Brewster Hut 11- 13 Nov 2011

(Show Weekend)

“I’m miffed!” was Raymond’s comment. Fresh snow was predicted on Mt Earnslaw and according to the locals in Glenorchy, the Rees River was looking “sporty”! So six people and packs in a people transporter left town at 6:30 am on Show Day for our alternative, Brewster Hut. We had an uninspiring lunch at Makarora tea rooms, but with a little gentle persuasion the staff allowed us to leave spare luggage in their back shed.

The start of the track begins at Fantail Falls by the Haast Highway. After crossing the lovely, clear Haast River we proceeded to follow Dan, climbing steadily up through the beech forest. At the tree-line we stopped to don coats and hats against a cold wind and some light rain. Cloud and mist obscured the steep drop-off to our left as we meandered up the ridgeline track. After two hours forty minutes for the 1000m climb, we arrived at the stunning 4-year-old, red, Brewster Hut, still partly surrounded by snow. The view from the hut was obscured. Only the tussock base of the ridge to Mt Armstrong could be seen from the kitchen window, but occasionally we could see glimpses of the rock and the waterfall below the Brewster Glacier. Mt Brewster (further back) and Top Heavy a prominent peak across the valley were hidden. Hot tea and soup with the paper, cryptic crosswords and selected reading by Dan, punctuated by meaningful pauses, from D.H. Lawrence’s classic, The Virgin and the Gypsy kept us delightedly entertained. A bottle of Malbec, a superb chicken laksa curry with fresh veges and noodles finished the night perfectly.

On Saturday morning thick mist made for a slow start but eventually Raymond succeeded in moving us out the door by 10am. It was a straightforward 700m climb across patches of snow to the top of Mt Armstrong (2169m). Fortunately there was little wind and we were happy to have a leisurely lunch at the top while waiting for Mt Brewster to emerge through the occasional snow shower interspersed with sunnier spells, and to gaze down the precipitous cliffs on the Makarora side of the ridge. We began to traverse over to the Brewster Glacier, but visibility was uncertain and the snow was very soft so we re-traced our steps back down. The red hut, snow and moody views across the valley made for great photos. Finally the sun came out and we all sun-bathed on the huge deck for the rest of the afternoon, or chatted to a couple of day-trippers.

Sunday, we reluctantly left the hut and returned via the track to the Haast River. The combination of warm sunshine, absence of sandflies and clear water proved too tempting. Everyone jumped into the river for a bracing dip. Apart from a brief stop at Makaroa to collect our gear and get changed, we drove straight onto Wanaka for lunch and a chance meeting with Leo’s party, then back to Christchurch, with a couple of mandatory stops—the trip leader insisted—at the salmon farm and the Tekapo hot pools.

Thanks Raymond for all the planning, you sure picked a winner in the alternative, Brewster Hut. Mt Earnslaw is re-scheduled for February.

The Brewster bunch were: Raymond Ford, Gary Huish, Sue Johnston, Dan Pryce, Liz Stephenson and Chris Leaver. (CL)