Interim Trip - Monday 19th to Friday 23rd January 2009

Part #2, Party 4

Monday 19 January

The Lees Creek party (see above) dropped us off from Big Blue at the Wairau Bridge, a short distance from the confluence of Rainbow River. We made good progress up the Rainbow flats and as the river was low we headed straight for the gorge in the distance, making frequent river crossings. As the flats narrowed we picked up the 4WD track and followed that to a bulldozed track at GR 953037 that sidled the gorge. We had lunch before the gorge and carried out Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) training. Written instructions with the PLB are well written, easy to follow and understand. From above the narrow rocky gorge, we viewed a mixture of foaming cascades and clear blue pools. Leaving the gorge, the open flats at the confluence of the Begley, Paske and Rainbow didn’t look too inviting with cold gusty winds and a sprinkling of rain so we abandoned our intention to camp on the flats and pressed on to Begley Hut on a well-marked track. We reached Begley 6½ hrs after our drop-off, and were greeted by millions of resident sandflies. A killing spree and a smoky fire in the hut kept the blighters at bay.

Tuesday 20 January

With a good forecast we were up early and keen to head for the pass into the Hamilton. It was a chilly morning with frost on the ground, but clear blue skies. The track was partly in the river and partly through forest (true left) climbing around deep pools. After spotting the 70m tributary waterfall to our right, we climbed into the open beech forest aiming to climb around and to the top of the 30m Begley waterfall. We saw the top of the waterfall through the trees as we broke out on to a grassy ridge that gave a clear climb toward the pass east of peak 1672m. The ridge gave way to a final climb on scree to the pass. We had lunch on the pass and enjoyed amazing views, looking down the river valleys on both sides. After an initial steep descent, we crossed through low scrub, on to a scree slope heading down toward the Hamilton River. The open beech on the right looked more inviting so we left the scree and headed into the forest. After a short time in the forest we spotted some good camping down beside the river, GR 945129, and set up camp.

Wednesday 21 January

We woke again to clear skies but a frost, and ice on the tents. The river disappeared into the boulder-strewn river bed just above our camp so we tramped down the dry river bed for 2 km. After a mixture of flats and forest we picked up the marked track through beech forest and enjoyed a long lunch beside the river, before a short walk to Big Blue parked at the bottom of the Hamilton where we spent the night.

Thursday 22 January

Another blue-sky day. We set off down the road for Lees Creek Hut to meet up with Party 3 and were such a happy, chattering bunch that we walked straight past the Lees Creek track sign (which being back off the road and facing north and hidden from view … excuses … excuses). I realised my mistake 5 minutes down the road and we retreated to the track and the swing bridge over the Wairau. The tramp up Lees Creek is an easy, marked track across flats and through beech forest. The later part of the track was through a narrow section strewn with huge boulders, and the river cascading into deep pools was very picturesque. Then it opened out into flats again and soon we reached a large flat area with the hut and an amazing mountain backdrop. Party 3 were on hand to greet us and much talk and comparison of trips followed. Some took bunks in the hut and others tented. Great camping on the end of the beech forest.

Friday 23 January

Both parties tramped down to Big Blue in the morning and we headed off to Nelson.

Party: Graeme McGowan (leader and scribe), Pauline Laws, Alex Sancho, Alison Jepson, Jennifer Long.