Extended Trip - Saturday 16 January 2016 to Sunday 31 January 2016 (16 days)
16th Jan. Off the plane at Queenstown to be picked up by Big Blue and driven to Makarora settlement, leaving the airport at 11am. Some of us got caffeined up while waiting and then it was on the jet boat up the Makarora River to the Gillespie Pass Circuit Track on the Young River. Our party at that point consisted of Andrew, Alex, Mark (from the Alpine Sports Club), Fay and David.
We started walking at 1.45pm and after an easy 3.5 hours reached our campsite at Young Forks. Both parties (ours and the medium led by Tony) camped there amongst the sandflies.
17th Jan. Our party was away for a 7 am start up the South Branch of the Young River. Fay developed a knee problem so we dropped her off at Young Hut to be picked up by the medium party who were following. Over Gillespie Pass and down to Siberia Flats where we camped under the trees with the sand flies. As we climbed Gillespie Pass we looked down on Tony’s group who camped on the flats below. We spotted a flying kea while climbing the pass and later what we thought may have been a native falcon. Weather was fine at this point with gale force winds and rain forecast over the next few days.
18th Jan. Off at 8 am for a one hour walk to Siberia hut. A bit of a chat to the warden and then a two-hour walk down the Siberia Stream to cross the river to Kerin Forks hut. Crossing the river was a four-person link up with water up to the waist for the taller members of the party. We spent the night at the hut.
19th Jan. An 8 am start along the Wilkin Valley Track, past Jumboland to Top Forks hut with the walk taking six hours. Weather was cloudy and the Wilkin easy to cross with members of the party walking up both sides.
20th Jan. A sightseeing day. It took us four hours each way to visit Lakes Diana, Lucidus and Castalla. The weather was sunny but getting cooler as we approached the head of the valley. Terry and Dave from the medium party arrived at the hut in the afternoon. The rest of their group arrived the next day.
21st Jan. Another sight seeing day, this time to Waterfall Pass. This was a five-hour return trip with weather worsening as we approached the pass. The valley was relatively sheltered but there were gale force winds blowing over the tops. We approached to within approximately nine hundred metres of the face before turning back due to poor conditions and some of the party feeling the cold.
Our original intention had been to go over Waterfall Pass, Rabbit Pass and into the Matukituki but bad weather put paid to that. Waterfall Pass in particular requires fine conditions in order to climb it safely.
The remainder of the medium group arrived at the hut that afternoon.
22nd Jan. Most of our party had an easy day at the hut with a scramble later in the day to bring boots and other gear into the hut when a marauding kea was spotted in the general vicinity.
23rd Jan. Both groups walked the return trip to Kerin Forks hut. The Wilkin was running high and dangerous to cross so we took the alternative high track over point 710. Later in the day the jet boat picked us up downstream from the hut taking us in two separate lots down to Makarora. There we spent the night in cabins, caught up with the washing and had dinner in the restaurant.
24th Jan. Off to Wanaka in Big Blue where we booked into cabins at Wanaka Lake View Holiday Park, visited the cafes and went shopping in the outdoors stores.
25th Jan. Andrew, Alex, Christine and David walked from the camping ground, along the road and up to the summit of Roy Hill and back down. Good views were obtained from the summit as the clouds parted briefly. The girls hitched a ride back along the road to the camp. Andrew and David didn’t think it was worth their while trying to hitch.
26th Jan. The change of plans due to poor weather meant instead of exploring the Matukituki we needed another option and walking the Motatapu Track fitted the bill. Big Blue delivered us to the start of the Track. Our group now consisted of Andrew, Mark, Alex, David, Christine and Catherine. Two hours walk to Fern Burn hut, lunch and then on to Highland Creek hut where we spent the night. Mist and light rain during the day.
27th Jan. A five-hour walk to Roses hut. No one in the hut on arrival but three Koreans arrived later. They were doing the Te Araroa Trail (TA), southbound (SOBO) and had been at Fern Burn hut when we passed through.
Just before dark an American trail runner from Moab, Utah arrived. He’d covered 52 km that day. Very impressive but after observing his limping the next morning one or two of us thought trail running was not quite our thing.
28 Jan. We left Roses hut just after 7 am, slowly descending into the sun filled valley around Macetown (a derelict gold mining settlement) and then on to Arrowtown arriving around 4 pm where we booked into a cabin at the camping ground.
29th Jan. Relaxing in Arrowtown.
30th Jan. Andrew, Christine and David walked the circuit up Big Hill, an easy six-hour day. Panoramic views were to be had over the surrounding countryside.
31st Jan. Big Blue took us to Queenstown to fly out in the morning.
Members of the Fit Party at various times were: Andrew Murdoch (Leader), Mark Wilson, Alex Sancho, David Holl (scribe), Fay Zhong, Christine Major and Catherine Doyle.