Interim - January 2014
Graeme McGowan (Leader & scribe), Keith Ayton, Jean Barton, Laurence Beard, Sharen Graham, Dave Best and John Salisbury.
The 60Km St James was a great warm up for the "main event" in Arthurs Pass. It is not a hard tramp but the scenery is beautiful, with the close proximity to the Spenser Mountains, tumbling rivers and wide open river valleys. A cold first night gave the Spenser’s a good dusting of snow which combined with fast rivers swollen with recent heavy rainfalls, was an added bonus. The two passes at 1008m and 1136m gave no challenge, and in fact apart from the signs denoting the passes we would have ‘passed’ without noticing.
On our first day we left Christchurch Airport at 1pm and were on the track at Lewis Pass Shelter (870m) at 3.30pm for Cannibal Gorge Hut. With recent rains the side streams provided regular water avoiding the need to carry water. The skies were threatening and heavy showers were forecast but we reached the hut (890m) in 2.5hr, just moments before a solid downpour.
The morning of day 2 was overcast and cool and the tops were covered with snow. The day gradually improved with increasing blue patches as we "climbed" to Ada Pass Hut and then the Pass (1008m) beside the Maruia River. "Dropping off" the pass we joined the Ada River heading for Christopher Hut (800m). Now with clear skies and great views some of us stopped for lunch opposite the Christopher River valley to enjoy the snowcapped peaks and the valley. Faerie Queene (2236m) dominates a cluster of 11 peaks over 2000m. We reached the hut in 5 hrs although those that powered on ahead took just 4hrs. The water supply at the hut had stopped working but handyman John and Keith were on hand and the water supply from the spring was soon restored. It’s surprising how many trampers had written in the hut book ‘no water’ when a bit of thought would soon solve the problem.
Day 3 dawned clear blue skies and for a while we had the opportunity to again enjoy the mountains before the valley opened out and we turned the corner of the Ada valley to head south onto a wide valley where the Ada and then the Henry River join the Waiau River. We faced a stiff breeze coming up the valley but found a good lunch spot out of the wind and enjoyed the sun. We arrived at Anne River Hut (880m) in 4.5hrs (speedsters were there in 3.5hrs). Kathy Engelbrecht who is doing Te Araroa arrived at the hut later in the afternoon having come down the Waiau from Caroline Creek Biv. It was a busy hut with 2 other Te Araroa trekkers arriving, one with family supporters in tow. A Possum hunter was also in residence and provided an insight into the life of a professional hunter living off possum skin income.
Day 4 and another blue sky day. DOC said 7hrs to Boyle Flats hut, so we made an "early" start at 7.30am. However at a leisurely pace and with lots of very enjoyable stops on river banks we reached the Hut (800m) in 6hrs - those who kept going were at the hut in 4hrs. The track from Anne River Hut follows the Anne River gradually climbing to Anne Saddle (1136m) and descends to follow the Boyle River. Kathy had carried on for Boyle Village. Again we found the water supply had stopped working and our fixit crew soon restored supply.
The forecast for our last day wasn’t good with rain expected. So we made another "early" start and although rain threatened a strong wind kept it at bay and we continued down the Boyle River arriving dry at the Boyle Village mid-morning. Kathy was there to meet us - her feet were suffering and she had decided to stop her Te Araroa adventure for the time being and join us at Hanmer Springs. So we set off for Hanmer, a lovely warm shower, "real food" and our preparation for Arthurs Pass.