Arthurs Pass

2 1“Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass. This is Goat Pass Hut, Goat Pass Hut” “Go ahead Goat Pass Hut” “Arthur’s Pass, we were wondering if we could get an up to date weather forecast for tomorrow?” (Sounding slightly irritated that anybody would be foolish enough to go into the outdoors based on yesterday’s forecast) “It’s much the same as yesterdays. There is still a heavy rain warning. You’re going to wake up with swollen rivers running all around you. The wind is going to be 100ks at 2,000 metres” “Err, ok, thanks Arthur’s Pass. Over and out” Rain blew horizontally and sometimes upwards past the hut. Waterfalls appeared from nowhere, grew bigger, and turned in to rivers. Mountains came and went from view.  Our route over a high pass did not seem very appealing. It was time to hunker down and wait it out. And so began a long, cold and sometimes tortuous 24 hours in Goat Pass Hut. We all react differently to a hut day. David, being a seasoned alpinist, barely batted an eyelid as he surreptitiously commandeered my as yet unopened book that I had brought along for just such an occasion. Cramer pulled out his Kindle and selected a title from 50 odd books that were stored on this magical device. Having somehow lost my book, I pulled out my iPod and listened to a backlog of podcasts that had been building up. Kate, unfortunately, had brought a rather tedious autobiography that offered little in the way of excitement or respite from the slow passage of time. It was, she described, turning out to be the longest day of her life…. Goat Pass Hut has no fire. It reminded us of this fact by having a boarded up hole in the roof where once a chimney had been. It was freezing. Kate took on the dual challenge of keeping warm and keeping occupied by making a full traverse of the hut without touching the floor. A good effort, aided only by a single bench, placed below the Hut’s own Hinterstoisser Traverse – a varnished wall that not even David was willing to attempt. At least, not without some chalk and a good pair of climbing shoes… 24 long hours later “Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass. This is Goat Pass Hut, Goat Pass Hut” “Go ahead Goat Pass Hut” “Arthur’s Pass, we were wondering if we could get an up to date weather forecast?” (Sounding mildly pissed off at us) “There’s another heavy rain warning for later today. There’s gale force winds forecast. We’ll give you another update at 8am tomorrow. By the way, we’re missing a family of two adults and two children. Have you seen them?” We hadn’t seen anyone. Bed came early. 8.05am “Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass. This is Goat Pass Hut, Goat Pass Hut” “Go ahead Goat Pass Hut” “Arthur’s Pass, we were wondering if we could get a weather forecast?” (Sounding really pissed off) “There’s been 200mm of rain in the west, 100mm in the East. The wind is due to rise to gale about the tops. The Bealey River is un-crossable. We strongly advise you to stay in the hut for another day” “Thanks Arthur’s Pass.” Spending another day in the hut was not an option that we were able to process. Going over the tops seemed to be a pointless and unpleasant exercise. Bailing out down the Mingha was our best shot – but to do so meant crossing the currently un-crossable Bealey. We were feeling defeated. Then David piped up. “I’ve spent the last 25 years crossing raging torrents. Let’s go”. And so we did. Leaving the hut in the pouring rain, we headed back down the Mingha, with an uncertain future. We crossed the Mingha and various side streams without a problem. They were up, but by less than a foot. The Bealey couldn’t be much worse? But it was further west, and vulnerable to more rain blowing over the divide. It brightened up and we stripped some gear off. Things were looking good. Then the Bealey appeared. It looked a bit tempestuous. Not in flood, but not relaxing down the valley like the Mingha. It was not going to be a breeze.  And to think that we had crossed it without getting wet feet on the way up… We scouted a route across – it looked mean and fast, but the thing is, you don’t really know how deep it is until you try. David waded in and made good progress so we decided to all link up and go straight across the widest part of the river, rather than try the faster flowing braids. It wasn’t too bad at all, with David taking all the sting out of the current, we were soon across, no worries. David 1, Bealey 0. Another raging torrent put to the sword. Crossing rivers is fun, and challenging. It’s one of my favourite things about tramping. The feeling of exhilaration when you get across is hard to recreate in everyday life. A real buzz. But you have to know what you are doing. The hour long road walk back to Arthur’s Pass didn’t really appeal, so we set off up the river bed. Soon we were blocked by a bend in the river, so headed up to this fantastic embankment that was dead flat and took us on a very direct route back to Arthur’s Pass. We made good progress along this path and were soon back into the village, passing the police station and heading down to the road to DOC, where we had promised to drop by and report ourselves as safely out. The man from DOC seemed unsurprised to see us. “I’ve been expecting you. The police rang me to say that they had seen four trampers walking along the railway lines. They thought we might be looking for you”. Heads down, we mumbled some excuses about how dangerous the road would have been, then made a sharp exit. A hot shower and a beer beckoned strongly. The rest of the weekend in Arthur’s Pass drifted by without major incident. Kate expertly tied up some loose ends from the trip and Geoff made an appearance in the Café. Things were going well for him and Renee. It’s good to be in the mountains, whatever the weather. Even if someone does steal your book.

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