On Friday 5th August we met at Wellington railway station with heavy rain showers passing overhead. There were two trips joined in one minibus for the weekend away. Ours was the Upper Travers, arranged by Mike Moore, a three-day excursion to Nelson Lakes National Park. The plan was to take the water taxi from St Arnaud to the southern end of Lake Rotoiti before tramping along the Travers River Valley to the Upper Travers Hut. We would stay here for the night, explore the valley head and then head on to Hopeless Hut for the second night.
With the prevailing avalanche conditions at Level 4 (of 5) mid week and the closure of the ‘fall back option’ of John Tait Hut. With the unknown factor of two newbies on the trip (Maddie and myself), Mike decided that it was best to amend the weekend route for a safer option.
The two groups boarded the Bluebridge ferry and set sail for Picton with the club minibus in pole position on the ferry to make it first off the ferry. We stayed in the backpacker’s hostel in Picton on Friday night before awaking to more rain laden skies and high winds. With hope for better weather in the Nelson Lakes we set off for the 90-minute drive to St Arnaud at the northern end of Lake Rotoiti.
At St Arnaud we split into our groups, with the Upper Travers group choosing to circumnavigate Lake Rotoiti clockwise with a venture up the valley and the other group tramping around the Lake anticlockwise. To say the weather was cool in St Arnaud would be an understatement but intent on walking in his shorts, Mike directed us to the start of the tramp. The rest of our group (Elaina, Duncan, Maddie and myself) were soon enjoying a brisk pace, warming up quickly up due to the shelter of the trees. Duncan set a good pace for the rest of us to follow. Those of us who hadn’t embraced the ‘be bold, start cold’ philosophy were soon shedding layers, the shorts seemed somewhat more of a sensible choice than they had at the start of the day. There were stunning views of the surrounding mountains for us to enjoy.
A three-hour tramp brought us to Lakehead Hut at about 12.45, this was to be our lunch stop and lodgings for the evening. We fired up the Jetboil to have our first proper brew of the weekend and much to the delight of all in the group the British contingent had packed a month’s worth of genuine Yorkshire Tea.
Mike was keen to set out our beds for the evening to ensure a good night sleep for all. Connotations between us and the German beach towel philosophy were mentioned. After lightening our loads and with Mike happy to have secured his favoured spot in the hut, we continued our tramp towards the swing bridge across the Travers River. Our leader set us a target of getting to the bridge in 90 minutes which we achieved and crossed the bridge one at a time. We then continued tramping in a southerly direction for another 40 minutes along the side of the Travers River. Hoping to reach the junction for the Hopeless Valley, we encountered our first fields of snow, continuing over variable terrain. At 15.40 we turned and headed back to the hut with the aim of being there just before sunset.
We arrived back to a warm hut but there was no sign of the other group. We had another brew and contemplated the merits of a good cup of Yorkshire Tea. There was still no sign of the other group so we decided it best to get cooking our evening meal of couscous with chorizo. Maddie brought dessert of homemade brownie to finish which was as tasty as it was generously portioned. Elaina needed extra time and tea to finish hers although she ultimately had to accept defeat by brownie and added it to her breakfast.
Breakfast was a sight to behold with Mike treating us to hash browns, scrambled eggs, bacon and smoked salmon (great effort Mike!).
We set off towards the Travers swing bridge in somewhat of a rush it appears, blissfully unaware that two of us had left some of our kit behind. My thanks to Grant for kindly giving my Jetboil a lift from the hut to St Arnaud on Sunday. We crossed the bridge before turning north to the beautifully situated Coldwater Hut for our morning snack and a short detour to the partially frozen Whisky Falls. We had a quick and somewhat chilly lunch stop at the Whisky Falls jetty before continuing on to the pick up point at the road end car park.
We then headed back to Picton for refreshments and boarded to ferry for the return ferry crossing filled with chatter, a mammoth session of Monopoly Deal and more good food to boot.