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By DominicOberhumer, 12 September 2013We all met up the ferry terminal at more or less the right time, barring a forgotten jacket and a late bus. The ferry trip over was fun, we got to know the three crazies we'd be spending the next week with and wrestled with Bluebridge's free wifi. When we pulled into Picton we drove off and made for Blenheim (more or less) to go to Pak n Save.
We started the tramp by working out what we'd be eating. Most important. We found the wonderful potato flakes, picked up the hyperessential wooden spoon (serious) before loading back into the car and heading to the Mount Robert carpark, with maybe a stop to look at a lake and some ducks.
At the carpark we sorted the group gear and Achim and James did a funny car juggle, leaving one car at the carpark and the other in a technically safer place. The quick (read: mad) group set off without their last member and our medium group awaited the drivers' return.
When they did Achim chased after his group while we headed up the beautiful Paddy's track to Bushline hut.
The hut already had three occupants. We had some fantastic mashed potato soup courtesy of Matt and stayed there for a single night. In the morning we farewelled the ski tourers and took off for Angelus, passing a couple of their friends en route. "To the summit, never mind the blood" was what they advised us.
Given that this was a Sunday, there were a few people around. We heard that the other group had made it to Angelus late the night before, apparently upsetting someone in the main room. We got passed twice by two blokes in red jackets on their way up and down but most importantly there was more and more snow as we continued, eventually wading/bumsliding down to Angelus Hut- which the other group had left that morning.
It was empty for us, though. When we arrived it was too toasty to be comfortable, but this heat proved invaluable when night fell and the bedrooms were freezing. We dragged out some mattresses.
That night we played strip poker, though within this trip report is held the truth- it was all imaginary. No actual stripping. There, I said it.
True to the club, the headtorch was last, and we all had a giggle when James, who continued to lose beyond the number of clothes he was wearing, was sent out naked on the frozen lake with a headtorch set to flash.
The next day was probably the toughest. We headed out across the frozen lake (noting a half made snowmen and some footprints that hadn't been there the night before, and uneasily recalling some unusual sounds during the night) and followed the other group's footprints up and over Sunset Saddle (lovely name, lovely view, not so lovely trek) but the ice in the streams and the sparkling ground definitely made it an experience.
Wearing crampons as we were, Paul demonstrated how this can cause a slide to go painfully wrong. James, inexplicably, followed him down but improved upon Paul's "crampon catching in the ground" technique, while Matt and I walked because we love living on the edge.
With our Glorious Leader injured, but not too badly (no broken limbs, anyway), we continued. Photos of this time on the saddle are so regrettably few because our official photographer had lost the inclination to take any. It was pretty, though.
So fun climbs and very slow and nervous descents (on my part, anyway- Matt has loads of fun) down the scree slopes. Out of the snow at last, we put away our ice axes one by one but keep wearing our helmets until we reached Hopeless Hut (depressing name, lovely hut).
Worshipping of Sir Edmund Hillary ensued; it was generally agreed that he built the hut (no credit whatsoever went to the NZ Alpine Club that the sign falsely claimed had built it), and that his hands independently built benches while he slept (hence benches enough to pretty much take all the floor space) and by the end he was practically dethroning Chuck Norris.
James, in a remarkable turn of events, started winning cards, managing to get a near perfect hand every round regardless of the dealer. This was only the start of the betrayal of my cards. They proceeded to play favourites throughout the trip, but never for me.
The next day would be our last day of walking for a while, and it was a mostly flat, really lovely day. We had lunch at John Tait Hut, checked the intentions book for the other group who we had heard over the radio had stayed there the second night but couldn't find them (BAD) and generally complained about the many biting insects. We chatted to some older trampers who had arrived and hoped they didn't follow us to Upper Travers, where we planned to spend our rest day.
After lunch we continued on, reaching the sole upward slope of the trail and crossing avalanche paths. No avalanches happened, although it was worrying to see that John Tait is at the bottom of one of these paths.
We did see a waterfall though, which was gorgeous, and Matt was thrilled to find the source of the schist which had been everywhere. Paul was quizzing him on everything and has probably fulfilled the requirements for first year geology now.
Past the avalanche paths, we saw a little bit of snow and up ahead, the twenty-eight bunk (I think) Upper Travers Hut.
We spent our rest day there, intending to wait out the forecasted bad weather before going over Travers Saddle to West Sabine Hut. The normally barebones DOC sign even said "West Sabine Hut - 6 hours. Are you prepared for Travers Saddle?", the first question I have ever seen on one of those signs.
Unfortunately the forecast, told to us by the radio guy (thought by us to actually be Sir Ed, transformed into radio waves) was for gales. We decided to have our rest day and see what the weather was doing later.
A mattress fort was constructed in front of the fire, since we had the hut to ourselves. Unfortunately the table, which was the central support, made it very difficult to get at the fire. After several incidents of head banging, the next fort was constructed in the kitchen area, using a bench. It was awesome; you could sit up in this one. To complete, we pitched our emergency tent on top of it. This did not make Fort Travers V2 any warmer.
Forecast was for gales again. We finally decided to scrap the Saddle and stay for another day, making our "rest day" a total of three nights at Upper Travers. Team CMI were grateful for the respite for their "Collection of Minor Injuries", including screwed legs, blisters, axe wounds, and sore axes and knees from picking fights with rocks.
By the time we left we were very eager to get moving again. We retraced our steps, paused at John Tait again (enjoying the upside down tap) and had lunch with the sandflies at the Hopeless junction before continuing along the swing bridge that we hadn't taken several days before.
This was a fairly long and- though I hate to say it because I am as slow as molasses uphill- pretty uninteresting walk, except for the rampant bird life. We learnt some stuff about rocks courtesy of our resident geologist and about children's memories courtesy of our resident psychologist. We saw some ducks, discussed whether they were paradise or whio, and met an aggro little robin. It didn't want to be friends if I didn't have any food.
We got to Coldwater Hut, found a dead rabbit in the lake, spotted some swans and some more ducks. We lit a fire in the awesome fireplace to drive out all the biting bugs and since we had two dinners for only one night, decided to have Chinese-flavoured rice that night and exploding mashed potato for breakfast.
Seriously. The flavouring didn't respond well to being heated.
Also that night was our farewell to the radio guy, but to our dismay it wasn't our best friend, our constant companion. We decided Sir Ed had some other important business to attend to.
We left Coldwater in the morning after a lazy start and it was several hours of walking around a most beautiful lake. We lost Paul for a bit and left him sitting on a jetty in his happy place.
When we got to the exit point we hung about for a bit. The other team drove down and picked up James, taking him away. We considered raiding his bag for the insect repellent but the dude packs ridiculously well.
Anyway, he came back with his car and we set off for St Arnaud, the bush portion of our trip sadly complete.
In St Arnaud there is a general store, and a fish and chip store. We went straight for the general store and bought a pie each. James went crazy and bought a bottle of something fizzy and a bag of chips as well.
That was the best pie ever, after a week of mashed potatoes, rice and porridge.
So we went to the rented bach, found the other group showered and clean and had our own showers. At five we headed down to the fish and chip place and got some of those and topped up again at the general store.
We all hung out at the house, it was awesome. There were other baches with cool names like "Amble Inn" and "Elsewhere". This one was called "Dik's". Classy.
We played a game of modified Fiasco (look it up, it's awesome) and eventually we all got tired and found places to sleep.
The next morning Achim was making breakfast on a cooker by the light of his headtorch. Habits die hard. However it turned out the water and electricity were on the blink and so we staggered around for a few hours before organising ourselves and loading up the cars. As it turned out, the overnight rain had soaked the boots left outside. Some people were sad.
We stopped for lunch, devoured half of McDonalds and stopped by New World, and continued on to Picton. We checked in early and chilled around the cars for a bit. Eventually we got on the ferry, played cards, was awesome, and then eventually the ferry trip was over and so was our extravaganza.