Christmas Tramp: Lewis Pass to Nelson Lakes

image004New Years Day 2010 a bunch of keen yet slightly crazy trampers jump onto the interislander on a 9 day excursion taking them deep into the heart of the Southern Alps going from Lewis Pass up to Nelson Lakes. The initial plan is to head over three alpine passes Three tarns pass, Thomson Saddle and Waiau but will find out in due course that that won’t be possible due to the weather.

January 2 dawns somewhat wet, in which is a precursor for at least half of the trip by which I mean a substance that we shall call liquid sunshine. We pack up our tents and get dropped off at Lewis Pass by those friendly folks at Nelson Lakes Shuttles. Destination for today will hopefully be Ada Pass hut, however by the time we get to Cannibal Gorge hut it is lunchtime so we take stock and decide what to do for the remainder of the day. Tony lights a fire so we can dry out our gear and in due course it is decided to stay here for the night, as the weather forecast for the next few days is very dodgy as well. Tonight’s’ dinner is a beef stroganoff cooked by yours truly and devoured heartily by everyone involved, and roundly finished off with a yummy custard.

The following morning, yes you guessed it dawns again incredibly wet so we do the massive undertaking to get to Ada Pass Hut which takes a whopping 1 hour to get to, yes you read correctly one hour and we all pile into the hut in a big exhausted heap. Tonight’s dinner was a pasta dish with salami and other goodies, and incidentally the 2nd and last fresh meal for the trip, with the remainders being joy of joys scrumptious dehydrated meals.

January 4 dawns less wet and a brighter day as well, finally come the sighs of delight.This will hopefully be our first pass of the trip although we are a little behind schedule due to the past few wet days. However before you know it the weather starts packing in again and a collective groan emants from the masses. But this time it is sleet and hail so no joy. Also, Melissa ends up becomingslightly hypothermic so the collective decision is made and we all head back to the hut, where we will spend an extra night after much discussion of whether or not we should head onto Christopher hut. Thereby we have now changed our plan.

January 5 dawns with what’s this?  A big shiny orb thing in the sky, and we all start worshipping the warmth that it seems to emit. We then cross the Ada River, before heading up the Waiau Valley and camp roughly one hour below Caroline Creek biv. Today was river flats travel so not much really in the way of scenery till we get nearer towards our campsite and I think I forgot the tent pegs while drying out the tent so run back to lunch site and double check but can’t find them until Melissa tells me she put them in the poles bag and so I didn’t have to run back and exert myself. Damn wasting all that needless energy.Tonight’s dinner was a dehy chicken curry and marshmallows singed in the fire for dessert.

January 6 greets us with another fine and sunny day and we have brekkie and pack up our campsite. Check out Caroline Biv (sweet little spot) before strolling further up the valley and find that the Matagauri is not as bad as some others were making it out to be. We end up having a little bush bash before having lunch and start our climb towards the Waiau Pass and first proper ascent of the trip (yay a hill). We now know that we are getting closer to our goal as we are right on the border with Nelson lakes National Park. I have got to say I like this climb, as there is a decent rock scramble towards the top and an even better view down over Lewis Pass and then Lake Constance and the Sabine Valley on the Nelson Lakes side. It was an absolute grovel around the lakefront and we were relieved when we reached Blue Lake hut after a massive 13-hour day.

January 7 we are greeted once again with very wet weather and so it is only a two hour day down to West Sabine Hut. So not much to report on as it is pretty much head down and go for it to get to the hut. Dry out gear, have dinner etc etc. Find only 2 other people in hut tonight so we spread out quite extensively as we are probably sick of each others’ faces by now or more so the fact that we have all this extra room to enjoy.

January 8 the rain has eased off and starts clearing as the day progresses. So once again it is a river valley day. We thenend up having lunch at Sabine hut, and find that the jetty is literally almost under water due to the sheer volume of water that has been coming down the rivers over the past few days, and seems not to have dropped due to lack of settled weather. From here on in it’s all uphill to Spear Grass Hill.

January 9 dawns fine again and walk out final two hours from Spear Grass Hut to the road end at Mt Robert Car Park. However we have to walk into St Arnaud township where we have a lunch at a Café (how swanky is that), only to find myself desensitised to coffee after all this time away in the bush and would probably have to have another just to get used to the taste again. All of us bar Tony (as he has a few other tramping trips to do over the next few weeks) have dinner at the pub and stay at the YHA for the night plus shower before taking the ferry back to Wellington the following day and another week of holidays (for some of us) before the daily life of grind begins again.

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