Ahuriri and other delights
$10 million! We thought we’d better see what we got for our money, so on 27 December, seven club members led by Jenny Lewis set off up the Ahuriri Valley. Ahuriri Base Hut was conveniently empty, so we settled in and next day drove to the road end and headed up Canyon Creek. The track climbed through pretty beech forest to get past the gorge, after which we continued up the valley to the bottom of the cirque. Here the cairns fizzled out, and after a bit of messing around on the large mound of avalanche ice and debris, looking for a route, we decided that the rocky ledges were a bit too challenging for our party. We lingered over lunch in the sunshine further down valley, and returned to the hut. Persistent rain kept us hut-bound next day, but we entertained various visitors - fishermen, horse trekkers and Japanese climbers. Mid-afternoon Hugh Barr’s party turned up in a damp and bedraggled state after spending a wet and windy night camped above the cirque. After they’d dried out a bit, they created a tent city under the beech trees behind the hut, which eased the overcrowding until cooking time arrived. The rain stopped and next day saw us heading up the zigzag track to the ridge between the Ahuriri and the Dingle Burn. We lunched a kilometre or so along the ridge to the north, enjoying great views of the upper Dingle, the snowcovered peaks of Heim and Barth, and across the Ahuriri into Watson Stream. Mt Huxley, at the head of the Ahuriri was determined to lurk in the clouds. We got back to the hut just before the rain set in again. On hearing a poor weather forecast we decided to head out next day to Mt Peel. Maybe the sun would be shining in South Canterbury? A couple of fords were negotiated (after a bit of reconstruction) on our way down the road, but as we approached the shingle fan near Birchwood Station homestead our progress was halted by a metre-high wall of mud and boulders. This new slip had come down overnight, and was quite impassable in our lowslung vehicles. Jenny and Lyn set off for the homestead, and after chatting to the horse people were introduced to the now wealthy ($10m) cheroot-smoking Ron who kindly phoned DoC. Back at the cars, we lit the primus, and settled in for a potentially long wait. It probably helped that 80 Alpine Club people were due up the valley that day, for the grader driver was actually there within an hour. The grader alone couldn’t cope with the problem, and called for a digger. So we were entertained by heavy machinery working, and by watching those NZAC members with 4WDs test their vehicles on something really grunty. Some five hours behind schedule, we eventually drove through a rather slushy “road” onto firm ground, and a couple of hours later camped in the grounds of Ohau Lodge. It would have been churlish not to patronize their restaurant, and an excellent New Year’s Eve dinner was enjoyed by all.
Next day we drove north, stopping for coffee at the Library café in Fairlie (recommended) and put up our tents at the lovely DoC campground at Mt Peel. In the afternoon we investigated Acland Falls, then Allans Track and Fern Walk, a circular walk which had us rather puzzled at one stage until we discovered the DoC brochure was out of date and a new track had been created. We did see some gigantic (three-metre diameter) totara trees on the Fern Walk.
Waking to a splendid dawn chorus, we set off early to the Big Tree Walk (more magnificent trees), the Dennistoun Walk (historic sawpit), and then conquered Little Mt Peel. An occasional glimpse of the Rangitata River and the distant ocean on the way up was as near as we got to a view, as the mist persisted all afternoon. Mt Somers village was our next destination, and there we heard yet another unpromising weather forecast, so we booked our cabins for a second night, deciding to do daytrips at each end of the Mt Somers walkway, rather than do the whole circuit.
Woolshed Creek carpark was the starting point of the first day’s tramping. We had a steep climb up the railway jig to the site of the old Blackburn Coal Mine, then continued on through the tussock to Mt Somers Hut. From there we explored the water caves and boulders in Morgan’s Creek, and wished we had time to explore the hydroslides. On the way down, some of us took a track through a patch of ancient forest - believed to be one of the few remnants of silver beech to survive the pre-European fires which swept though the Ashburton Gorge. Next morning we visited Sharplin Falls, and climbed to Duke Knob, before heading down and back to the West Coast, Wellington, Dunedin or Australia. Given the variable weather we did a remarkable amount of tramping, and never had to carry our big packs anywhere!
- Party members
- (Barbara Camfield, Hilda Firth, Dianne Hill (scribe), David Holland,
Jenny Lewis (leader), Victor Negrin, Lyn Taylor.