Interim - January 2014

The mountain weather reports were still for gales on the tops as we left Christchurch about 1pm on 13th January with our group reduced from ten to eight participants. After lunching on the ‘famous pies’ from Sheffield, and they are good, we continued in sunny windy weather to Klondike Corner where we decided to leave the bus at the Bealey hotel carpark and start our eight day trip.

We were away on the Edwards Track by 3.30pm into very strong head winds but on a good track through bush, flats, gravel, then finally a very steep recently cut drop down to Anti Crow Hut, which caused a few anxious moments when Dave slipped near the bottom and deeply gashed his forearm. Our recently purchased steri-strips were immediately put to good use. It was now 5.30pm as half the group settled into the partially refurbished hut and the others camped nearby.

After a cool night we continued towards Carrington Hut and soon arrived at our first swift river crossing as we headed on the direct route towards the distant headland on the other side. This involved multiple crossings of braids, often linking up. Then a long stony route across rough river flats and with a cold SW head wind all the way until the last 15 minutes of beech forest to the sheltered hut. The total time was almost three hours without a stop. After lunch most of us dried gear on the sunny deck and a few decided to take a look up Camp Spur but soon turned back as the access stream became very steep with loose rocks and logs.

The following morning was cloudless as we headed on a day trip to Waimakariri Falls Hut which involved an immediate four braid crossing of the cold White River then into a strong cold wind until we passed Campbell Creek. A very steep climb up past the impressive chasm of the falls, then even steeper, wending our way up through huge rock outcrops and finally to the nice flat area of the hut. We had absolutely no wind for our lunch stop and great views all around. It took us three hours to return and once again strong winds as we passed the Campbell Creek valley.

As forecast the rain arrived next morning and continued until evening when it cleared to blue sky. We got up late, lit the fire as it was cold, read, played cards or slept the day away.

The next morning was back to cloudless again and the forecast was looking good for the next couple of days as we headed back towards the Anti Crow River via the quite good flood track as the main river was well up now. At the Anti Crow we had a discussion about what to do for the days ahead as it now looked as if we could complete the planned trip to the Avoca River and back. After an early lunch we dropped packs and did a recce up the rocky gorge to get a feel for the day ahead, then continued to the Anti Crow Hut for the night. We fixed the wobbly bunk, noticed on our last visit, with a six inch nail brought from Carrington, and just as well as trampers and hunters kept arriving at the six bunk hut until quite late.

It was a cold clear night, even in the hut, and those outside had frost on their tents but we were able to get away by 7.30am with Sharen accompanied by Alex deciding to head back to the bus and not go over Sphinx Saddle. This was to be a long day negotiating the shattered rocky route, as a result of an earthquake in 1994, up the Anti Crow River. At a cairn we started up a small very steep side stream which soon went underground and could be heard rushing through rocks beneath us. Then on through rock, scree and tussock to a point above Sphinx Saddle where we had lunch and luckily none of the forecast gales. We followed this ridge to the true saddle then descended steeply through good scree to the so-called Easy Stream through some forest, then extensive slips and finally a huge gravel bed down to the Avoca River arriving about 2.30pm. Here we met hunters who had driven up the Avoca, camping up river. We continued to the end of the flats then had a steep climb through bush to the interesting Avoca Hut, built in 1947 by Canterbury University Tramping Club and with a hut book going back to 1990 that included several ATC entries.

The following day was still & sunny again, at least at the sheltered hut, but spectacular wispy cloud swirls were coming over Mt Avoca and Mt Greenlaw. A few of us decided to explore beyond the hut to Moraine Flat. It was rough going through windfalls and small tough beech on a lightly marked route but finally we emerged to a huge open valley with a massive bulldozed-like moraine wall up ahead. We were keen to see what was beyond so picked our way up the mound of unstable rocks but as usual had to go a bit further to see over the next horizon and finally a view down to an area of small gravel - the true Moraine Flats? We turned back from here for the steepish long descent over big unstable, jagged fractured rock - nature’s quarry - into the rough bush & soon losing the markers but eventually back to Avoca hut.

After lunch we packed up and headed back down the pleasant Avoca valley past Easy Stream to Galilee Creek our turn off point. Started walking up the wide gently sloping shingle creek looking for a campsite but there was nothing much at all and finally settled on odd sites amongst beech and rocks.

Another fine calm night and we were away by 7.30am for our longest and final day. The stony creek soon closed in and got steeper, then even more so as we turned up a tributary to a skyline saddle of tussock. Two hours to here then it was down to the true Jordan Saddle then a long uphill sidle through tussock and scree to the next skyline saddle. From here we started heading up a rocky spur but soon discovered it was the wrong spur (Little Jordan). We double checked the map and GPS; the correct route of Hut Spur looked quite daunting with its jagged rocky outline but we headed steeply up scree to point 1875. Our perspective changed; it now looked doable, with great views all around, especially up and down the Avoca valley, the Waimakariri River on the other side and Mt Cook in the distance to the south. It was now 12noon as we started on down some of the narrow rocky sections of Hut Spur stretching for kilometres ahead then more kilometres beyond that as Bealey Spur. It was four and a half hours of fine weather tramping, mainly downhill with the huge Waimakariri below, to the main road at Bealey Spur, arriving at 5pm; a nine and a half hour day and quite enough.

Keith fairly quickly got a ride to the Bealey pub and bus where Sharen and Alex were waiting and had arranged accommodation for us all. For backpacker prices we had motel type accommodation with linen, towels and flannels and were soon showered , having the odd drink and sitting down to an excellent dinner in pleasant surroundings and reminiscing on a satisfying achievement of the planned trip.

The breakfast menu looked enticing so we all partook the next morning before heading for Christchurch and into low cloud and rain from an easterly as we crossed to the plains over Porters Pass.

Our group were: Keith Ayton (scribe), Jean Barton, Dave Best, Graeme McGowan, Sharen Graham, Christine Major, Kay Wilcocks, Alex Sancho with Tony Walton and Peter Scott withdrawing due to injury.