20 - 22 October 2012
With bad weather predicted, the scheduled Korupuku Hut – Townsend Hut Arthurs Pass NP trip was switched to the Nelson Lakes area where the weather forecast was a little better.
I had sent an e-mail to the Saint Arnaud DoC HQ asking how much snow they’d had but got no timely reply. At the HQ we learned there was a lot of snow so that our planned Lake Angelus, Sunset Saddle, Hopeless Hut, Travers circuit was a no-go. We chose to do an up and back to Lake Angelus via Speargrass Flat. In fine weather we crossed the footbridge to Speargrass Flat after a 3hr bush-walk and pressed on up the track towards Lake Angelus. Soon we were out of the trees and walking alongside the upper Speargrass Stream. Above 1200m we encountered snow which became deeper as we climbed. Where the track reached Robert Ridge, snow was over a metre deep with some snow poles fully buried and invisible. The weather turned mean with wind-blasted sleet and white-out conditions. Doug’s GPS showed the way and Angelus Hut loomed through the mist. At 6pm our four settled in to join two Motueka men. Occasionally the mist thinned a little and someone exclaimed, “look, you can see the toilets”. With no firewood the hut was a refrigerator. Mattresses and sleeping bags were brought into the living room where our burners raised the temperature a few degrees. Water taps on the tanks were iced up so we had to melt snow. Doug read his electronic book and others read the magazines on hand.
No one complained of the cold overnight and in the morning we looked out to more of the same so stayed in our shelter. After lunch the weather seemed to improve so at 2pm we headed down to Speargrass Hut, taking only 2hr in good weather. We could see a tarn half-way down but never did get to see Lake Angelus. Our new hut had firewood, warmth and no snow to bother us but all bunks were taken so we knew our four would be sleeping on the floor.
Our hut-mates included young Israeli guys, a Chch couple, the Mot men, and a charming family. Our four on the floor were first up, to avoid being trodden on and by 11:30 we were back at Shelter Car Park in reasonable weather. At a coffee stop in Murchison we bumped into a car-load from the St Arnaud base-camp. A snow warning for Lewis Pass didn’t bother us. We had chains but got over the pass before any snow fell.
We were: Liz Stephenson, Joy Schroeder, Doug Woods and Kerry Moore—all happy to manage a Labour weekend trip in spite of the weather. (KM)