We had 1 full weekend off after our return from Minnesota, and then of course it was back to tramping. Our first tramp (after what has essentially been a 6+ week break) was into the two thumb range, an area which Dylan has been quite keen to get into for some time now, but just hadn’t worked out.
We managed to drag our friend Mark along, who graciously provided us with snowshoes for the weekend.
As usual, we left on Friday after work about 5:30. We stopped for kebabs in Timaru, and decided to camp for the night at Pioneer Park Campground (DOC). It was a very frosty Saturday morning, as it had been raining on Friday night, everything froze – including the car doors. But eventually we were on our way to the Round Hill Ski area. We had hoped to leave our car on their road, but decided against it after we consulted with the Ski area staff. So Mark ended up dropping us off at the point where the Te Araroa trail meets the Roundhill ski area road, and drove around to park and then walk up the Coal River Easement track to Rex Simpson hut and meet up with us later in the afternoon.
So our “social” trip started off with just Dylan and I on our own, as per usual. We did enjoy this section of the Te Araroa track immensely, and it was a nice short walk into Camp Stream hut, where we dropped most of our gear and immediately set off to try to meet up with Mark.
We had originally planned to meet up with Mark at Rex Simpson hut, but as we headed around, we instead decided have a quick lunch and meet him on the ridge instead. We did a small loop heading down and crossing Camp Stream, climbing back up to 1641 and then coming back in behind Camp Stream Hut.
This was only the second time I’ve ever been snowshoeing in my life, and I must say I loved it. The fantastic clear blue skies and amazing views over Tekapo probably didn’t hurt either.
We got back into Camp Stream hut about an hour or so before dusk and had a lovely evening burning the coal we carried in (though there was plenty of wood at the hut, this is never a guarantee, especially at a hut where trees are absent), taking some night photos, and making custard. Custard is officially our new favourite dessert. I can’t believe we’ve never used it before – it takes up virtually no space, weighs almost nothing and is amazing on any sort of baked good. I expect Custard will feature prominently from now on.
Camp Stream hut is by far the oldest hut I’ve ever stayed in (1898). A word to the wise, if you’re going to stay there in summer, there is no water source. We were lucky there was plenty of snow on the ground, but in a few weeks, you may be out of luck and need to haul water up ~60m from Camp stream below, or 500m down the track.
Sunday dawned equally spectacular to Saturday, if possibly more breezy. Our goal for the day was to reach Stag Saddle. We headed up the Te Araroa trail and at the point just where we hit the snow, we played musical packs. Loading my pack up with all unnecessary gear for the day, putting my pack on Mark and sending him up the ridgeline. I took Mark’s empty pack and Dylan had his back (with day gear only) and continued up the Valley. Mark eventually met up with us, and I returned his pack to him. We then continued the slog up towards Stag Saddle. As the snow got deeper and the ascent steeper, the going became very very difficult. Even though I felt we had been making excellent time up the valley, Dylan looked at his phone which read 1 pm! We hadn’t even had lunch yet and were still a couple of hours away from Stag Saddle. We realized there was no way it was going to happen, so instead just headed for a point where we could climb back into the ridge.
At this point I was starving and of course it was much windier on the ridge. So Dylan went along a bit further (up to 1944 and a good view of Beuzenburg peak) which I stopped, put on a lot more clothing, and had some lunch. At this point, Mark caught up with us again after motoring it up to the ridge (having put his skins on his skis) and we came to the conclusion that it was only just 1:30 now – Dylan’s phone had the wrong time and had just been saying “1 pm” all day.
So maybe we could have made it to Stag Saddle, I’m not sure. But by that point we had made the decision to turn around and start the long walk back to the car (another concern of mine – sure we could make it to the saddle, but would I have the energy to cover the nearly 14km back to the car (and keeping in mind we travel ~3km/hour), and make it there at a reasonable time?
As it was, it was nearly dark as we drove past Lake Tekapo for the last time. We stopped for dinner at the Razza Bar in Twizel, and honestly received the most enormous feed I think I’ve ever had after tramping. Each of us got a burger and chips, but these things were absolute monsters (did I take a photo? No, I was too stuffed). Dylan and I could have split a burger and chips between the two of us, and honestly, we can both eat. Especially after tramping. So seriously, if you’re in the Twizel area, I highly suggest Razza for a massive and cheap feed (burgers were about $8-11, chips were an extra $3).
We were very pleased to get out in the snow again this winter. It’s been a very cold and snowy winter here in NZ, so why not make the most of it, right?