Don’t tramp when you’re sick – Lagoon Saddle Day walk ( July 4 2015)

I’m really sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately.  This winter has been plagued with sickness. And when I say this winter, I mean me. I’ve been plagued with sickness after sickness this year. I’ve managed to pick up 2 different colds and Dylan and I were both struck down with a wonderful vomiting bug. Which brings us to the first tramp we tried to do in July.  [Then August we were overseas on holiday so…  we’ve fallen behind on our posts!]

We decided to head out again a full week after I’d had the vomiting bug, and I was actually feeling pretty good. So we collected some friends and headed up to Arthur’s Pass to finally try and knock off the Cass/Lagoon track, one which has been on our list for a couple of years. We were all kitted out with our crampons and ice axes, we hadn’t forgotten any food, we left work early on Friday night so got up to Bealy hut at a very reasonable time on Friday night.

Bealy hut

Bealy hut

But Saturday morning, I woke up with a cold. And the other girl in the group (who had also recently had the same wonderful vomiting bug) was feeling ill/nauseous as well. The morning did not go well. I felt, really really terrible. Climbing is about the last thing you want to do when you feel sick. The more we walked, the more exhausted and terrible I felt. Furthermore, we weren’t even close to making track time. It was… unpleasant.

We finally got to the lagoon saddle, and decided to go as far as the Lagoon saddle shelter for lunch and reassess. Unfortunately, the lagoon saddle shelter is really basic. We had to decide if we should carry on to the next hut, stay at the (basic) shelter, or go back to Bealy hut. We ended up making the call to go back to Bealy hut, as I was worried I would feel worse on Sunday – in which would be terrible if we had more walking to do.

So that was a major bummer. I actually felt a bit better after lunch – whether it was panadol, food or simply water that made me perk up, I’m unsure. Regardless, I was still sick on Sunday, so in the end we definitely made the right call.

It was a major bummer to drive all that way and only do a day walk (with full packs, no less)! No one was really up to doing a 2nd day walk on Sunday.  However I did manage to score this photo on the way home.  Score?

Sheep near Arthur's Pass

Sheep near Arthur’s Pass

Happy tramping and stay healthy!

Hawdon/Otehake Apr 2-6, 2015

Sorry things have been quiet on the blog lately.  I actually drafted this post over a month ago…  and then forgot to post it.  In my defense, the last 6 weeks have been pretty busy.  We’ve done a trip every other weekend (which I must say is pretty good).  Last weekend was one of our first “home” weekends in ages, and I caught up with 5 loads of washing and we also washed one of our tents!

Dylan and I have been planning a lot of tramps lately for the rest of the year – the goal is to try to get out every 2-3 weeks, but the weather doesn’t always cooperate.  Our “master list” of tramps has ballooned out to be something like 50+ trips – we’ve actually started ranking them in order to help prioritize. However, we did finally get out and do a multi-day track over Easter!  Hooray! Even though our last trip was in Arthur’s Pass, we decided to head back up there for our Easter trip.

Easter map

Easter map – blue are the sections we missed, red is the route we took

Easter map

Easter map

Otehake hot pools have been on my list for some time, as they are some of the most popular hot pools after the ones at Welcome Flat. Our plan was to head up the Hawdon Valley and camp at lake Sally on Day 1, then head down to the Otehake hot pools on Day 2 and meet up with our friends who were coming in from the other side, then across the tops to Townsend hut on Day 3 and out on Day 4. The forecast was fine apart from some rain on Saturday morning, and another big front moving in late on Monday. We left work earliesh on Thursday afternoon, and camped at the Hawdon Valley Campsite on Thursday night. We got a rather later start than anticipated on Friday morning, waking up late and not departing camp until about 9:45. Our party of 4 made pretty decent time up the Hawdon, taking less than 3 hours to get to Hawdon Hut where we had morning tea. Spirits were pretty high as we climbed up to Walker Pass, and I particularly loved the climb up to Tarn Col, which was incredibly beautiful. We reached Tarn col about 4 pm and it became obvious very quickly that Lake Sally was absolutely out of the question – the terrain was much rougher than we thought (based on the topomap) and honestly it would probably need another day to get up there.

Tarn col

Tarn col

So instead, we decided to head to Otehake hut to cut some time out on our 2nd day, as we knew rain was coming in. The route down to Taruahuna Pass was quite steep and reminded Dylan and I a lot of our trip from Lake Mavis the previous weeks. The route was pretty straightforward until we neared the bluffs of the Otehake river. The route became much more overgrown, and much more difficult to follow. I lead the boys a lot of the way through the top scrub section – Dylan suggested my uncanny ability to find the track comes from my love and appreciation of track markers. We finally cleared the bluffs just on dark, and followed the Otehake river until we went back into the bush. As we entered the bush, it was full dark and we had about 1 more hour to go. Thank goodness the section of route was clearly marked with track markers, as we were constantly loosing and having to refind the track in the dark for about an hour. Thank goodness for a bit of GPS (via smartphone!). We finally arrived at the hut at 8:45 pm, surprising (disrupting?) 2 hunters to had settled in for the evening. Day 1: 11 hours!

Otehake hut

Otehake hut

Day 2 dawned rainy, as expected. And once again, we got a rather late start, only getting out the door at about 10 am. In our defense, the previous day had been quite long. We were very happy to have stayed in a toasty hut the night before, and didn’t have to pack up wet tents. I didn’t take many photos on day 2. Even though my camera is weather sealed, my camera bag and other accessories aren’t terribly waterproof. And with the amount of rain coming down, it seemed best to just pack them away. We made incredibly slow progress on day 2. Almost unbelievably so. Track time would suggest it should take 6-8 hours (6 km as the crow flies) to get to the Otehake hot pools from the Otehake hut. The track description also said a handline was needed near the Whaiti stream… It took us 9 hours. We arrived at the hot pools at 7:10 pm, just on dusk. We didn’t even have that many stops – but it was one of the most physical and demanding days of tramping I have ever done. Steep climbs up and down as we followed the river (again, the topomap doesn’t even begin to do it justice). Repeatedly trying to find the track. Climbing over and under windfall after windfall after windfall. I’m actually really sad now that I didn’t take more photos – the route was really incredible. I’ve never crawled over or under that many trees in my entire life! Dylan somersaulted 3m down a bank and landed on a rock. All of us fell over repeatedly. My titanium walking pole broke 2 hours into the day (I spent the rest of the day clinging to trees and felt mostly like a monkey). We are all covered in bruises and scrapes. Dylan and our friend Tim were both stung by wasps. The list goes on and on. It was one hell of day.

This photo doesn't do the roughness of the track justice

This photo doesn’t do the roughness of the track justice

We crossed a high Whaiti stream (linked up) and an even higher Otehake River once we finally arrived at the hotpools (also linked up). Both would have been up around 18 inches based on how much the Otehake dropped by the time we walked out 36 hours later. We were also very surprised to arrive at the campsite (which was stunning, by the way) and find that no one else was there. As I said, we were planning on meeting our friends from Christchurch, and as it was already dusk when we arrived… But as we were setting up tents, we were greeted by the noise of someone throwing rocks into the hotpools. We called out thinking it was our friends – alas, it was another group of 4 trampers. They had come across our friends on the track though, so we knew they were still coming along. After we set up camp, we instantly headed for the hotpools to soak our weary selves (we’d done 20 quite demanding hours of tramping over 2 days by this point). Finally, we were saw 2 headtorches in the distance – our friends had made it! They too, had had a pretty exciting crossing as it was nearly dark by the time they crossed the river.

Island campsite.  Check out how high the river is.  Yes, that is very close to where we crossed.

Island campsite. Check out how high the river is. Yes, that is very close to where we crossed.

As everyone had a pretty rough time getting to the hotpools, we made the executive decision to have a rest day – something that very rarely happens on our trips. However, the campsite was really quite stunning – you couldn’t ask for a better location. The campsite is situated on an island in the Otehake river, with the hotpools on the true right in the old stream bed (we found there were additional campsites on that side of the river in the bush as well). The best place to cross the river is just north of the island – it’s actually completely amazing how the river widens out at this point and was honestly only about ankle deep when we went across on our way out on Day 4 (versus when we crossed to get to the island from the south, it a much narrower spot and the water was easily waist deep on me when we crossed). You almost couldn’t have laid it out better if you tried (assuming you are coming from the Lake Kaurapataka track, not the Otehake River Route).

The Easter bunny found us even in the bush!

The Easter bunny found us even in the bush!

Day 4 dawned dreary and drizzly again.  We got up, packed up and all headed out at a decent hour in order to avoid the rivers rising up again.  I must say, it was much easier crossing the river at the proper point, and the track going out past Lake Kaurapataka was much easier.  There are additional beautiful camping sites next to the lake – and an easy couple of hours walk from the road.  We were very lucky in that some hunters/farmers staying in the valley picked us up in their truck and drove us out the last few kms, saving us a good 1.5 hours walking.  Sadly, we all had to discuss the foolishness of a number of tourists who were heading into the valley that day despite the forecast of heavy rain, and the hunter’s warning to turn back (as they were clearly ill-prepared and getting a very late start in the day).

Anyways, all in all it was a great tramp – despite the fact that we didn’t achieve all our goals.  And furthermore, it was a slightly unbalanced tramp with two very long hard days, a rest day and a very cruisey last day!

All in all, despite the very long first day, and incredibly challenging 2nd day, I enjoyed the track.  The hotpools are definitely worth a visit – but only if the weather is fine as the rivers in the area are quite dangerous and can rise quickly and unexpectedly.

The boys soaking in the hotpools

The boys soaking in the hotpools

Hopefully more posts to come soon!  Happy tramping!

Lake Mavis (14-15 Mar, 2015)

Hullo there!

Just a quick re-cap of one of our latest trips.  We decided to head up Arthur’s Pass way for the weekend.  We don’t usually go as far as Arthur’s Pass just for a weekend since it is often a 5.5-6 hour drive from Dunedin, however, Lake Mavis was calling our name, so out we headed.

We camped at Klondyke Corner on Friday night.  I had a rude surprised Saturday morning as I put my boots on and realized that they weren’t actually mine.  After Canyon creek, another tramper and I who had identical boots must have ended up with each other’s boots.  And even though I had washed and waxed the boots, I sadly hadn’t picked up on the fact that they weren’t actually mine!!  They were a little roomy, so I wore 2 pairs of socks and some extra in-soles from our companion Cleo, and off we went as I didn’t have much other choice!

We headed up the Mingha valley, making excellent time.  The weather was lovely, the views were lovely, and I felt pretty much like crap the entire time.  😛  It’s always a bit of a bummer when you have a really “off” tramping day – but it does happen from time to time!

Nevertheless, we had a nice lunch at the absolutely stunning Goat Pass Hut.  I’m actually a little gutted we didn’t stay the night there as it was simply a superbly beautiful hut.

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Goat Pass Hut

Instead, we headed straight up the hill above Goat Pass to Lake Mavis.  It was a bit of a steep grind which I’m glad I didn’t have to do in the wet.  But we arrived at Lake Mavis with plenty of sunlight left to make camp and have a swim (sadly, I didn’t partake in the swimming as I really felt quite crook).

Lake Mavis

Lake Mavis

We even had some neighbours as a man and his 13 yr old son camped on the opposite side of the lake from us.

Saturday night was pretty exciting.  I woke up to a very faint rustling as our food was outside the tent (rookie mistake, I know).  I suspected that there was a mouse in our food, as our companion Cleo had mentioned the prevalence of mice in Arthur’s Pass.  We brought the food bag in, I gave it a pretty good inspection with the head torch but didn’t see a mouse so just went back to sleep.

Minutes later, Dylan jumped up as a mouse ran across his head.  We then spent the next 5-10 minutes trying to get the mouse out of our tent.  We’re actually still not 100% certain it came in with the food bag, or had just come in through the tent door (Dylan’s wasn’t 100% zipped up, and I had felt something run across my hair earlier in the night but didn’t think much of it at the time).

Day 2 dawned equally lovely, and we decided after some deliberation to head down the Deception Valley.

Looking out above Goat Pass Hut

Looking out above Goat Pass Hut

We had a pretty full day of rock hopping and crossing the Deception river.  Over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  At one point, even though the river was low, we decided to link up to go across.  I can’t imagine walking in the Deception Valley during rain.  Needless to say, we had soaking wet feet the entire time – very typical NZ tramping!  We also totally missed the Deception Hut.  We have absolutely no idea if it was on the opposite side of the river from the route (which is part of the Te Araroa trail) or if it’s not there anymore.  No idea.

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One of the many river crossings

Although we made pretty good time, we never caught up with the man and his son who had been camping opposite us at Lake Mavis.  All I can say is that they must have absolutely been hooning it down the valley!  Props to them.

We finally arrived out at the huge Deception swing bridge a S73.  We had to hitch back to the car, and it took about 20 minutes to get someone to pick me up.  I then had to get the car and drive back to get Dylan and Cleo.  It added a bit of extra time to our trip, but I’ve finally hitch-hiked here in NZ (even if it was only about 20 km), so there’s one for the bucket list.

Overall, definitely a really cool area to check out, as I said above, I’d highly recommend Goat Pass Hut.  The only caveat is that this trip is probably fine weather only, as both the climb up to Lake Mavis, and the trip down the Deception river would be quite risky in any sort of rain.

Happy Tramping!