Not Amphitheatre Creek’

27-28 Aug 2011

I was a bit worried about the amount of snow on the saddles but the weather all week had been warm and sunny and from the webcam pics and info on Softrock it looked as if a lot of the snow had gone. Also, the weather forecast was great and avalanche risk for the area considered low. The planned route was to park the cars at Cora Lynn, go up to Lagoon saddle, off track up the spur and along the ridge to Mid Hill and to Bealey Saddle, from there, down Amphitheatre Creek to the Avoca, camping overnight, then north up the Avoca to Galilee Creek, up to Jordan Saddle and out down Bealey Spur. This sounded relatively ambitious at this time of year with short days and snow but being an optimist I decided to go for it. There seemed to be relatively little snow on the hills on the drive there, and up through the bush toward Mt Bruce was clear but once we got onto the Mt Bruce sidle track to Lagoon Saddle the situation changed rapidly. Every gully was full of very soft snow and unstable snow bridges. The creeks were small and manageable with care, so we carried on. We finally got to the highest point on the track by lunchtime and sat on a board walk where the snow had melted to have lunch in the warm sunshine. Our boots started to dry and our feet thawed out – lovely! By now we realised that the planned circuit was out of the question and we settled on Lagoon Saddle Hut for our destination. We thought at that point that we would probably get there mid-afternoon but we hadn’t allowed for the incredibly deep, soft snow once we started descending into the trees. Many windfalls and deep snow over the fallen trees made for slow progress. We took turns to lead and a rule was made that the leader was allowed to swear as often as needed to get the job done. It helped! We eventually got to the A-frame shelter at 4.30pm. We then decided to attempt to get to the little hut on the other side of the creek as it was a bit larger and had 2 bunks but the 100m or so took us another 40 minutes and then we had to dig our way into the hut using the billy lid and ice axes. The shovel was inside the hut of course and the door opened outwards! It was here that Tim narrowly avoided a rather personal surgical procedure involving Chris and her ice axe! Both Tim and Keith looked a bit pale as they considered the near miss, so they got the billy on for tea while Chris collected more water from the creek and I made some rather fine steps and dug out the long-drop door! The night was quiet with no more snow and in the morning we were able to retrace our steps back down to Cora Lynn. The going was still hard but much easier than on the way in as the snow had frozen overnight and we weren’t falling into the snow as much, though later in the morning it started to soften. We got back to the cars at 2pm, had a nice coffee stop at “The Shack” in Springfield and were back in Christchurch by 5pm.

The intrepid group was Keith McQuillan, Chris Leaver, Tim and Mary Hines. (MH)