Extended Trip - Saturday 16 February 2019 to Saturday 2 March 2019 (15 days)

by Dennis Brown

David Holl's Photos

The sheer variety of the snoring struck me.

The Shifter produced an extraordinary cacophony of snorts, wheezes, gasps and rasps, disconcertingly lurching from one to the other with utter disregard for convention and accompanied by fear-inducing changes of rhythm and pitch. Clearly a man lacking a sense of direction in life.

The Boomer, deep, sonorous and rhythmic was the bass score and easy winner in the volume stakes - like an Otara car stereo on steroids. A man who knows what he wants and will damn well take it.

The Death Rattle rounded out the threesome. Here some deep-seated, malevolent infection invading the vocal chords spewed out a rambling repertoire of sickly gurgles, rasps and splutters of varying intensity and conviction. The sound of disease, of a man not long for this world.

And so the ATC barbershop trio belted out their discordant racket with great gusto from Hagens Hut on a soggy night in the Ahuriri. In the interlude the rain tapped out a far more melodious tune on the roof.

This was night 4 of our trip.

Our original Landsborough / Karangarua plan had been quickly ditched due to a horror forecast of days of heavy rain on the main divide.

Instead our group of 5 were dropped at the Temple roadend and trundled up the North Temple to spend our first night camping at the bushline.

Climbing out of the South Temple

Day 2 saw us head up Gunsight Pass - sold to us by the marketing folk as a straightforward scramble up a rocky chute. The team felt compelled to quibble with the ‘straightforward’ descriptor as we sidled slippery scree, ducked to avoid falling rocks, and hauled ourselves over blocking boulders burdened by 10 day packs. The 4½ hrs it took us to reach the pass confirms it was no doddle.

That done, a long scree descent from the pass had us down to our camp in the upper South Temple by mid afternoon.

Day 3 had us climbing out of the head of the South Temple, wolfing down a hasty early lunch huddled behind an obliging boulder on the ridge between pts 2058 and 2190 as the weather finally caught up with us with a vengeance, then slithering down to the Ahuriri between spectacular bluffs.

A trudge down valley to Top Hut followed. This being a 2-bunker, two of us stayed put, 2 headed down to Hagens, and Pete forgot to apply the brakes and made it to Shamrock Hut.

Day 4 was miserable, so the two Top Hutters headed down to Hagens and everyone else stayed put. And that night the rurus retreated and possums cringed as ATC's finest serenaded the valley.

Next day we scooted down valley, picked up Pete at Shamrock and lunched in the sun at Ahuriri Base Hut in the company of Miriam and Tammy, two intrepid souls well into a 2 month Hopkins to Wanaka ramble living essentially off the land. With a goose in the pot, some trout remaining and meat in their packs, they sure weren't starving.

After this glimpse into another world we shouldered our packs and zigzagged up the Dingle Burn pack track in sweltering heat, drinking in the superb views firstly of the immense Ahuriri valley below and Barrier Range beyond, then from the ridge northwards to imposing Mt Barth and its glacier and below into the picture-perfect upper Dingle Burn.

Two nights were spent in Top Dingle Hut, the claggy and damp rest day spent on some exploration of the valley coupled with a fair dose of indolence, pontificating and practising nocturnal respiration techniques.

Andrew above the Dingle Burn

On day 7 we climbed back out of the Dingle Burn and headed down the Ahuriri to Birchwood Station where we whistled up some transport to take us through to Omarama.

A lack of options for exiting Omarama saw us camping there two nights before we could finally get through to Frankton (Queenstown) on the morning of day 9. From whence we immediately took a taxi to the Remarkables Ski Field.

There we rugged up, headed up past Lake Alta to the almost 2000m pass and dropped into spectacular Wye Creek. A few hours later and after startling a chamois, we had the billy on in our rock biv home for the night.

At Lake Alta

The map showed several possible routes for our day 10 jaunt to Lake Hope. By a minor miracle we picked the only one likely to have kept our bones intact.

We laboured 1000m up a tussock, rock and scree-covered spur to the ridge between pts 2071 and 2172 and were greatly relieved to see there was a relatively comfortable way down to the lake.

Lake Hope is seldom visited (we've now got a fair idea why), spectacular and made a superb high alpine camp.

Day 11 saw us sidle high to regain the ridge then travel easier country across to under pt 1916 to start the long descent to the Frankton - Kingston road.

A fine day and spectacular views of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown lifted the spirits.

The ever steeper spur, awkward detouring around bluffs, and several hundred metres of unavoidable and decidedly unpleasant bashing through almost impenetrable scrub did their best to dampen them.

Chris on the climb to Lake Hope

Finally though we escaped, washed the blood off and sauntered down the well-trodden lower Wye Creek Track before a taxi whisked us back to Frankton and the end of our trip.

We were Chris Burnett (leader), David Holl, Dennis Brown, Andrew Murdoch and Pete Waworis (Ahuriri stint only).