Dingleburn Valley and the “Tramper’s Dilemma”

29 Mar-1 April 2013

“Go down with the load and back up when it’s dumped!” but what if the terrain is bluffed?

This quote cannot be attributed to a specific tramper due to their shy and sensitive nature, but it was said on the PTC Easter 2013 combined moderate to moderate-hard trip. Our trip leader, Raymond also faced a dilemma with trip planning — believe the good MetVUW and do plan A (Copland Crossing to meet Heather’s trip to Welcome Flat hot springs and share transport out) or action plan B — into the Ahuriri Conservation Park , in light of a bad Metservice forecast. It’s not easy making these decisions while holding down a busy full-time job, with the outcome impacting on your keen tramping mates, but Raymond coped well. Not only did he get the weather forecast right and chose not to do the Copland (he had to phone MetService to check on why their forecasts and models were so different), but then he combined the two groups (Copland crossing with Heather’s Welcome Flat) and we did a superb plan B trip to the Dingleburn in the Ahuriri Conservation Park. That it worked so well shows the tolerance and adaptability of our club members. However, some party members were a little less enthusiastic about sidling over “ball bearing” covered, steep slopes but they managed these very well, if only at a slower pace and with a reduced capacity to chat while doing so! It’s amazing how a trail of white jellybeans can entice some people through places they are less comfortable with.

It was a relatively early start on Good Friday. We would have been on the road earlier if the scribe knew her own street address! Gary was knocking on the door of a nearby house while the scribe was waiting outside the house 5 doors down (I’d only been living there a month!). We picked up Karen in Omarama and drove up Birchwood Road to the Ahuriri Base Camp Hut. After a car shuffle and lunch we were away. The Dingleburn Valley was our destination and we easily crossed a small pass near point 1448 and descended directly down to the Dingle. A short amble down the valley to a western tributary of the Dingle opposite the Top Dingle Hut found us a nice sheltered camping spot under the mountain beech. Dinner that night was so enticing that Geoff decided to hold off his evening stroll to the hut to check usage till after the main course. Luckily for him we saved him dessert (even the marshmallows that topped it!).

Next day, we climbed up a tributary onto the Huxley Range, admiring the view of the Hunter River, Lake Hawea and the McKerrow and Young Range—possible trips there in the future. Much to the chagrin of a number of the party, we decided not to attempt a climb of Leaning Mountain. We’d need to come back with helmets and more time, and when the scribe doesn’t have red, raw blisters! Sidling around the western side of the peak, we dropped down into the tributary draining the south side of Leaning Mountain to a pleasant camp site near the bush line.

Easter Sunday and a considerable number of chocolate eggs for breakfast saw us ready for another day’s tramping. We followed the true right of the stream down through beech forest to the Dingle Valley again. Ben Avon Hut proved a good lunch spot. The scribe chose to sit in the sun and contemplate a view of the hills, while everyone else sat in the shade by the hut. Raymond and Gary did a quick recce to see if the stream by the hut offered a convenient route up to the ridge between the Dingleburn and the Ahuriri, but the way was foiled by a gorge and a waterfall. Instead, we climbed up the true left of the stream and followed animal tracks along the 1100m contour to reach a very attractive tussock basin.

Out to the west, the weather was looking very ominous, and Raymond was anxious to press on. Sidling around a bit, then up and over another un-named pass, then it was down into the large tributary that drained into Birch Creek, near Ben Avon homestead. On the way down, Nigel showed how he copes with the boredom of downhill by donning a set of headphones to take in another chapter of a book. Interestingly, he doesn’t need this distraction for the uphill part, he just motors up in top gear leaving everyone eating his dust.

Despite the onset of evening, we pressed on down the valley to find a camping spot that we hoped was sheltered from the wind which was now becoming colder and increasing in strength. Just as well, we pushed on as the front passed over that night accompanied by a freezing wind, rain and thunder. Easter Monday, our last day, of course dawned fine and clear, and we made good time down to Birch Steam reaching the Birchwood Road at lunchtime with plenty of time to relax while Kevin and Raymond went off to repeat the car shuffle.

Trip highlights included: Laurayne treating us to a new set of earrings even flasher that those she wore on the Garden of Eden trip, further proving its ok for girls to look good in the hills. Mary dealt with the usual Aarn pack comments, retorting that Aarn packs are great on cold mornings as they keep you warn both back front and back, unlike regular packs and the skeptics had no riposte at all. Gary risked life and limb on April Fools Day by surreptitiously hiding Geoff’s ice axe in his pack. The trick back-fired, Geoff’s memory is still sharp and as punishment Gary had to carry the ice axe out to the road-end.

We were: Raymond Ford (Leader), Gary Huish, Kevin Hughes, Karen Keith, Laurayne & Nigel Devery, Geoff Spearpoint, Heather Murray, Mary McKeown & Liz Stephenson. (LS)