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Normal Topic Tramping Report (Read 1246 times)
footsore
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Tramping Report
Jun 17th, 2018 at 4:21pm
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A couple of weeks back my brother, Gary, and I had a trip in Arthur's Pass following the Deception River up to the hut and next day crossing over Goat Pass and descending down the Mingha River back to the highway. This is the same route the Speights Coast to Coast competitors follow on the mountain run section. It starts with a bridged crossing of the Otira River and a short section of track through the podocarp forest.



  To my Canterbury beech forest accustomed eyes the bush on the Coast always seems wildly diverse.

Before long the track emerges out onto the riverbed which was heavily frozen with a frost that looked like it had been there for days. The heavy frost really created the impression of a snowscape beautiful but a real hindrance to any attempt to travel at speed we found ourselves skating about and relying on our trekking pole to ensure we remained upright.



Heavily frosted riverbed

The river soon narrows and becomes quite gorgy and it only sees very limited sun at this time of year. Open sand and shingle gave way to a boulder strewn bed.  With a steep sided narrow valley, travel inevitably involves multiple river crossings as one side or the other bluffs out. The water was crazy cold just drinking a mouthful gave me an ‘ice cream headache’ and crossing the stream, thigh high in places, resulted in a whole other level of shock and awe! The crossings were all taken cautiously as many of those rocks that weren’t glazed in ice were slick with slime. We came close to a baptism a number of times. As long as we kept on walking after the fords we soon warmed up but with no sun in the valley there was absolutely no joy in stopping.

As we progressed up the valley the steeper it became with a resultantly more rapid water flow. The noise of the river amplified and become poundingly intrusive. Where the flow cascaded down to a deep pool a booming bass [just like what emanates from car stereos of some of you young hoods] added to the general roar.



Gary river crossing

The smell of sulphur at one point indicated the presence of a thermal spring but we couldn’t find a hot pool anywhere. I guess it was flowing directly into the icy stream which would have quickly overwhelmed it temperature-wise.                                                                                  Sad….cos we could have done with a warm bath after a couple of hours repeatedly wading the frigid, cuss word inducing waters of our frosted, sunless valley!

By late morning we were relieved to see the sun peeking over the range to the east and it’s light beginning to creep down the opposite slope towards us. When the rays finally found to us in the valley bottom we called a snack halt so we could sit in it’s warmth for a while – I can tell you it was much appreciated.

We continued on with the boost that a bit of food and a touch of sun provides. Three hours in, over lunch, we mulled over the fact that the Coast to Coast racers would by now have topped the pass and the front runners would be out at the highway that was still a day and a half away for us elderly, blundering, aching trampers. Still we were carrying heavier loads and were getting the time to enjoy the sights and experience more than they would.                                                                                Besides “back in our day we could have given those fit son-of-a-guns a run for their money” -Yeah nah……we didn’t believe this assertion any more than you guys do, but we can talk up a good game!!

Soon after lunch Gary and I ended up losing each other. I was in the lead by maybe 15 metres and broke out back to the riverbed after a section of bush travel. I paused here so Gary could catch me up I waited a couple of minutes -no Gary “hmmm …maybe he’s stop to pee’’. Five minutes ‘’hmmm… I’d better back track to find him’’. Climbing back up through the bush I saw what had happened. Gary’s tracks revealed he had followed an alternative trail that remained in the bush not realising that I’d dropped down. Following him I soon caught up as he’d stopped when he’d reached a river crossing where it was obvious that I hadn’t been through. Inadvertently separated in the bush it’s so easily done, but we really should be more careful.



Upper Deception Hut

About an hour before we reached the hut the sun disappeared behind the hills again and we started coming across patches of snow. The Upper Deception Hut was our goal for the day and it was a welcome sight with its promise of shelter, warmth, food and rest.  Gary didn’t waste much time before coaxing a pile of kindling into flame while I got a hot brew together.


Tending the fire

There was no one at the hut, but evidence was soon found we were sharing it with a rat or two. Their droppings decorated the floor, the bunks and the benches. We have both had rat issues in our respective homes over recent years and are not at all fond of the creatures, so Gary set about finding and blocking all the rodent friendly holes around the place. In doing so he discovered a trap with a deceased, but thankfully not too pongy, rodent in it. With the body disposed of and the holes blocked we relaxed a little.


      
Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we are not a couple of very staunch and fearless individuals, but I’ve gotta tell you this….   With the hut now semi secure we were kicking back with our cuppas, exchanging rat orientated horror stories, when Gary somehow and unknown to him caused a length of timber that was leaning against the wall to fall with a hell of an echoing clap. Well, we both jumped a good six inches, spilling our tea in the process. We fell about laughing at ourselves with a tale soon concocted, centred around a huge rat wielding a piece of 4 by 2, trying to force it’s way into our sanctuary.                                                                                                                                        Now if this doesn’t seem quite as funny to you reading this as it did to us you need to understand our sense of humour had been enhanced by the Jim Beam brand of sweetener we had splashed into our cuppas. The rest of the evening, thankfully, passed relatively peacefully and fully rodent free.



We were away just after first light next morning, with the route continuing up the Deception with all it’s associated river crossings. If we thought we experienced winter yesterday then we were in for an eye opener today. As we worked our way up, snow cover became the rule rather than the exception and some of the smaller streams and even the waterfalls were frozen solid.





The bush canopy became stunted and I started noticing Grass Trees which always means you are nearing bushline. Eventually we emerged into broken scrub. Negotiating one of these patches of Leatherwood I once again proved what an amazingly skilled hunter I am, managing to stalk up to within 20m of a feeding hind and it’s youngster.                                                                                                                                         OK, OK …what happened was I popped up over the lip of the terrace they were on and they immediately clocked me and took off before I was even aware of their presence. A very brief encounter, but a bit of a buzz none-the-less.





Neinei or Grass Tree

The pass is not particularly challenging just a short climb up a rocky drainage. We stopped in at Goat Pass Hut for a break. The fact that this hut has no fireplace had put us off staying here last night and with the amount of snow about it was apparent we had made the right decision.





The descent into the Mingha from the pass was the most spectacular part of the journey as this is where the bulk of the snow lay. A solid blanket of the stuff went right down to bushline and was visible in all the open stream beds and clearings beyond. We got a bit camera happy during this section.





Ice Needles radiating out from frosted snow.

As we proceeded the sky was darkening noticeably and the possibility of rain became increasingly likely. In the bush it was really icy and the steep descents into the side streams in particular took a lot of care. Gary was leading now and I paused at the top of a steep section of track to let him descend without the risk of me knocking any rocks down on him. Once he was down I started out -the process of negotiating a way down the 15 metre bank with it’s loose stones, ice and slippery roots took all my attention. I was relieved to get to the bottom fully intact and upright. I was a little surprised to find Gary had moved off without waiting but I reasoned that he was probably keen to get to the big river crossing at the end before the threatening rain made this too risky.

Now while Gary is a few years younger than me, lately I’ve been a bit more active in the backcountry and considered myself a bit more pack fit than my brother.  But try as I might I couldn’t catch up or even gain a glimpse of him. I sped up for a period but eventually dialed back my burst of speed  to my normal rate. I was thinking pretty dark thoughts about little brother’s common sense. Why the hell didn’t he pause so we could walk out together, after all it would be pretty easy in these conditions for one of us to take a spill and as a consequence have to hobble out at half speed. And if he was worried about the river crossing, we were near enough that even if it did start to pour down we would make the river before it could rise too much. The two of us losing contact with each other twice in two days was pretty sloppy and not characteristic of our usual caution.





I could occasionally see fresh boot prints in the now decreasing patches of snow, but as time went on I start developing doubts he was still ahead. Maybe he’d waited for me at some point but we’d missed one another somehow. I decided to keep going until I cleared the patch of scrub that was just ahead of me now. From here the river bed opened up and I could see hundreds of metres ahead and Gary wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
Sh*t is he waiting for me miles back?.. has he twisted an ankle or taken a fall and is limping out in pain? I turn back, not panicking, but certainly concerned and struggling to figure out what the hell had happened. It was a huge relief when 10 minutes later I rounded a corner to see him collecting water from the river.  Gary explained that right back at the steep bank he had exited off the track to relieve himself, thinking I’d seen him go –but I hadn’t. As I continued up the track he had been following not far behind me. Then I speed up [trying in my mind to catch him] and he’d fallen behind. So as I was wondering why he wasn’t stopping so we could reunite he was wondering why I was being such a snob.

Both somewhat relieved, we managed to keep together for the last 30 minutes of the route –“outstanding, lads!” -and crossed the Bealey River, the final hurdle, that turned out to be a lot tamer than we had expected.

It had been a grand trip with the fine weather, wintery scenery and more than a few laughs and a couple of brief periods of self inflicted drama. We celebrated our success with a pie and a beer in the all too cosy pub before driving back to delights of real life.


  
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jwingill
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #1 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 4:44pm
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Tooo cold.  Thanks for posting, did several visits to the deception many years ago.
  
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #2 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 4:55pm
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real cool story
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #3 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 5:11pm
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Well done getting out there at this time of year
  
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #4 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 6:27pm
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A great report. Neat photos too. Well done  Wink
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #5 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 7:58pm
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What a neat "out there doing it" trip..... nothing but praise for you guys  Cool
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #6 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 8:31pm
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Nice, looks cold and fresh, thanks for posting  Cool
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #7 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 8:38pm
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What an adventure. Good write up. Looks too cold for me.
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #8 - Jun 17th, 2018 at 9:41pm
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far too cold for this Kiwi.... thanks for sharing.
  
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #9 - Jun 18th, 2018 at 10:44am
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Nice write up and photos,good hunting on the big rat.
Too bloody cold for me. Cheesy Cheesy
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #10 - Jun 18th, 2018 at 5:17pm
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Thanks Footsore, I enjoyed that. I've run that track many times in training and during the event, still my favourite mountain run anywhere.
  

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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #11 - Jun 20th, 2018 at 3:14pm
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Did the C2C a couple of times when a 40 something youngster........February mate...no icicles then !! Grin
  
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #12 - Jun 22nd, 2018 at 9:07pm
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Really enjoyed that and cool photos  Cool Cool
  
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #13 - Jun 23rd, 2018 at 6:18am
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Rats, Deer and then Cat and Mouse with Gary. Sounds like a classic trip. One that you will be able to argue about the finer details of whose fault it was that you got separated at family events.  Cool
  
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Re: Tramping Report
Reply #14 - Jun 23rd, 2018 at 7:47am
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Deer hunter Duck Shooter wrote on Jun 23rd, 2018 at 6:18am:
Rats, Deer and then Cat and Mouse with Gary. Sounds like a classic trip. One that you will be able to argue about the finer details of whose fault it was that you got separated at family events.  Cool


Ha Ha Ha  -If I'm writing the story then it sure as hell won't be my fault!
  
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