Broken Hill

15 August 2010

Seven trampers’ hopes of escaping the Christchurch cloud were only slightly dashed when we arrived at Craigieburn cutting to find the hills still shrouded in low cloud. Ever optimistic, we were sure we would climb above it and, in order to do so as quickly as possible, we headed into the trees and scrambled straight up the hillside. Mercifully it was a short climb and we quickly emerged onto a gentler ridge where, whilst we weren’t actually in the cloud, we were still surrounded by it.

The lack of a view proved interesting in itself. With only the tips of the mountains were visible, they appeared to float on top of the clouds and, in addition, we got to see a fog bow displayed against the cloud bank behind us (a phenomenon related to a broken spectre). By the time we reached the snow the view had cleared although the cloud stayed in the valley below until early afternoon.

After lunch we headed over to the higher peak at the back. Enjoying the walk in snow and sunshine we smugly wondered if it was still cloudy back in Christchurch. From the top the plan was to head down a ridge to pick up a farm track back to the cars. At this point the three committee members in the group whipped out their crampons and headed down the snow leaving the rest of us to try the scree covered ridge (crampons weren’t mentioned in the newsletter). We mulled over this seeming conspiracy as we slowly picked our way down scree which was mostly frozen (with just a thin unfrozen loose layer to make travel interesting). Lower down the scree was deeper but with large rocks one of which set a large area of scree moving when I put my foot on it – Keith (below me) nimbly leapt out of the way. The crampon group also found the snow difficult and were surprised to reach the bottom first. At this point the tramper whose slow careful travel down the scree had slowed down the non-crampon group quickly volunteered to write the trip report (note: this method of avoiding mention may not work if the editor is on your trip).

Walking along the dirt track we had a great view of the steep rocky ridge behind cave stream - which also reminded us just how far we still had to walk. We did, however, get to enjoy the pink blush the setting sun painted on the snow covered Torlesse Range. After a 5pm afternoon tea stop, Tim and Gary went on ahead to the cars but ended up waiting to direct the group when they reached a point where they decided it would be best to leave track and cut across to the road. This was a good decision with the only obstacle a narrow but deep channel to jump. I can only report what I saw, which was Mary being helped up the bank by Keith after not quite falling in. I won’t spread the rumours that I heard, as I promised to be nice to Keith for staying with me on the scree slope. I’m sure he was just being a hero and that there’s no way he would stoop to a bit of pay-back over the crampon incident.

We got back to the cars at 6.10pm (after 8 ½ hours tramping) and got changed as darkness fell. Despite the late hour (or perhaps because of it) we did stop at Springfield with everyone opting for food with their coffee. The trip finished on a sad note as the Old West Coast rd was closed for several hours while a fatal accident was investigated. Tim and Mary followed their GPS down a maze of dirt roads with Kevin and another car following trustingly. We made it out to the West Coast road eventually but lost the other car on the way -are they still out there driving in circles or did they know their way all along?

Mary and Tim Hines, Kevin Hughes, Keith McQuillan , Ken Rapson , Gary Huish, Heather Murray (Anon)