Saturday, January 19, 2008

Erewhon to Haast (Jan 2008)


1st Evening Erewhon Station to Rangitata Riverbed 7.5 kms

Day 1 Rangitata to North East Gorge 12 hrs 20 kms

Day 2 North East Gorge to Old Waterfall Hut Site 6.5 hrs 18 kms

Day 3 Old waterfall hut Site to Rankin's Hut 10 hrs 13 kms

Day 4 Rankin's Hut to Ailsa Stream 8.5 hrs 17 kms

Day 5 Ailsa Stream to Liebig Hut 7 hrs 8kms

Day 6 Liebig Hut to Camp below Caroline Hut 8 hrs 14 kms

Day 7 Camp below Caroline Hut to Copeland Shelter 10 hrs 9 kms

Day 8 Rest Day

Day 9 Copeland Shelter to Welcome Flat Hut 6.75 hrs 14.5 kms

Day 10 Welcome Flat Hut to Cassel Hut 8 hrs 27.5 kms

Day 11 Cassel Hut to Christmas Flat Hut 9 hrs 12 kms

Day 12 Christmas Flat Hut to Rubicon Biv Rock 10 hrs 12.5 kms

Day 13 Rubicon Biv Rock to Zora Creek 10 hrs 12.5 kms

Day 14 Zora Creek to Fraser Hut 8.5 hrs 19 kms

Day 15 Rest Day Day Walk

Day 16 Fraser Hut to Pleasant Flat/Road 11 hrs 30.5 kms


30 Dec 2007, Sunday

My son Chris took me down to the Rangitata from Nelson. Unfortunately, he took out his sump and a few other essential bits when we unexpectedly hit a ford opposite Mt Sunday. He stopped straightaway when he saw the oil light flick on. We walked up to Erewhon Station and rang the AA for a tow truck. Luckily he had only just joined the AA the week before! The tow truck arrived within a few minutes of us arriving back at the car. Can't complain about the service. Having seen Chris and the car off to Christchurch, I set off across the riverbed with a fully laden pack of 29kg and setup camp about 1km south of Mt Sunday. Weather warm and sunny.

31 Dec 2007, Monday (Day 1)

Up at 0530 and heading off at 0620. Weather overcast but warm. I'm keen to get the river crossing out of the way so skip breakfast until I get to Mount Black hut. I don't know what to expect and can't hear the river from this distance. The Internet had shown the river running low so I'm optimistic that I can cross, but still a bit hesitant. As a solo tramper, I can't use anyone else for support! I don't cross any significant channels prior to coming upon the main channel. I walk upstream a little way and come to a point where the river looks OK. The water is reasonably clear so I can see the bottom, which is always a bonus. The depth turns out to be about 150mm below crutch level, but the flow is quite fast. I make it across with out incident but it required concentration and patience. I am pleased to have that behind me. What would I do without my walking stick for support?

I have breakfast at the hut; leave my intentions and head away at 0815.

The going up the lower part of Alma Stream is straight forward enough as it turns out there is a fairly well worn track and some flagging tape. Reach "Camp Rock" at 1100 and after a quick snack, away again at 1115. I stop at the last water point and fill my bottles. (And add 1.5kg to the pack in the process!) At this point I am about to ascend into the cloud so I get out the GPS to get a direction and distance. I am 2.2kms and need to head due west. Visibility is only 100 -150m so I follow the compass. Some time later I recheck the GPS, still west and still 800m. I plod on under the burden of a heavy pack. After what seems like ages, and not wanting to climb a scree slope up the side of Mt Alma, I check the GPS again. This time west; 143m. I'm on track. I finally reach the Alma Col at 1530, that last 800m particularly slow. At the col, the view west is in brilliant sunshine, but in contrast, the view back down Alma stream is completely misty! I snap a few photos and move on at 1545.

The going down Trojan Stream is straight forward enough and I reach my camping spot in NE Gorge just below Chevalier Stream at 1820. At the bottom of Trojan, I sight 4 Thar in the main riverbed about 150m distant. I take some photos, and then sight a group of 10 further down stream. This group feed there way up the scree slope as I setup camp. As it has been a 12-hour day, I decide that tomorrow I will not cross the mountain range into the Macaulay as planned, but do the riverbed route.

1 Jan 2008 Tuesday (Day 2)

I didn't see the New Year in, having slept well after a long day yesterday. The first day of the New Year dawned fine and warm. Started off downstream on the true right, easy going at first but it got tougher where the river gorges. Was finally able to cross to the true left just before Two Thumb stream and it was easier going again on grassed terraces. In hindsight, stick to the TR until the river gorges, cross to the TL and stay on that side until you reach the Macaulay. Left camp at 0815 arrived Macaulay at 1245. Picked up the 4WD track and made quick time up to the old Waterfall Hut site, arriving at 1445. Setup camp nearby and spent the afternoon relaxing for a harder day tomorrow.

2 Jan 2008 Wednesday (Day 3)

Another warm fine day. Up at 0545, and on my way at 0655. The route up Waterfall Creek is easy and I reached the saddle between Pt's 2352 & 2320 at 1125. Snapped a few more photos and off again at 1140. Now the tricky bit! The route from the saddle into a hung basin was easy. However, I ended up cutting down through bluffs to the point where the North Branch fans out into the Godley. Luckily I didn't get bluffed but it got close in a couple of places. I should have regained the spur leading out to the front faces and dropped down there. Alternatively, a better saddle would have been the one between Pt's 2297 & 2228. This would have allowed me to drop easily into the North Branch riverbed, then follow the river out. The river narrows lower down, so it may not be a route when the river is high?

Anyway, I arrived at the riverbed at 1530, and at Rankin's Hut at 1700. The Godley was running milky and wasn't cross-able as a single channel, but by choosing a braided part about 1km upstream, easily managed a knee-deep crossing. Nice views of the Maud Glacier from Rankin's Hut.

3 Jan 2008, Thursday (Day 4)

Another fine warm day with quite a brisk wind blowing down the Godley and up Rankin Stream. This assisted me climb the lower reaches of Rankin. A very easy climb to the pass, with a steady gradient on tussock the whole way except for only 1/2 hour of stable scree at the end. There is a great camping spot with water 1/2 hour below the pass. Couldn't see the water in the moraine lake as I passed, but could see it from the other side of the Godley! Left Rankin's Hut 0720, arrived at pass at 1120. It was blowing a gale at the pass but in the opposite direction to that in the Godley. The south faces of Mt Hutton and the Huxley Glacier provided a brilliant vista from the pass. Relatively easy going down the Cass, arriving at Memorial hut at 1520. This is a private hut so I signed the visitor’s book, and headed of to setup camp in the bottom of Ailsa Stream.

1 Thar sited in Rankin Stream and a group of 9 in the Cass opposite Rutherford Stream.

The body is coping well at the moment, with only chaffing on the hips and lower back. Am very pleased with the new Macpac Cascade pack. I should have retired the old Hallmark years ago.

4 Jan 2008, Friday (Day 5)

Weather fine and warm again with clear sky. Left camp at 0730 and spied 1 Thar within 20min. This one didn't hang around like the others, probably due to easily accessible hunting pressure. Once again an easy steady climb up to Ailsa Pass, reaching it after 4 3/4 hours. And what a magnificent view from the pass. SSE looks through the Jollie Saddle out to Lake Pukaki in the distance. West across the Murchison Valley to the Malte Brun Range and of course the Main Divide and the dominant peak of Mt Sefton. But the one that filled the panorama was obviously Mt Cook. I couldn't at that moment think of a better place to be, especially given the fine warm windless weather. Helicopters were also making the most of the weather, with at least 1/2 dozen landing on the Liebig Range while I was at the saddle, not more than 1 km away. I had cell phone coverage, so was able to touch base with Pam and the kids.

A short and straightforward descent to Liebig Hut saw me arriving there within 2 hrs of leaving the pass. The afternoon was spent washing self and clothes and resting. I noted that passed through here on 7/1/07.

5 Jan 2008, Saturday (Day 6)

WOW what a fantastic day. Once again weather perfect. Slept very well last night probably because of the mattress. Up at 0545, away at 0700. The Murchison River didn't pose a problem, being only knee deep at most, although it did involve 6 separate channels. It only took 2 hrs to get down to the Tasman moraine, as the Murchison riverbed is mostly composed of fine gravels, which made for fast walking.

Getting onto the Tasman Glacier was easy on the eastern side and includes a nice camping spot by a small clear lake. The glacier at this point is covered in rock and gravels and proved more stable than I had thought it would been. It took 3 1/4 hrs to cross the glacier and climb the moraine wall on the other side. DOC had told me to climb the moraine wall above Ball Shelter, but I actually climbed below it, and it wasn't a problem at all. I arrived at Ball Shelter at 1215. It was amazing how many spider webs I saw strung between the rocks on the glacier. The hardest part of the crossing was trying to walk around them all! Crossing the glacier reminded me of being in a small boat, rising and falling as I travelled through a swell of rock and ice.

I then proceeded to climb the Ball Pass track and arrived at a camping spot 30 Min's below Caroline Hut, at 1500. The camp is in a hollow, so should be reasonably sheltered from the worst of any winds. I am also opposite the Caroline face of Mt Cook, where I am entertained by the continual thunderous crashes of ice falling onto the Ball Glacier.

Could get 2 bars of signal on the cell phone but couldn't send a text. Picked up a weather report at Caroline Hut's emergency shelter. Predicting good tomorrow but Monday will be wet and windy. I will make for the Copeland Shelter tomorrow at the least. I made the mistake of leaving the tent unattended for several hours. On the way back to it I suddenly thought KEAS! To my surprise, they hadn't been near it!

6 Jan 2008, Sunday (Day 7)

It turned out to be a very calm night with a slightly cooler morning. Away tramping at 0700 and within a few minutes got to see a good avalanche on the Caroline Face. Arrived at Ball Pass at 0845. Had to use the crampons for the first time this trip, for the descent on the western side of the pass. I also dropped too low under Mt Rosa, so lost 1/2 hr climbing back up onto the track. Enjoyed going down the snowy gut beside the "playing fields", also requiring crampons. Arrived at the camping ground beside the Hooker at 1200. Overall I enjoyed the Ball Pass track and would highly recommend it. It is not well cairned, probably because the commercial guides remove them?

I climbed down the gut from the camping ground and crossed the Hooker, to arrive at the base of the Copeland track at 1310. I cut up the moraine wall midway between the two creeks onto the landing, cut left then climbed the 2ND half of the moraine wall to the only possible part of wall that could have got me onto the ledge above. When I got to this small gut I found the rope that made the only part of the climb that could have been difficult, easy. I was pleased to be above the moraine wall on the grass though. The going for the rest of the climb to the shelter was relatively straight forward and simply a matter of going up! It is well cairned where necessary. As I climbed, the wind kept increasing in intensity so any thoughts of actually getting over the pass to were soon dismissed. Clouds were also building up on the main ridge. I arrived at the shelter at 1700 any quite happy to stay there the night. When I got the weather forecast from the VHF radio sched, I thought that I would probably be here 2 nights at least.

I was expecting a hot dehydrating ascent during the afternoon, but the blustery wind actually kept me comfortable without actually sweating, except for the last 5 Min's below the shelter when I started to get cold. I went and collected snow to melt for water and on the way back to the shelter saw the water tank on the back of the building! There is no toilet at the Copeland shelter, so I made my first "poo sausage". Once again I had cell phone coverage so was able to contact home etc. As I have made good progress to date and given the long-term weather forecast, I made the decision to continue the tramp onto Pleasant Flat via the Karangarua and Landsborough. So I organised a food drop at the end of the Copeland Track and a pickup date at Pleasant Flat.

7 Jan 2008 Monday (Day 8)

Went to bed at 2100, rose today at 1000! Wet and windy outside in the morning, then the weather eased early afternoon. Was tempted to get on my way again but decided to stay put and make it a full rest day. (Also some of the side creeks on the western side before Douglas Rocks hut would probably be uncrossable?) Later a SW change with blustery winds and drizzle, though visibility not too bad. I feel somewhat guilty for staying put, and will be more so if the weather is bad tomorrow as well. However the forecast for tomorrow is for improvement. Read an old reader's digest inside out then started on Danielle Steele's "Wings".

8 Jan 2008 Tuesday (Day 9)

As the weather has improved, I'm up at 0530 and out the door at 0630. There is still a bit of wind around but the east side of the range is clear. The snow is firm so on with the crampons again. The short steep ascent to the ridge takes me about 30 Min's. I go to the spot that a guide on Ball Pass told me was the saddle at the northern end. Well when I look over the ridge I say "No way am I going down there". Out comes the GPS and it indicates about 30m south. I head back there and hey presto, looks a lot easier. After a few photos and one last text to Pam, I head of at 0730 into the mist down the western side. I trip over my crampons on the scree, and lose my walking stick in the process; it slides about 5m down the slope. As I pick myself up, I dislodge a netball-sized rock, which bounces down the slope and glances my stick. Luckily it doesn't snap it in 1/2. I have gotten rather fond of my piece of nei nei. Luckily the mist cleared from time to time so I could see where to head. Some blue sky showed above so I knew the day would turn out OK. Picked up the cairned track in due course on the true left and followed this well worn track down to Douglas Rocks Hut, arriving at 1100. A couple of Keas welcomed me into the valley with their noisy squawking.

It was nice to be back on the west coast. What a contrast to the east; hot and dry vs. cool and damp, brown and stunted vs. green and lush, rocks dry and grippy vs. wet and slippery. Further down the valley it became very warm and humid. The side creeks had gone down, but they would not have been cross able yesterday. I was drenched when I reached Douglas Rock, not from rain but from the wet undergrowth. I was very pleased to rid myself of the poo sausages into the loo as well! After a 10 min stop, I head off and arrive at welcome Flat at 1315. I am dry by this time, all clouds have gone with a pleasant warm breeze blowing. It’s not long before I'm soaking in the hot pools, but they're very hot so I don't linger. I pay the $15 hut fee with the credit card. By evening, a lot of trampers have turned up so the hut is quite full. There is a group here from the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club. From the smell outside the window, it's clear that the septic tank isn't coping! Maybe my poo sausage wasn't so bad after all!

9 Jan 2008 Wednesday (Day 10)

Up at 0545, soaked in the pools till 0600 and up and away at 0700. It takes 2 3/4 hrs to reach the Karangarua and arrive at SH6 at 1100. I walked out with a couple of guys from the WTMC and they offered to give me a ride into Fox Glacier if my food drop hasn't arrived. I have a quick look for it and can't see it so I take up their offer. Well then I see my daughter Stephanie at Fox, the first thing she said to me is "What are you doing here, I dropped your food off 2 days ago!" She was doing a split shift that day so she was having a long lunch hour. She took me back down to the Copeland after I managed to squeeze in a quick beer. We then had to play a game called "Find the food box". It was there all right.

After gorging myself on tinned food. and restocking my pack, I head off up the south side of the Karangarua. It takes me 4 1/4 hrs to reach Cassel Hut. The track in is getting overgrown, but it is well marked. There are 2 people in the hut, both trampers and 1 turns out to be Aaron Whitehead who did his own traverse last summer. He gave me some good route information. I will see these guys in a couple of day’s time as they will head into the Douglas (Twain) then onto the Karangarua via Douglas Pass. I feast some more on hut food and the other guy's leftovers, which include fresh veges! Yum.

10 Jan 2008 Thursday (Day 11)

A fine day again. Away from Cassel Hut at 0720. It takes me 5 1/2 hrs to get to the old Lame Duck site. It is a beautiful spot by the river so I stop for a 1 hr lunch break. The track to here is well marked but getting overgrown. It climbs high above the gorge, through bluffs, then drops back to the main river. This country is made up of solid rock, and all side creeks have eaten channels into the rock. There are no boulders! The next stage to Christmas Flat Hut is more scrubby and harder, taking another 3 1/2 hrs for 3 1/2 kms. Track is mostly well marked, but in need of a damn good prune. Christmas Flat is a lovely spot right in the head of the valley with views to the Karangarua Saddle and Mt Howit and has a backdrop of rugged bluffy mountains. I spooked a Thar at less than 4m about 45 mins above Lame Duck, followed a few minutes later by a Chamois.

Christmas Flat Hut is warm and sunny and well stocked with food. (Thanks hunters) I have another feast comprising of corned beef, baked beans and sausages, and creamed rice. And to finish off, a generous nip of 12 year old scotch whisky.

11 Jan 2008 Friday (Day 12)

Another warm, calm clear day. Rose at 0550 and left hut at 0710. I walked up the main creek to where it forks below Mt Howit, then cut straight up the tussock face toward Howit. This avoided bush bashing except where I had to climb around 3 large rocks. Mist rolled in after 3 1/2 hrs, but still managed to get some photos and direction when it rolled back briefly. Arrived on the top of Howit after 4 1/2 hrs. At one stage I peered over the ridge into the Landsborough. What a shock, almost straight down to the riverbed. made worse by the spooky misty conditions. Arrived on top of Gladiator after 6 hrs. I couldn't see into the lower Douglas but I could hear the thunderous crashing of ice off the Douglas Glacier presumably. A straightforward route into the Landsborough via Howit and Gladiator, but a bit of a grunt to climb out of the Karangarua. Some neat looking crevasses on Maori Glacier. Spooked a Thar heading down to Douglas saddle and met up with the Cassel Hut trampers going the opposite way. Arrived in the valley floor under the Karangarua saddle after 8 hrs and reached Rubicon Biv rock just under 2 hrs later. (Time all up today, just under 10 hrs) The biv rock is on a sunny terrace on the TL just before Rubicon Torrent. It's dry from above but I suspect water flows across the floor in wet weather. Water is only 4 mins away to the north.

12 Jan 2008 Saturday (Day 13)

Day started cloudy and mild with a slight northerly breeze. It has been a long slow trudge down to Zora. Left biv at 0725, arrived at campsite below Zora at 1725. 10 hrs of boulder hopping and bush bashing to get around large boulders and slips etc. I have stuck to the TL, which is not the easiest route, but it does ensure that I am on the correct side of the river for getting out to the road. The TR is recommended as the easier (quicker) route in the upper section, but does require crossing to the TL at least 2 hrs below Zora. Light drizzle set in, then eased, then set in again. Walking clothes all wet, but I now dry and warm in the tent. My knees, quads and feet are feeling a bit sore tonight. The river drops about 600m over the 12.5 odd kms between Rubicon and Zora. The river is particularly picturesque around The Sentinel.

Only 2 days to the road now, so if it's wet in the morning, I might just sleep in! No animals sighted but plenty of sign in the river sand and bush. Lovely beech forest in the Landsborough, and no matagouri!

13 Jan 2008 Sunday (Day 14)

I couldn't get to sleep that quickly last night due to a throbbing pain in my little toe. I have got an infection under the toenail. (It lifted on the first day of my tramp). Otherwise the ground was soft and comfortable. Slept in til 0700, donned wet clothes and away at 0825. The first 2 hrs same rugged terrain as yesterday, then picked up beeched terraces which made it easier going to McKerrow. At McKerrow, I picked up a marked cut track used for a stoat trap line and covered the next 4 km in an hour. The track continued all the way to Fraser Hut. At Toetoe Flat, I pass a tent city with electricity that presumably belongs to one of the rafting companies. I arrive at Fraser Hut at 1700. (7 1/2 hrs walking time) The day has been light drizzle on and off all day. Plenty of fresh deer sign about, though nothing seen. Fraser hut is nothing flash, but it’s dry and has an open fireplace. (and plenty of dry wood)

I'm clean again and the clothes are drying. I treat my infected toe with iodine. As I am not due out til Thursday, I will have a rest day tomorrow and take a look at the Brodrick Pass track without a pack on!

14 Jan 2008 Monday (Day 15)

Weather overcast and drizzly. When up and flagged some of the Brodrick track. Steady rain set in after I got back at 1400. Spent the rest of the day reading. The rain eased in the evening, but the river has come up quite a bit. I note that a lot of visitors to Fraser Hut do a loop from Ohau via Brodrick and Elcho Passes.

15 Jan 2008 Tuesday (Day 16)

No rain in the night and the river has dropped considerably. I'm up at 0530 and away at 0700 after replenishing the wood supply. I followed the rivers edge for the first hour, before picking up the trappers track again and following it down to Harper's Flat. It took 1/2 hr to climb onto the top of Harper's Bluff, arriving there after 5 1/2 hrs since setting out. The day is sunny and breezy, so the bush has dried out and the raincoat comes off. I hear cicadas for the first time this season as I make my way down from the bluff. They must be enjoying the sun too. Stopped for lunch after 6 1/4 hrs at the creek below Harper's Flat. I almost fall to sleep in the warm sun. However I must carry on as I have a long way to walk, so away at 1415. By 1545 I'm on top of Strutt Bluff. There's a sign there that says "Track closed. Sorry for the inconvenience". Well I thought that the track was one of the better ones! By 1630 I arrive at the end of the 4WD track below Strutt Bluff. I remove gaiters, leggings and shake all the twigs and leaves out of my clothes before heading of again at 1645. I finally arrive at Pleasant Flat at 1915, tired but glad to be here after 11 walking hrs and 15 days of walking. I setup camp and head off to the river for a cold-water wash.

16 Jan 2008 Wednesday (Day 17)

Fine and sunny. Up at 0800, the clothesline is put up and the clothes are airing and drying. And finally the sandflies have found me. The road is busy and every second car seems to stop here and photograph Mt Hooker at the head of the Clarke. It's also a popular camping spot. In the evening I go for a stroll up the road to where the Burke joins the Haast. That will probably be my starting point next year.

17 Jan 2008 Thursday (Day 18)

It started to rain in the night and has rained since. It's got very boring waiting, but Stephanie finally arrives on cue just after noon. We drive back to Fox Glacier in the pouring rain and on Friday I catch the Atomic shuttle back to Nelson.

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