The Wilkin Valley - December 1966
The Wilkin Valley - December 1966.
Five of the party left Christchurch after a smooth trip on the Maori from Wellington. This was by far the longest and most strenuous day of the trip. Picture, if you will, five burly trampers and 10 days' gear, crammed into one of Henry Ford's smaller products, travelling from Christchurch via Timaru and Oamaru, the Waitaki valley and the Lindis Pass to Wanaka at which point another of the same with gear is squeezed in for the 37 miles to Makarora where, exhausted, they all spend the night. The journey took 13 hours, an interesting contrast to the days that followed. On arrival the party was greeted by Dave Osmers, his wife and sister-in-law, the latter an old school friend of the trip leader.
Although the trip leader was most reluctant to leave Makarora and his old school friend, the party in its entirety safely crossed the Makarora River and made its way downstream to the confluence of the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers. Just above this the Wilkin was crossed with ease and the party made its way up the left (i.e. true right -Ed.) bank of the Wilkin, jet-boat convenience having been sacrifiece in favour of the McNaught- Pearce bank accounts. "Top Hut," the lowest hut in the Wilkin proved to be well past its prime, in fact it was a ruin. However Kerin Forks was reached after 6 hours tramping and the night spent in the hut there.
The party awoke to discover the beautiful mountains above the valley had been replaced during the night with much cloud. It was also raining, not hard, but steadily, persistently and very wetly. Nothing daunted they tramped to Jumboland Hut, 2 hours away and the scenery well, what was lost in mount ains was made up for in waterfalls. The Wilkin, still its turquoise opalescent self, had started to rise.
The day dawned much as before. The weather, however, was worse. The party decided to climb Mount Jumbo (6,200ft.) which was located somewhere in the mist behind and considerably above the Jumboland Hut. They followed a cleared stream bed up, and at the top of the clearing a ridge through open beech. The route posed one or two complications, mainly due to members' insist ence on walking on top of instead of through sub-alpine scrub. Several rocky gullies were traversed. A saddle was reached where the party was greeted by a sodden gale-force wind. The Wellingtonians immediately felt at home and all sat down and page break had lunch. Five then left the saddle to same the top. Everything was shrouded in mist. Three got there after a scramble over loose rock and occasional drifts of snow. At the top were an iron peg, more loose snow and lots more mist. The conquerers descended, found the two almost-conquerers and returned to Neil Mad docks at e saddle who had chose the much safer pastime of trying to spot the Albertburn valley through the occasional breaks in the mist. Then all descended to Jumbo land Hut, food and light literature. Mr Burgess claimed he read "Lolita" from cover [unclear: cover] night.
Sunday 18th (What sun?)
It rained much as before with a persistence that quite astounded the Wellington intruders. Nevertheless they continued up the valley, through the bush track to top Flats and New Top Hut. The Wilkin was by now in full flood and Top Flats resemble the underneath of a (you know, those holey vegetable draining things) through which Lake Taupo was being poured. The Wilkin at Jumboland Gorgo left Huka Falls for dead. The South Branch being totally uncrossable the party spent the night in the hut which belongs to the Mount Albert Station at Top Forts. Miraculously, the rain ceased as suddenly as it had begun early in the evening after 63 hours of non-stop outing.
The weather now declared itself fine and warm. The party cross the South Branch of the Wilkin and then set off up the North Branch. Several side-streams were crossed before Leke Diane's placid but swollen waters were reached. The snout of the miniglacier which comes off Pollux was investigated together with the rock bivvy nearby. The glacier was most picturesque with boulders everywhere The party returned to the Top Forks hut and after a short break in which now-dry gear was donned set off downstream for Jumboland Hut.
Messrs Stonyer and Moddocks decided to salube in the hut but the other members of the party thought Mt Aeolus (7700ft) was far more tempting. They crossed the Wilkin below the hut (after half an hour of trying) and proceeded up the well defined ridge. It took about 1½ hours to the snowline. The snow was soft and the going slowed down. There was a short stop for lunch. It was taking longer and longer to get less and less further. Then the mist appeared, swooping down out of a clear blue sky end with a heavy heart they turned back 500ft. from the summit but were soon too occupied in glissading and its thrills summit but further. They got back to the hut about 3 p.m., after seeing two red dear in the bush.
This was a day of some frustration. The party proceeded down stream to Kerin Forks and then tried to cross the river. They tried again. But it just couldn't be done. However, one member of the party did learn that the middle of a flooded; (and glacial) river is no place to argue the question of who is trip leader. In fact it was no place for argument at all. The party returned to Kerin Forks Hut and stayed the night.
Somewhat chasteded by yesterday's river crossing lessons,' the party proceeded downstream. They met the farmer John Queith who was out on horseback. He very kindly helped them cross the Wilkin, which was still very enlarged after the rain. They very gingerly crossed the Makarore and arrived at Dave Carers, the car and civilisation. Phil Burgess then remembered he had left his camera ("full of lovely photos") across the other side of the river. Forgetting how difficult it was to cross the river he plunged into the Makarora, retrieved the camera and plunged back again with his camera between his teeth. The camera was not insured. It seems that the answer to successful impossible river crossings lies in [unclear: moti] tion.
The Wilkin in beautiful trampers country and all have Vowed to return. There are mountains in abundance and deer in semi- abundance; the only snag is the River.
Party Members: Dave Greig (leader), Phil Burgess, Neil Haddocks, Kevin Pearce. Dave Stonyer, Pat McNaught.
Hqllyford - Wanaka with variatians (intentional and otherwise).
Intended route: Holly ford valley - Cow Saddle - Fiery Col - Fohn Saddle - Dard River - Cascade Saddle - Wanaka.
We left Wellington on the evening ferry to Picton on Friday Nov. 25 and by midnight all theee of us were camped by the roadside near Blenheim. 2½ days hitch-hiking from there had us at the end of the Hollyford road in pouring rain Three hours was necessary for us to get to hidden falls hut, and was sufficient to get saturated. A roaring fire had all gear dried out by the time, turned in for the first night of the trip.
Next morning was still wet, but after a liesurely breakfast reluctantly set off up the steep hill behind the hut. In order to travel up Hidden Phils Creek, one has to climb high above the creek to avoid the waterfall and gorge at the start. We therefore page break travelled along a ridge seme 200 ft. or so above the river, making a couple of trips down to the river to find it still too gorgy to travel in. The size of the river indicated that it was in fact the main river, thoug-h other factors seemed to contradict this. 'On our third descent to tthe river we saw that the gorge had ended and the river was broad and slow —— almost like a lake, It was even more like a Lake further upstream. As we sidled ground' it we wondered why it was not recorded on any map, Above the lake the creek was much smaller and steeper, descending in a series of small waterfalls, By this time it was late in the afternoon and our only concern was to find a suitable campsite, We were no longer interested in where we were, After much searching we finally came out on an open rocky knob and pitched the tent on a rather exposed and uncomfortable site. Pat hastily explained that the large number of patches did not indicate that the tent would leak. They were merely the result of the MeNaught cat doing a traverse of the tent while it was pitched in their backyard. It appeared that the cat had kicked steps up one side and glissaded down the other.
Visibility improved in the evening and we could see that we were not in Hidden Falls Creek, but had no idea where we actually were. In the hour of daylight that remrined one per person was sent off armed with map, compass, torch (just in case) and "Moir's guide to everything except Hidden Falls Creek" to see if he could draw any conclusions from the low pass we could see in the ridge nearby. His only conclusion Was that the pass was much further that in looked, as we last saw his light, miles away, at about 11p.m. The rain began again as we settled into our pits.
At first light the next day the missing one had still not returned so the ether two began a search which lasted about two hours, by when we were all together, but all lost. He was none the Worse for his night out in the rain without a sleeping bag, tho gh his map, compass and Moir were all lost. We stumbled onto the tent some time later and sat in our pits for the rest of the day while the advatages of a well-drained campsite were becoming more and more apparent. The next morning we made an ignominious retreat all' the way back to Hidden Falls Hut arriving rather late due to heavy packs, flooded creeks, and bum navigation. Having lost the Alpine Club's Olivine map we were forced to use the Lands & Survey's old map which clearly marks a sidestream of Hidden Falls Creek.
The next day dawned with a mixture of sun and rain. We spent the morning drying out our gear, and after lunch packed up and set off up the now-familiar steep hill. We carefully crossed the sidestreat we had gone so far up before sidled round a low spur to drop into the real "creek" and pitched the tent, in some bush flats near the river. A large area of page break ferms was obliberated to provide our bedding and we prepared for an early start the next morning.
The bush was so dark and gloomy when we left at 6.30 a.m. that we could't tell whether it was fine or evely overast. All we knew was that it wasn't raining, untl about 10 a.m. after that it was raining. Travelling up hidden Falls Creek was very difficult at first but gradually improved unil, quite suddenly we emerged onto broad open flats. These remained more or less continous until the bushkine. By the time we reached the Board tussock top of Cow Saddle, it was 4 p.m. and raining heavily, also windy and rather cold. The top of the pass was just below the mist level, so without the service of the trusty dector we also just below had no idea where Friey Col was, so we crossed into the upper services of the trusty doctor we reaches of the Olivine river and camped there, Huey made a concerted effort to rip our tent to shreds that night but fortunately drew no blood.
The next morning was still blustery but the rain had virtually stopped. We set off down the Olivine until we could see the Olivine ledge high above us. By this time the whether was clearing and we could see some mighty peaks as we sidled up onto the ledge. Travelling along the ledge was made difficult by a few gorges which cut across it, so it was 2.30 p.m. when we started to climb towards Fohn saddle. It was 2.30 p.m. when it missed the saddle by iles, so returned to a suitble campsite at the foot of the saddle. Nearly a foot of snow was too much packed it away after a rather miserable night. Though it was we came to a halt, wondering where to go next. Cle said "go left", and said "go right", one said "go back". We followed the latteer course.
Not particularly keen on another night above the snowline, we headed for the bivvy rock "discovered" by the VUWTC party the previous summer. Dropping off the Olivine ledge into the river was hairy to say the least. How teees can grow upright on a vertical rock slab is completely beyond me. Our course down the river we largely dictated by gravity. Despite the heavy rain the river was not running at all high. Crossing the Termination sidetream was rather interesting all the same as we still had bivvy, an impressve glacial boulder overhanging onall sides, and with a perfectly dry dirt floor. The only signs of civilization were a neat stack of firewood, and a scrap of paper on the floor which read "Fraser said 1,000 real answer 125." We hung up the sadly tattered tent, under the shelter of the rock, to dry out and settled down glad to have a solid roof our heads again.
Early next morning the three of us gazed out from our warm pits in wonder and amazement had happened. It was page break fine However, action superceded shock and we gulped down our breakfast, hastily sewed the 45th patch on the tent and wet off towards Fohn saddle. A minimum of [unclear: scru] hashins got us back on the edge, now covered with a mantis of snow. We made no mistake about the route and lunched in the thick snow on the top of the pass. The views of mountains and rivers, near and far, were really fantastic, and all that had happed the week before was duly forgiven.. We pushed down through nnee deep snow to the upper Beansburn flats to set up camp early in the afternoon. A heavy frost overnight heralded the down of another perfect day. We rather reluctantly forced ourselves to hurry down the Beansbrun in the midday heat, to arrive at the broad shingle bed of the Dart River late in the afternoon. We crossed the river that evening after backing out of waist deep water on our frist attempt, and camped in .the bush on the left bank.
The next morning we wasted much time in an unsuccessful attempt to sidle round the Sandy Bluff and we reached Dredgeburn Hut in time for a rather late lunch. By the time we reached Cattle Hut it was raining again and we skipped up the pace in the fading light to arrive at the Whitburn Flats just on nightfall. We turned in to sleep soundly after a 12 hour day, happy that Cascade Saddle ' could be crossed the next day if it were fine.
It wasn't. We got as far as Dart Hut (1½ hrs.,) and stayed there while snow fell on and off all afternoon, More snow the next morning closed the door on Cascade Saddle so we set out over Snowy saddle in alternating sunshine and snowshowers. After crossing the pass we sped on down the Rees to make a final camp some three hours from the roadend. It snowed again overnight, then became brilliantly fine as we made our was back to civil-lotion. A local miner gave us a welcome lift into Glenorchy and we sat on the shores of Lake Wakitipu in the afternoon sun, having a last look at the mountains before turning to the road to make the long journey home.
Party: Pat McNaught, Jim Swadling, Nick Whitten.
In three years, VUWTC will be, fifty years old would you believe it? It's true. So what about an expetlitition to the Andes/Hinalayas/Antarctica to celebrat o it. Al1 we need is a plan, sene noney (like $$$$). and a persuasive line. Who is game?
Comment heard on a trapping trip.:-
'Experience is whatt cories from surviving inexperience.'