Too Many Waterfalls
19th July 2017
In March 1997 there was a serious accident on a club Saturday MF trip in a headwater stream of Whakanui Creek. Michael Bartlett who was on the trip describes it as follows: we descended off the East Whakanui Track between the saddle and point 800. The start of the descent was on a reasonable level section of the track because some of the rescue party and four of us camped there that night. I think we started on a spur and went down about 100 metres - perhaps a bit more - eventually deviating into a small stream in quite steep country. There we came across a waterfall - only a few metres high and fairly small with only a trickle of water coming down it. This was the site of Andrew Lee's accident1. Whereas we were able to sidle past it quite easily on the true left, we did not go very far below it in order to get a better idea where it was. However my best guess that this waterfall could be either in the head of either E or C on the map. After the accident I cut a route with my machete up to the East Whakanui Track, emerging luckily where we had started from. I used this to guide the rescuers back to the waterfall later that night. The cut marks and the odd marker may still be visible to this day. (Email to the author, May 2017)
So, could we find the accident site? (From others on the trip - Marg Pearce, Bill Allcock, Bernard Molloy, Syd Moore and Dave Reynolds - we learned the party had entered the Whakanui catchment via the saddle at the head of George Creek and were intending to visit the large waterfall marked X on Whakanui Creek.)
The accompanying graph indicates portions of two trips, in June (small dots) and on 19 July (larger dots) of this year. (The descent of head water stream ’A’ in June was more of a warm up; we certainly didn’t expect to find the ‘accident waterfall’ there. But it gave a strong indication of the difficulty of our task since we must have descended or sidled around about six falls or cataracts in the short distance to the top forks. On the other hand, on the same trip, ascending about half the length of ‘C’, we found no waterfalls at all.)
On the 19 July trip we headed up the Pack Track and cut across to the East Whakanui Track, inspired by John Thomson’s report of a waterfall in head water stream ‘B’ that to us seemed a likely candidate. And sure enough, there it was (waypoint 1), but then another (waypoint 2) at the confluence of a side stream clearly bigger than ‘B’ itself! So, up we went, traversing several more falls on the way. Two are shown: waypoints 3 and 4. On the July 19 trip, after reaching a flat area at about 700m, we decided that was enough grovelling for the day and headed off to .800 with the intention of returning to our cars at the head of George Creek via a loop over Puketaha. However after travelling a few metres northeast from .800 and noting the dense, sodden vegetation, the considerable amount of windfall, the large patches of snow and the dense mist, the leader bailed out, declaring an early shower (of the hot variety) and we returned down the Pack Track, reaching the cars a little after 2.0pm!!
Finding the ‘accident waterfall’ will have to wait for another day.
Thanks to Alastair for supplying the .gpx file.
1Andrew fractured several neck vertebra and was airlifted out after a night in a makeshift camp. We are very pleased to note he made a full recovery.
- Party members
- (leader and scribe).Colin Cook (leader and scribe), Peggy Munn, Alastair Nicholson, Janette Roberts, Dugal Thomson, John Thomson, Tommy Thomson, Bill Wheeler, Lynne White, Warwick Wright