June 2 was the Queen’s birthday holiday here in NZ, so a 3 day weekend means TRAMPING! Dylan and I hadn’t done a tramp with the tramping club since May last year which is totally shocking/depressing/abysmal. Anyways, we went on this trip after finally getting around to purchasing annual backcountry hut passes (so at least until May 2015, we’re committed to doing as much tramping as possible).
I won’t bore you with all the details of the trip, only that I’m glad we did it as a 3 day trip. Tramping into a hut and then straight back out the same route is never ideal (read: boring). And if you manage to get some alpine time in there, even better! Our middle day – day trip from Green Lake Hut up to Borland road and along the ridgeline past Mt. Burns (some superfit members of our group did climb Mt. Burns, even with diminishing daylight) was definitely the highlight of the trip.
However, I should note that tramping is always a learning experience. Especially when you go with experienced trampers. As I have mentioned in past tramping posts, tramping in NZ is not without risk. Especially in winter. Sometimes snow is easier to walk on, sometimes you need a ice axe and crampons. Coming down from the ridgeline, we were faced with a lot of very icy snow (on the southside of a peak identified only as 1476), where crampons and ice axe were really a must. We came down with another party who didn’t have all the required gear – 1 of them had an ice axe and cut steps for the others. Most of our crew had both ice axes and crampons (however, I am neither experienced nor confident with this gear – something I still need to remedy). If you had done the walk without any of the proper gear, and come across that icy rather perilous descent (at about 3:30 in the afternoon in winter – meaning you only have 1.5 hours of daylight left), what would you have done? I honestly don’t know. Going down without the gear would be crazy dangerous. But going back the way you came meant hours of tramping in the dark…
Anyways from now on, I shall always tramp in winter with crampons and a torch (headlamp)! [I accidentally left my headlamp behind with our cars lying on the ground… fortunately it was still there when we returned on Monday afternoon!]. Diminished daylight hours is really the only downside to winter tramping (fewer people, fewer bugs, huts are extra cozy… Mountain peaks are especially beautiful covered in snow – what’s not to love?!). Therefore I also learned how important it is to get a super early start (get out of bed before it gets light out so that you can be moving as soon as the sun comes up!) to maximize daylight hours.
Other people in the group learned the value of plasters, blister blocks, athletic tape (honestly, this is one of the most useful things to carry as a tramper). Actually, it was excellent to help other trampers out for a change (can you say “group bonding”?). Inevitably, someone in the group has a spare something that they carry “just in case”. I also learned that you can get powdered coconut milk and make a really delicious thai green curry in the backcountry without carrying much weight at all!
Overall, the trip was really excellent. The hut was BUSY – Saturday night there were 25 people (4 slept outside on the porch, 2 slept outside in a tent and at least 4 slept on the floor), and on Sunday night, 23. The hut toilet was not coping. Despite it being a newer long drop… oh the smell. I almost threw up Monday morning before we left. Not. Even. Joking. Usually, I’m not really bothered by these things (it’s tramping, be as hygienic and clean as possible [frequent use of hand sanitizer!] but also accept that you will smell and be covered in mud at the end). But in all honestly, I was dry-heaving. Oh, the glamorous side of tramping!
So now, some photos:
Green Lake Hut was a brilliant trip with several opportunities for daywalks. I would definitely recommend it as a 3 day trip, if at all possible. Oh, and beware the south facing slopes.
Please do not copy, use or distribute these photos without permission. Copyright of the author.