Discovery Stream – Sudden Valley

27-28 March

Coordinating by text message, Gary Huish, Sue Piercey and Paul Smith, from the east side of Christchurch and Yvette So, Sue Johnston and Kerry Moore from NW Chch met at Springfield and set off to Hawdon Shelter on warm nor-west day.

As we walked up the Hawdon we passed Sudden Valley Stream just 1 km from the shelter. This is where we planned to emerge the following day on our Hawdon, Discovery Stream, Sudden Valley circuit. With a variety of tracks up the wide Hawdon valley we tended to choose different paths but came together at the East Hawdon branch for a snack stop. Passing the charred piles of the old hut we arrived at Discovery Stream but those that hadn’t seen the new Hawdon Hut were keen to see the place so we all had a break at the big new hut. Back-tracking 5 minutes we headed up our stream. Gary had been there before arriving from Sudden Valley. Kerry had been up Discovery Stream on a PTC trip a few years back, taking a NW branch but was prevented from getting to a little tarn below the Polar Range by an impassable waterfall. This time we planned to go further up Discovery Stream to a marked waterfall, bypass it and climb to the ridge that overlooks Sudden Valley.

Walking up Discovery Stream is fun with lots of big boulders and many crossings to be made. Walking poles were useful but one of our team dropped a pole in the stream and was very lucky to find it. Drizzle became rain at times but it was still warm. At the 30m waterfall we walked 100m up a graveled side-gully and found a steep but useful way up into the bush. 15 minutes in the trees and we emerged well above the falls into a pleasant tussock and scree-covered basin. Avoiding the tall, damp tussock we walked up the stream which became a dry stream bed and headed up a steep, bouldery scree towards a low point on the ridge near point 1738. Unsurprisingly, Gary was first to what was now a cold, windy ridge and began looking for ways into Sudden Valley. The first option was a no-go so we tried going up the ridge to find the notch where Gary and Margot had crossed 20 years ago. This point is probably where Sven’s guide would send us. Gary tried another gully but loose rock and the steep mountain-side barred the way. The weather was now cold and drizzly and our ridge too ragged for us to go on, so we retreated.

The basin has no good tent sites but we made the best of the terrain where the stream emerged from a dry bed. One tent was pitched on a flat patch of stones in the stream bed. Two were pitched on a tussock terrace—neither site was flat. Gary fired up the MSR and in a short while we’d had a hot drink and a cheering hot chicken curry with coconut milk—most welcome in cold drizzly conditions. Skipping dessert we scurried away to the downy warmth of sleeping sacks inside minaret tents, emerging in the morning to improved weather.

Sudden Valley was forbidden to us. We headed back down-valley bypassing the 30m fall the way we’d come the day before. Gary’s biological positioning system (BPS) guided us unerringly through the woods to the tricky little bit near the 30m falls. We had a good lunch stop at Hawdon Hut then headed at a brisk pace along the quad-bike track back to the cars. Next stop Springfield, then home. Thanks to Gary for a well led exploratory trip. Gary is thinking the NW passage, avoiding the gorge, to the tarn and then onto the Polar Range could be our next approach. I’m keen. (KM)