lies. We do eventually get there however, at 7.30 after a few bull-headed decisions and some clever navigation.
Day 5 was our rest day, most of us didn’t get up until 10am, and aside from a small day trip a few of the group took, it was mostly spent around Carrington, playing cards, listening to music, and chatting, with a good amount of carousing going on late into the night, particularly on Mae’s part.
While one group of six headed off to Crow Hut, Sebastian, Mae, Anna, and I decided we’d stay at Carrington another day and do a day trip up to Kilmarnock falls. It was about an hours walk each way, but the 150 metre high falls were spectacular. We were planning on going all the way to the base, but loose snow falling from the cliffs above deterred us. The trip back to the hut was punctuated by snowball fights, hill sliding, and such, but why waste the opportunity? Back at Carrington, we started eating, and we didn’t stop for six hours, lunch was followed by soup, then it was time to cook dinner, followed by three deserts. When we’d finally all had enough, we went to sleep in the main room, which thanks to some ingenious insulation work was roasting, where the dorm rooms were icy.
Another leisurely day ahead supposedly, from Carrington to Anti-Crow. After a clean up, we start at about 10, and the first half of the day is quick, the second half though is messy, with a few tricky sections crossing flooded creeks and along slippery ledges. Still, we make it to Anti-Crow trouble free, although we were a little worried about how the other group would get on given how much the Waimakariri had risen overnight. They were already at Anti-Crow when we arrived, and the dingy little hut was already full to the brim, and not smelling too pleasant either. A severe shortage of storage space meant that things were going to get wet.
The decision is made pretty quickly that Sebastian and I will go ahead to shuttle the cars, and Pia and Dana will come with us to report some Blue Duck (Whio) at the DoC office in Arthur’s Pass. We make fantastic time to start, our light packs making the flat open section a breeze. The real trouble starts in the last couple of km, where the track heads into the bush. Heavy snowfall has brought down dozens of trees, and this causes so much difficulty that it takes about an hour and a half to get to the track end, about the same amount of time the first six km had taken. From the Bealey Spur end, we have to walk to Klondyke Corner for the car, and after another 40 minutes or so, we’re all relieved to get into some dry clothes. We get the shuttle out of the way and meet up with the second group at the Bealey hotel, for some food and drink. Then it’s a long drive to Kaikoura to camp for the night, since it’ll be dry there. Both cars run into petrol problems 40km short of Kaikoura. By the time we get there, they’re both running on fumes. Dinner and a short drive later, we’re at Puhi Puhi campsite, and the promised dry.
A short day and a reasonably lazy start sees us at the Ohau Point seal nursery, then up to Blenheim for a supermarket raid, before finally getting to Picton for the ferry home to Wellington. We find out then it was a good thing we went east instead of west, as we would almost have certainly become stuck on the West Coast thanks to flooding, and missed the ferry. All in all, an excellent adventure, with excellent people.