Monday, January 28, 2008

St Arnaud – Aickens (Dec 2004)


1st Evening Kerr Bay to Lakehead Hut 2.5 hrs 9 kms

Day 1 Lakehead Hut to West Sabine Hut 11 hrs 26 kms

Day 2 West Sabine Hut to Caroline Bivvy 10.5 hrs 20.5 kms

Day 3 Caroline Bivvy to Christopher Hut 8 hrs 29 kms

Day 4 Christopher Hut to Ada Hut 2.5 hrs 18.5 kms

Day 5 Ada Hut to Brass Monkey Bivvy 7.25 hrs 21 kms

Day 6 Brass Monkey Bivvy to Lucretia Hut 3 hrs 4 kms

Day 7 Lucretia Hut to Sylvia Flat 4 hrs 13 kms

Day 8 Sylvia Flat to Hope-Kiwi Lodge 7.5 hrs 28.5 kms

Day 9 Rest Day, Day Walk

Day 10 Hope-Kiwi Lodge to Hurunui No.3 Hut 8.5 hrs 29 kms

Day 11 Hurunui No.3 Hut to Loche Stream Hut 8.5 hrs 14.5 kms

Day 12 Loche Stream Hut to Kiwi Hut 2 hrs 8.5 kms

Day 13 Kiwi Hut to Aickens Railway Siding 8 hrs 20 kms

The Diary

Friday 10th (Day ½)

Pam dropped me off at Kerr Bay after work. I threw the pack on and headed up the track to Lakehead Hut at 8:30pm. Due to the weight of the pack, I have left behind the tent and am just carrying a fly. It still weighs 25/26kg! The plan is to walk in the dark tonight so I can get a head start tomorrow. ½ way up the lake, as it’s starting to darken in the bush, I hear someone up ahead calling “help me”. From where I am, it sounds like a guy to my right down on the lakeside. I keep walking and determine that the guy is ahead of me as he is still calling out. Prior to hearing this guy, I had passed another bloke who had told me that he had a companion who was very slow, and had got sick of waiting for him. I arrived just as it was getting properly dark to the place where this guy was calling out. He was a young American chap and other bloke’s companion, who didn’t have a torch! He could see the lights of St Arnaud down the lakeside. Well I didn’t have a torch that I could spare and his mate was getting further away by the minute. He had no other gear, so I decided that I had no choice but to drop my pack and walk him out to Kerr Bay. It would mean that it would be very late before I got to Lakehead. I started walking this guy out, and boy he was slow! Luckily for me, after going for 10-15mins, his companion turned up and I was pleased to be rid of them and continue on my way. I think I got to Lakehead Hut at about 11pm and jumped straight in the sack. There was one other fisherman in the hut.

Saturday 11th (Day 1)

Departed Lakehead hut at 8:30am,arrived at Hopeless Creek after 2hrs and then it was another 1hr to John Tait hut. Lunched at John Tait, then it was another 2hrs to Upper Travers hut. The heavy snow this winter has caused avalanche damage to the bush below Upper Travers. The track has had to be rerouted around the fallen bush. The old Upper Travers hut has been removed and replaced by a large sterile people mover! I had no desire to stay here so after a quick snack, I headed off for West Sabine hut. I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, but was expecting up to 5hrs. It took 1 ½ hrs to reach Travers Saddle and a further 2 ½ hrs to reach West Sabine hut. The steep descent off the saddle caused some pain in my knees. Not good on day 1 of a 14 day walk! Arrived at hut at 7:30pm. The hut was quite full and included a group of Adventurer scouts. I had a long chat with the leaders, whom it turned out were hunters who had similarly spent time on Stewart Island. Weather fine and cool. There is a lot of snow about the tops.

Sunday 12th (Day 2)

Departed hut at 8:20am, crossed the river opposite the hut and headed for Blue Lake Hut. There is much avalanche damage on this section of the track. The creek that one normally crosses before the climb to Blue Lake is completely covered in avalanche snow. What a contrast to my other visits to this area. Arrived Blue Lake after 2-¼ hrs. The weather forecast for the next 24hrs was good, so I decided to cross Waiau Pass today. I met up with the scout group here, as they had left earlier than I. They had seen a nice stag in the scrub on top of the bluffs above Blue Lake. Departed Blue Lake at 11:25am and arrived at the pass after 3 ½ hrs. I sidled around the bluffs on the western side of Lake Constance and was surprised at how high I had to climb. The climb to the saddle is straight forward though steep. I took lots of photos before heading down the Waiau side. I could not see any track markers leading down, so I made my own way until picking up the route further down. There is a lot of snow about and no sign of Lake Thompson. I decided that it would not be safe to climb Thompson Pass in these conditions, so I will head down the Waiau to Caroline Bivvy. Stopped at 5pm beside the creek below Waiau pass and brewed up. Whilst there, I caught a glimpse of a chamois crossing the snow above me. Arrived at Caroline Bivvy at 7pm. On the flat just above the bivvy, watched a deer out feeding until I spooked it. 3 people were camped at Caroline, but no one was in the bivvy, so I had it to myself. They were heading for Waiau Pass and were pleased to know that I had come through it. Their intention was to tackle the 3 tarns pass back at Ada Hut and cross into the West Matakitaki. However they did not like the conditions on the pass.

Monday 13th (Day 3)

Departed Caroline Bivvy at 9:15am. Stopped at 12:30pm for lunch. It was a monotonous walk down the river flats. I got the GPS out and found that the Lake Guyon Hut was only 2.8kms away, so I headed that way after lunch. (I had left my maps behind because I had put them in my tent bag, which I left at home. Luckily I had preloaded all the waypoints into the GPS) Lake Guyon hut was full of hunters gear, but I made use of the long drop before heading off again. It’s a nice setting at Lake Guyon and it would have been a good spot to stop. I next planned to spend the night at the old cullers hut past Christopher Hut, but when I got to Christopher, I was that tired, I decided to stop there. The hut was empty when I arrived at 5:15pm. I have come along way in 3 days. A dad and son from Wellington arrived a little later. During the night, a mouse had got into my pack liner. What a noise they make!

Tuesday 14th (Day 4)

I left Christopher Hut at 9:30am and arrived at Ada Hut at noon. I plan to stay here tonight so I won’t need to carry the heavy pack any more today. I had some lunch, and then headed off with a daypack for 3-tarn pass, which I reached easily after 2-¾ hrs. Without a heavy pack on, one feels like one is floating on air! It took 1 ½ hrs to return to Ada Hut. Weather fine and clear. What an enjoyable afternoon I have had. I will be sharing the hut tonight with 2 DOC workers. I got a weather forecast from them predicting that Thursday will be wet. Therefore, I will head for Lucretia/Brass Monkey tomorrow.

Wednesday 15th (Day 5)

I departed Ada at 8:10 and marched straight to Lewis Pass. Arrived after 2¾ hrs. Stopped for an early lunch, and then headed for the Lewis tops at 12:15pm. It took 1hr to get to the bush line and 7¼ hrs total to Brass Monkey Bivvy. I managed to get cell phone coverage off Springs Junction, so I made contact with Mum Ching to say that all is well. I got the GPS out to find the direction to Brass Monkey, and looked over in that direction and saw the orange colour in the distance. It started drizzling within 30 mins of arriving and the mist rolled in, but I am warm and snug inside. Some kind person had left behind Backcountry Cuisine, so that was tea. I read Hilary’s account of his Everest climb.

Thursday 16th (Day 6)

I woke to rain and wind, so I spent the time reading FMC mags. An interesting article about river crossing and riding your pack if you get swept away. I left the bivvy at 1:30pm and although it was still raining and blowing, I wanted to get to Lucretia today, and although it is only 3km away as the crow fly, it does involve climbing up to pt1602 and a bluffy descent into Lucretia Stream. The weather cleared as I started my descent down a creek east of pt1602. Going was OK except for one small section where I had to climb down a bluff to bypass a waterfall. The bluff had trees on it luckily. The head of the valley is very bluffed. Arrived at Lucretia Hut at 4:30pm. I love these old bivvies with their open fireplaces.

Friday 17th (Day 7)

It drizzled and rained through the night, although not heavily. The creek was up a little. I left the hut at 11:15am, and followed the track on the true right of the stream. About ½ way down I had to cross to the true left, and although the creek was carrying a lot more water than back at the hut, the crossing turned out to be OK. What with the drizzle and wet bush, it was good that I had my waterproofs on. Some water got into the bottom of the pack but it didn’t cause any problems. A lot of broadleaf beside the track, so I assume animal numbers are low in the area. Some sign of Chamois on the tops. I arrived at Palmer Lodge (NZDA) at about 2:30pm, had lunch and walked for ½ an hour down the main road down to Sylvia Flat hot pool. I spent 2 hours soaking, before leaving my pack there and heading off to the Boyle to see if my food parcel had arrived. (Pam had put it on a Nelson to Christchurch minibus this same day.) As no one was about at the outdoor education centre, I returned to Sylvia Flat and setup my fly camp and had tea. Then it was back to the hot pools for another hour before I retired to bed.

Saturday 18th (Day 8)

I got up at 8:00am to find snow on the surrounding hills down to 800m and drizzly rain. I had been warm in the sleeping bag, but it was soaking wet on the outside due to condensation. I had made the mistake of sleeping inside my plastic survival bag! I packed up the damp gear and headed off to the Outdoor Centre, arriving at 9:00am. Bill the caretaker was there when I arrived, so sorted out my supplies and had breakfast. (Yeah, toast!) I chatted with Bill, tried to contact Pam, but got no answer so Bill promised to ring in the evening. I departed at 12:15pm, walked 8km down the road and crossed the bridge leading to the Hope – Kiwi track. I arrived at the half way shelter at 4:30pm and 1 ¾ hrs later at the Hope-Kiwi Lodge. The rained had eased in the afternoon and although damp, I was warm. The Hope-Kiwi Lodge is built like a school lodge, 2 big bunkrooms, large tables and bench space, meat safe and stacks of dry firewood for the large space heater. I spent time washing and drying my clothes and gear. Tea included meat and fruit. (No wonder the pack was heavy again) It is now 11:45pm, so it’s time to brush my teeth and go to bed. Tomorrow, I might take a daypack and go exploring on the tops. I need to spend another night here to eat some weight out of the pack! The stars are shining brightly outside.

Sunday 19th (Day 9)

A late start today, had breakfast at 10:00am. Weather fine and sunny. I departed at 11:15am with a daypack and climbed east to pt1387, and then to pt1604, before returning via pt1555. I didn’t get to Mt Emmerson, as it was blowing and cold up higher. It took 3 ¼ hrs to get to 1700m, and I arrived but at the lodge at 4:00pm. Nice walk though and I got some good pictures of the surrounding country, including Lake Sumner and Harper Pass. Not long after I arrived back, a squall of rain came through and the wind picked up again. Late lunch was scrambled eggs and toast. Tea will be steak. I shampooed my hair and it feels great. I have been the only person here, not bad for a place that accommodates 24 people.

Monday 20th (Day 10)

I departed Hope-Kiwi Hut at 9:30am and arrived at the Hurunui Hut after 4-¾ hrs. I did side trips into Lake Marion (1/2hr) and the lookout (5 mins). I also walked around in circles for a few mins trying to find the track at 3 Mile stream. (The swing bridge had been removed) I also missed the swing bridge over the Hurunui River, so ended up crossing it above Hurunui Hut and approaching it from behind. I had a 1hr lunch break there, and then walked for 1hr up to the hot pool. The pool is right beside the track and has a concrete edging around it to increase the depth. There is room for 2 people lying down. I spent 1 ½ hrs in the pools, and was then going to setup camp there. However, it started spitting at 6:30pm, so I decided to carry on to Hurunui No.3 Hut. I left the pools at 7pm and arrived at No.3 hut just after 8:00pm. The place had 9 people in it, the first to have people in it since Ada Hut. They were 2 families from Christchurh who were heading to the Boyle for Xmas.

Tuesday 21st (Day 11)

I was up for breakfast at 8:00am, and then I went for a walk across the river flat to have a look at a waterfall that I had heard roaring throughout the night. I got damp in the process but it was worth the look. I returned to the hut for a cuppa and read whilst waiting for the rain to ease off. I was pleased that I had decided to stay in the hut as it had rained steadily all night. I eventually left the hut at 12:15pm in light rain, and arrived at the Harper Bivvy at 2:30pm where I lunched in the dry. It then took me 35mins to reach Harper Pass. The descent down into the Taramakau was reasonably steep in places. I arrived at Locke Stream Hut after 2-¼ hrs. Loche Stream hut is a lovely hut that was built in1940 out of timber milled at the site and trimmed with an adze. DOC has subsequently restored it since then. There is plenty of firewood and a lovely open fireplace so I’ll be lighting a fire and boiling lots of hot water and drying clothes etc.

Wednesday 22nd (Day 12)

I have time up my sleeve, so I have made it a short walking day. I left Locke at 10:35am and walked to Kiwi Hut in 2hrs after crossing the Taramakau 3 times. I lunched at Kiwi Hut, and whilst there, decided to stay the night so I could spend the day cleaning up. Kiwi Hut must be on DOC’s “no maintenance” list, as it appears to be very neglected. I’m hoping that if people find it clean and tidy, they may keep it that way? The place has an open fireplace, and dry firewood. So that is what I did, as well as stock the wood shed. The day remained cloudy and misty, with occasional light rain. Just before dark, I went down to the river flats to see if I could see any animals about. None showed. No mountains have been visible since crossing the main divide.

Thursday 23rd (Day 13)

I left Kiwi Hut at 10:30 and walked up the Otehake River to the gorge. On the way, I said gidday to a couple of young hunters camped on the lower flat. At the gorge I climbed a track up the spur on the true right, thinking initially that it sidled pass the gorge. However it continued climbing so I realised it was not the route to the hot pools. I did however get a good view looking down on Lake Kaurapataka. I dropped back down to the river and walked up through the gorge. The last river crossing at the top of the gorge was waist deep and fairly swift. About my limit I would think, but the wash out was OK so it wouldn’t have mattered if I did get swept downstream. I arrived at the hot springs at 1:30pm. The springs are in the middle of a dry riverbed, the water was lovely and warm and crystal clear. They are the best springs I have been in to date and no one else was about. The large pool was warm, and there was a smaller hotter one. I soaked for 2-½ hrs, lunched and then headed off at 5:30pm. I returned via the track on the true left that sidled through the gorge and arrived at the head of Lake Kaurapataka after 1hr. It was another 1 ½ hrs to the Taramakau flats and a further 1hr to the track end. I passed through an area of large beech trees beside Lake Kaurapataka. Out on the river flats, the track was very swampy in places and not well marked. I decided to cross the Otira River today in case it rains heavily tonight and becomes uncrossible. There is a basic shelter on the east side of the Otira river, but nothing at the car park. I walked up the road and stopped the night at the old Aickens railway siding. The place is half rotted away but it did provide a dry place to sleep. Unfortunately it was only 3m from the track, so when a train passed, the whole place shook with a thunderous noise.

Friday 24th (Day 14)

Not much sleep was had last night. There must have been a train every couple of hours. I walked back down to the track car park and waited for the bus. Chris is coming over on the same bus today. The day is still overcast, but the sun did briefly show it's self. That is the first time I have seen the sun since the Hurunui hot pools. The bus duly arrived, I settled into the only seat left, and it was off to Hokitika to meet up with Pam and Phillip, and to enjoy lunch and a beer. We will all then head off to Fox Glacier to see Steph for Xmas.

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