19-22 October 2007
On Friday 19th October, 18 of us set off on the annual post-AIC pilgrimage to Tapuae-O-Uenuku. Eight members of the party had been on the course; we were added to by our leader, Hugh, AIC instructor, Paul Maxim, the rest of the Maxim family and several other energetic souls.
It was after midnight when we set up camp at the Hodder Bridge in the Awatere valley on a cold but clear night. The next morning we started the walk up and through the Hodder River with its legendary number of river crossings, the exact number ranging between 60 and 90 depending how many you do and who you believe. Most of the party managed to restrict their wet bits to their legs but some were are little more ambitious and got more damp. Goats bounded about the hillside, with one lying dead (with its kid in mourning beside it) on the river bank, a timely reminder that even goats can fall from the steep sides of the valley. The group finally reached the Hodder huts about 4 pm. There are two huts, the 6-bed Tararua, and the 8-bed Murray Adrian Hut perched on a high terrace above the Hodder Valley. Given our numbers and the fact that four people were already there, it was obvious that some of us would have to camp outside in the clear but extremely breezy evening. The huts are at 1400m, and given that Tapuae-O-Uenuku is 2855m, we knew we had quite a way to go the next morning.
We departed the huts at 7.30 with a clear sky but with significant wind still about. The path drops from the terrace for one last crossing of the Hodder. Given that no-one wanted to get their now dryish boots wet for the snow, many tactics were used to get across the stream. The most successful was to take one’s boots off, chill one’s feet and then put them on again. Once across the Hodder, the route goes up to another high shelf on the true right of the Hodder and then across snow grass along a route high above Staircase Creek. The snow line was reached shortly after ten, crampons were attached, helmets put on, and we started to climb up a steep snow basin to an even steeper couloir leading to a ridge a little south of the peak.
This was where all the ice-axe and crampon skills learnt on the course came into use, and after a couple of hours we had reached a small basin at the top of the couloir, where lunch was eaten in sunshine. The last section of the climb involved going along the south ridge which leads to the summit. Though it was quite steep in parts, the team arrived at the top at 1.30 pm to great views over the northern section of the South island and across Cook Strait to the Wellington area. There was little time for sight-seeing though, as a strong southerly wind swept across the summit making a quick descent a necessity.
For some of us the step descent was more nerve-racking than the ascent, but this was helped by ‘bum-sliding’ down the lower slopes. At the edge of the snow, the crampons etc came off for the trudge back to the huts, where everyone relaxed well pleased with their efforts, ready for the walk out the next day.
- Party members
- Hugh Barr (Leader), Dennis Hardie, Warwick Hill, Murray Fitzgerald, Paul Bruce, Karen Krauel-Groellner, Mark Groellner, Marilyn Jones, Sue Feasey, Cherie Marshall, Paul, Judith, Simon and Rita Maxim, James Graham, Russell Cooke (scribe), Janette Roberts and Mike Buchanan.