Camp Stream Hut: Sept 12-13 2015

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.

Map

Map

 

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The Te Araroa trail

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.

Snowshoeing above Lake Tekapo - so epic!

Snowshoeing above Lake Tekapo – so epic!

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.

Proof it's an old hut

Proof it’s an old hut

Camp Stream hut, in all its glorious surroundings

Camp Stream hut, in all its glorious surroundings

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.

Walking along the ridgeline

Walking along the ridgeline

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?

Happy Tramping!

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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!

The Waiau Pass (X-mas tramp #3) Jan 4-8, 2015

Aka, Nelson Lakes #2.

Our (Dylan’s) original trip plan was possibly a little ambitious.  5 big passes, 5 days, 1 night at caroline creek bivvy, 1 night at blue lake hut, 1 night at Upper d’urville hut and 1 more night at caroline creek bivvy.  Instead, we did 5 days, with 1 night at caroline creek bivvy, 2 nights a Blue Lake hut, and another night at caroline creek bivvy…

The map.  Pink is what we did, Yellow was our intended route (a loop), orange are good campsites we saw or heard about from other trampers

The map. Pink is what we did, Yellow was our intended route (a loop), orange are good campsites we saw or heard about from other trampers

Alas even sometimes the best laid tramping plans can go a bit sideways. We decided to leave our tent behind on this track, as Dylan recently weighed it at 4.5 kgs. We know that we enjoy ourselves much more if our packs are lighter, and that extra 4.5 kg really takes it out of us. We did bring our bedrolls, however, as we had most nights planned for 2 bunk bivvies.

The forecast was excellent, and we drove down to Lake Tennyson from Picton on the morning on Jan 4. It was very very hot, and after arriving at Lake Tennyson (a 2 hour drive along unsealed roads from Hamner Springs. Recommend a 4WD vehicle – mine definitely is not and we made it just fine, we just had to go very slowly as the roads hadn’t been graded in quite some time), we had a quick swim in Lake Tennyson before starting off on our walk. We got a lateish start, leaving about 3:30 pm.

Lake Tennyson

Lake Tennyson

We made excellent time to Caroline Creek bivvy, smashing it out in about 5 hours or so (even with lots of fluffing around trying to get across the waiau river – it wasn’t very deep, but it was swift flowing. Crossing it where the fenceline intersects the track isn’t recommended. Instead, follow the river upstream where it widens out).

Following the fenceline from St. James Cycle track to the Waiau Pass track

Following the fenceline from St. James Cycle track to the Waiau Pass track

Dylan relaxing in a lawn chair at Caroline Creek Bivvy

Dylan relaxing in a lawn chair at Caroline Creek Bivvy

Jan 5 dawned another hot day, and we regretted not getting an earlier start (7:30). The track was very clearly marked the entire way (thanks to the Te Araroa trail), despite our topomap suggesting otherwise. The climb up went really well, a bit of scrambling near the top (I felt like I was having a rock climbing crash course at some points), and we kept remarking that we wouldn’t want to do Waiau pass in any kind of poor weather. There is a quite amazing lunch/rest stop with a small tarn and beautiful stream (which even results in a small swimming hole, large enough for 1 person to sit in if you’re keen) about halfway up.

Looking across to the Thompson Pass route/Lake Thomspon (not visible)

Looking across to the Thompson Pass route/Lake Thomspon (not visible)

Swimming hole - fits 1!

Swimming hole – fits 1!

Waiau pass

Waiau pass

We had lunch at the top of the pass at about 1, taking in the fabulous views. Then we had our descent into Lake Constance, which was hot hot hot. We met several Te Araroa trail walkers at this point, who must have been roasting during their climb. All up, it was probably roughly 400 m of scree to descend, and the only thing keeping us going were the views of Lake Constance and the promise of a swim!

Beautiful Lake Constance

Beautiful Lake Constance

We had another long rest for snacks and swims at beautiful Lake Constance. At this point, Dylan revealed his terrible (angry, red and starting to get weepy) pack rash which had been bothering him all day. I raided our first aid kit for some wound pads and athletic tape to make a very large bandage for his lower back.

Pack rash

Pack rash

Then it was the final homestretch into Blue Lake. Although we had done most of this track before, the long climb up along the bluffs along Lake Constance was a bit of a rude surprise after all the climbing we’d already done for the day. Combined with the heat and pack rash, it wasn’t a very fun last couple of hours – as it did take us a couple of hours to make it to our final destination.

It was well worth it though, as Blue Lake was as beautiful as we remembered. We spent the evening cooking by the side of the lake (why spend time in the hut when you’re at blue lake?!) and chatting with our fellow trampers. We decided to take the next day as a rest day, as Dylan’s back was in pretty bad shape and a day of rest would hopefully help heal it a bit.

Blue Lake - rest day

Blue Lake – rest day

Dylan and I were still the most hardcore swimmers of the group, as most people only managed 1 jump into blue lake (it ranges 4-8°C), whereas I had 4 swims, and Dylan had about 5 or 6.

After our day of rest at Blue lake (honestly, if there is a place where you’re going to get “stranded” with an enforced day of rest, that is the spot you want to be!), we decided the most sensible thing due to health constraints would be to retrace our steps back over Waiau pass. This time, though, we got a really early start, and did the pass with 4 others, all of whom were doing the Te Araroa trail.

As we descended the pass, we met a couple who had been camped at Lake Thompson the night before and said it was a beautiful campsite. Dylan and I were most envious. We also heard that coming into Lake Thompson from the d’urville valley appeared to be quite steep and possibly a bit on the sketchy side (although there were descriptions on how to approach the Thompson pass in blue lake hut, and of course, at least one of the trampers at the hut had done that particular route).

My leg started to bother me more and more as the day went on as well, and although we made excellent time to Caroline Creek Bivvy (a mere 8 hours this time), my knee/ITB did not have anything left, so despite visions of us walking the rest of the way to the car that day and camping at Lake Tennyson that night,we spent the afternoon reading in the sun and getting eaten alive by sandflies at Caroline Creek Bivvy.

Another night at Caroline Creek Bivvy...  so many sandflies!

Another night at Caroline Creek Bivvy… so many sandflies!

Jan 8 dawned misty – our first cool day! At this point, we were looking forward to walking out. Which, had my knee/leg been in better shape, would have been a breeze as we now knew to cut across to the fenceline from the river along an old 4WD track (it intersects the fenceline at a gate). But as we climbed Mailing pass, my knee/leg became more and more sore, and I slowed down quite significantly. Luckily at the top of the pass, we came across a couple who Dylan convinced into driving me and my pack out to the end of the road where he would pick me up with the car.

We then had a 2 hour drive to Hamner Springs where we luxuriated in the hot springs for a solid couple of hours [I particularly made use of the jets on my knee/leg] before heading on our way to get some Indian takeaway in Ashburton.

We couldn’t believe the difference 2 years made at blue lake (largely due in part, I think, to the Te Araroa trail). When we were last there – exactly 2 years to the day, we were the only people there. This time, the hut was 80% full both nights, and there were campers next to the lake! I did feel a little sad as all of the Te Araroa trail walkers we met on the first day went past blue lake as quickly as possible – e.g. they went from West Sabine all the way over Waiau pass in a day (hence it was late afternoon when we met them going over). Looking at the Te Araroa trail map, the Nelson Lakes area is probably one of the highlights of the entire walk! Blue lake is one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand (in my humble opinion), and worth spending an afternoon, if not an entire day. So admittedly, the Te Araroa trail is not something on my bucket list. I’d rather just tramp into places I want to see instead of walking the entire length of the country, mostly in valleys and often along roads.

Dylan and I learned a lot on this tramp. Pack rash! A new and exciting tramping ailment. Apparently nearly 10-12 days of tramping in heat and nearly in a row is too much. Also, 9 days of tramping with a 1000m descent is too much for my knee/leg/ITB. We also learned about tarptents – a 1.5 kg tent with double doors, etc. from our Te Araroa trail friends.

We spread the word about dehydrating your own meals, and what works well (and what doesn’t). We were also surprised at the number of people tramping in shoes or “not-boots”. Dylan and I clearly need to work on our ankle support.

We were also pleased to have swum in all 3 lakes we came across – Tennyson, Constance and Blue Lake. Take note, Lake Thompson, you’re next on the list!

And as usual, we realized that we still haven’t completed the Nelson Lakes area (Lake Thompson, Moss Pass, Cuopola hut, Hopeless hut, the Sunset Saddle and Mt. Angelus are still all on the list…) – which is still one of my favourite parts of the country.

From Waiau Pass, looking into the Waiau river valley

From Waiau Pass, looking into the Waiau river valley

Happy Tramping!