Pelorus River, Bryant Range

27 Dec 2010 – 1 Jan 2011

The trip blurb sent out to the thirteen folk on the trip list included the following little gem of optimism – “this area tends to be dry with less rainfall at this time of year, which is why we are tramping in this area”. In light of what happened, one could be forgiven for wondering what might happen during the wet season…

Monday 27 Dec 2010

The plan was for all to assemble an hour’s walk up the Pelorus River track from the Maungatapu Road end car-park. The destination for the evening was the Emerald Pool picnic site overlooking the tranquil waters of the Pelorus River where we planned to camp the night there and head off next morning. Gary and Margot distributed group gear and arranged, prior to leaving Chch, who was bringing group meals. Travel arrangements were left for individuals to finalise as we were coming from a variety of locations. And so we arrived at the car park in dribs and drabs over the course of the day and ambled along the track to rendezvous at Emerald Pools. With a light rain falling by evening, there was a note on the picnic table for the later arrivals to say that the Bonsells and the Wilders had carried on to the Captain Creek Hut for the night. That left the choicest tents sites for the rest of us—overlooking the Pelorus River some 5m below us and seemingly far away. However, as the night progressed the rain continued to fall.

Tuesday 28 Dec 2010

Somewhere around 6am, after hearing some feverish activity in the tents below us, I heard Gary approach our tent and inquire “Are we up yet?” The response of, “No . . . should we be?” was countered with something about the river lapping at the tents next door. This induced a somewhat less than leisurely departure from the sleeping bags and hasty packing of gear in the rain as well as moving the tents out of the river now flowing along the track. Initially we attempted to head back to the car park to await a drop in the river, but a short distance back, we found a side stream too hazardous to cross, so decided to head up the track a short distance away from the river and pitch the tents again. The rest of the morning was spent sheltering from the rain and making sorties down the track to check on the river level. It was a salutary reminder of how quickly rivers can rise and the power of the water as we watched logs and other debris racing past in the dirty perilous Pelorus. Sue P had cut her hand in the exodus from the campsite and with the constant rain was unable to get her hand dry enough for a bandage to stay in place or stop it bleeding. After transferring their group food to the rest of us, Sue and Mark headed back towards the road-end with the intention of getting some medical attention. By late morning, the rain had eased off, so the remaining 11 packed the tents up again and headed up the track towards the 6-bunk Captain Creek Hut, 3 hours away, to rendezvous with the advance party. Amid light showers and sunny intervals, we dried as much gear as we could and settled down to a comfortable night in or around the hut.

Wednesday 29 Dec 2010

The nearby Captain Creek had been too high to cross but with the new day it had dropped to a level we were happy with. We had 2 options available. Sticking to the original schedule and catching up on what we didn’t cover on Tuesday saw us looking at a 10-hour day to get to the 8-bunk Browning Hut. There seemed to be a marked reluctance to follow this path when the second option of following the river to the 6-bunk Middy Hut and then cutting up another track direct to Rocks Hut was proposed. As well as being a shorter walk, it gave us the option to do a day-trip from Rocks Hut to Totara Saddle the following day. After a pleasant lunch in the sun beside the Pelorus River at Middy Hut, we climbed up the seemingly endless uphill spur to arrive at the deserted 16-bunk Rocks Hut, which we proceeded to make look lived in. With clear, sunny weather likely to remain for the next day or more, there were murmurings of a rest day ahead and strangely enough, no one seemed to want to move on. And so we didn’t. A family of 5 arrived to spend the night as well as some day-walkers passing through on their way back to Nelson.

Thursday 30 Dec 2010

For some, Sue W’s mobile phone alarm of “Cock-a doodle-do” repeated 18 times at 6:15am ushered in the new day. For those of us outside the hut in tents (including Sue W), the morning dawned somewhat later. Much discussion ensued on how this technological wonder might be silenced or where it might be placed to hinder its ability to wake all and sundry. It may have been a rest day, but leader Gary was not to be thwarted in his mission to keep us all moving. A short walk back along the track towards Totara Saddle was undertaken to seek out the rock outcrops shown on the map. We must have missed them as we were well past the short walk stage. After some snacking and chatting, Gary and Kristie carried on a bit more. The rest of us ambled back to the hut, eager to enjoy the rest of the day doing minor excursions—some getting as far as Coppermine Saddle for a peek at tomorrow’s territory. New arrivals at the hut for the night gave the opportunity for the card sharps in the group to practice during the evening.

Friday 31 Dec 2010

The shrill call of the phone rooster once again broke the early morning calm for the hut dwellers. Further discussion ensued on the rooster’s future. With an open-ended destination for New Year’s Eve, we departed Rocks Hut in brilliantly fine weather towards Dun Saddle before heading up the side of Dun Mountain. As we departed Dun Saddle, a helicopter was sighted back towards Rocks Hut landing the first of two loads of people and gear—New Years Eve party goers, perhaps. The 360-degree view from Dun Mountain was stunning with Nelson City and Tasman Bay below, the Sounds and various hills in other directions. It also gave the opportunity for cell phones to get switched on for updates on the outside world. Dropping down off the open tops of Dun Mountain and then ascending the bush-clad Little Twin took till lunchtime, after which, we carried on through scrubby vegetation, where we met two walkers who seemed rather unimpressed with Dew Lakes, our potential destination for the night. After walking past the turn-off to the tarns, we retraced our steps a short distance to find the DoC sign in the first tarn. Obviously somebody didn’t think much of Dew Lakes. We placed the sign in its proper place and proceeded to look round the area for a campsite. There was quite a large area beyond the tarns available. Tents were scattered around to take advantage of the best ground and possibly get away from any early morning mobile rooster calls. Firewood was gathered for an evening bonfire, and people found shelter from the sun while dinner was prepared. A colourful evening sky marked the end of 2010, as did the bonfire, which lasted till around 11pm before it was extinguished as people drifted off for the night. Special mention should go to Helen, who showed great pyromaniac tendencies in stoking the bonfire when it showed any sign of lessening.

Saturday 1 Jan 2011

The New Year dawned misty and drizzly. Breakfast was had and gear packed away before heading up and over Maungatapu and along a bush-covered track towards Maungatapu Saddle, where power pylons and a very rough 4WD track provided evidence of civilisation ahead. This could have been a possible option for camping the previous night, but the camping area was inferior, being a small grassy area a short distance down the road, so a good choice Gary, to camp at Dew Lakes instead. A 2-hour walk down the road saw us back at the road-end where the cars were parked. The heavy rain at the beginning of the trip had brought down some slips and blocked the road, but by the time we got out, it had been cleared up. We had no problems getting back out to the Pelorus Bridge café, where we indulged in a spot of eating before all going our separate ways. A great trip, with some memorable, wet and dry weather as well as excellent catering along the way.

Postscript: Sue and Mark P had a tough time walking out to their car. Mark was briefly swept off his feet by the third side-stream they encountered but was rescued by Sue, who lost her walking pole in the process. They camped overnight and managed to reach their car the next day, but then had to contend with slips on the road before they reached medical assistance in Nelson. Antibiotics and dressings allowed Sue’s hand to heal and Nelson proved to be a gloriously sunny place to recuperate.

Participants were: Margot and Gary Huish, Helen Harkness, Kristi DuBois, Sue and Stan Wilder, Sue and Mark Piercey, Mary Jane and Brian Bonsell, Carolyn Catt, Sue Britain and Mike Bourke. P SB & MB