Nelson Lakes M
Labour Weekend 2012
The excitement of catching the Friday evening ferry to go tramping in the South Island never diminishes. Everyone was there. Well, Janette and Russell were already tucked up in the back packers at St Arnaud and Bernard too was some place in the south. I joined Sieny, Bob, John, Ken, and Cathy on board and there were more of us. Alison and her crew in puffer jackets pawing over the Whitcombe map, a frightening looking place with monkey scrub and huge boulders which never show up in the planning stages.
The Cook Strait crossing was roly-poly but out on deck the albatross, cape pigeons and sooty shearwater entertained against a dramatic sunset, its last pink rays squeezing through gaps in the sounds.
We piled into the Picton van and trundled sleepily up to St Arnaud and the back packers.
Next morning it was cold. Everyone was there. Well, half of Wellington. Folk from the Hutt Valleys, others from the Tongue and Meats. We could have stood around shooting the breeze for hours but Sieny chivvied us along. We were soon marching up and around the lake towards Lake Head hut through the dripping beach forest under a wintery looking sky. Itís a pleasant stroll, at first on a wheelchair track which gradually becomes a trampersí track through honey-dew blackened beech trees with their distinctive sweet fragrance. And the snow capped peaks beyond.
We arrived at Lake Head and there were more of us! Julia, Sheelagh and Diane greeted us, and there were others, half of Wellington! And John from Auckland. Did I mention Cathy?
A quick snack and we were off up valley toward the swing bridge. Still no real rain. Maybe it will clear. The lower valley was burned a hundred odd years ago and grazed up until the 1960s which wasnít that long ago really. What were we thinking? There was the occasional deer footprint on the track and places where feral pigs had hoed up the ground looking for roots and worms.
Soon we reached the swing-bridge which had a huge stack of fire wood piled nearby. Handy if you wanted to spend the winter camped there. We had lunch and headed off in light rain. Soon we were at Hopeless Creek bridge but not before Russellís cunning detour. After a quick snack we marched off up the creek, keen to be out of the rain and in a comfortable hut. Within five minutes of the hut we caught up with three young fellows who, on seeing us, bolted like a mob of startled rabbits, hoping to get a bunk. It was all in vain. The hut was already occupied. Three other fellows from Nelson were well established there. They were remarkably hospitable though and made each of us a hot brew as we arrived, a rare gesture these days.
While the water was still running out of my boots on to the hut floor, Sieny suggested we go up the valley to suss out the conditions. We both headed off and up the track. There was snow. Lots of it, and cloud and rain. Having established this it seemed acceptable to retreat to the hut and a cosy pit for the rest of the day.
The evening meal was cooked in relays. Ken knocked up a magnificent meal for our little group. We crawled into bed and not long afterwards it started. D6 bulldozers. Or maybe D8s. Coming up the valley. It sounded like they were building one of those roads of national significance, all the way up Hopeless Creek. Boy could those guys from Nelson snore!
On Sunday morning the weather was no better. A brief discussion was had and it was agreed that some of the party would go back up valley for a look see then head back down to catch up with the others who would head on to John Tait Hut. Those of us who stayed headed up valley, plugging our way through soft snow until we were level with the first little waterfall face. We stopped for a snack and a look around at the dramatic scene, then headed on down, digging our heals in then scurrying down some old avalanche snow to the rocky valley floor. Our intention to cross Sunset Saddle to Angelus hut was thoroughly abandoned for this weekend at least.
We arrived at John Tait Hut and there were lots of people although we all got a bunk. The rain kept raining and the river rose. John went for a wash in the creek. It must have been freezing. Cold enough to freeze the balls off a cricket pitch!
Next day was Labour Day. We packed up and trudged off down valley. It was to be a solid march in steady rain. My coat leaked. Donít they all? Not the Oringi apparently. We made good time and by early afternoon were all back at the big DOC shelter at the lake edge. John managed to get a hot shower. The rest of us stayed feral. We waited for our pre-arranged shuttle van and all the while he was waiting for us, both in different places unfortunately. By the time that was sorted out we were running late. To make matters worse, the good old shuttle driver decided to stop for petrol. We had a plane to catch. Thankfully, Janette phoned ahead to the airline and assured them we were on our way. We actually got to the airport in time. Time enough for Russell, Bob and myself to sit and enjoy a well earned Stoke Amber. Yes, it did rain on our trip but just think If it didnít rain we wouldnít have water to make beer with. GT
- Party members
- Russell Cooke, Ken Fraser, Bernard Molloy, Sieny Pollard (leader), Janette Roberts, John Scholtens, Grant Timlin (Scribe), Bob White, Cathy Wylie