A Good Grovel to Penn Creek
Wednesday 27 February
Many years ago, several active slips caused DOC to close the Penn Creek sidle track from Otaki Forks to Penn Creek. In recent times a curiously extensive network of permolat markers and ropes have appeared along the old route enabling the adventurous access to the creek and hut beyond. Or does it? The second massive slip is still dynamic to say the least. Is it really possible to reach Penn Creek? Tramper sent Tricia French and a scruffy MF Wednesday party to investigate.
At the bush edge of the massive and somewhat daunting second slip the markers inconveniently and abruptly ceased. And just in case we hadn’t noticed, the last permolat is marked ‘last marker!’ ‘Why?’ you may ask. Because it’s so dangerous from here on, is the answer. The side of a waterfall choked stream has collapsed and is still eroding. It’s not obvious whether to shuffle down the edge towards the Otaki River or try the less appealing upwardly angling alpine crossing of the face (think Rabbit Pass). Fortunately a scouting trip and intel from a Franz Hubmann trip led us nervously to take the latter route making use of some barely discernible steps. From there it was hand-to-hand combat down a very welcome tongue of trees, at the base of which a fixed rope was found. One by one we abseiled down to the creek bed helped to our great relief by a very recent slip which had raised the shingle base with large rocks. These rocks created a platform onto which we were able to lower ourselves.
After four hours twenty we were on the spur before Penn Creek. Lunch was enjoyed on a flattish area at about the 300 metre contour. Then we were off on a gentle post prandial climb up the spur toward Table Top. At about 200 metres below the summit the scrub closed in. Crouching then crawling, squeezing bodies and contorting legs and arms, making choices about head first or feet first we forced our way through - sometimes maintaining contact only by voice as people were swallowed by the density of the scrub. Gratefully we each emerged onto the tussock grass, fully straightening our legs and bodies for the first time in an hour. Fortunately the forecast rain had not arrived so parkas were donned only for protection against the cold wind.
Afternoon tea out of the wind at Field hut recharged our batteries for the walk back to the Forks. Height fought for: 1500 metres. Distance grovelled: 17.3 kms Total time wasted:10.30 hrs.
- Party members
- Warwick Wright, Peggy Munn, Colin Cook, Jenny Mason, John Dement, Lynne White, Janette Roberts, Bill Allcock, Robin Chesterfield, Lois Buckrell, John Thomson, David McNabb, Tricia French (leader and scribe)