Havelock River Foray

29 Jan – 1 Feb 2013

A long spell of warm settled weather lured David and I to Mesopotamia Station and beyond to explore a valley the club seems to avoid. This was a Tuesday to Friday getaway. We could have saved hours of walking by starting at Erewhon but that would have meant crossing the voluminous Clyde.

As it was even the Havelock was carrying a large volume and we were forced to climb at one point where the full flow was hard up against a bluff. We parked the car only a little past the Bush Stream, Te Aroha car park, to begin our long walk. We passed Growler Hut unseen and well left of our route. It’s opposite Freezing Point which was about 25 degrees shy of the day’s temperature. The weather was too good and shade hard to find but in early afternoon we had a siesta under matagouri bushes then set off for Carneys Creek. We already knew not to look for Finlay Face Hut as it had been erased by an avalanche. We considered camping but pressed on for Mistake Flats Hut, arriving there hot and tired in dim light 14 hours after leaving the car.

On Wednesday we settled for an easy, flat trip up Forbes River to the biv—an ideal walk allowing us to recover from the long previous day. David had two cameras and found lots to shoot. I carried my camera around my neck for the whole trip and was nearly as snap-happy as David. Back at Mistake Flats Hut we lazed then had an early dinner and headed up-river for St Winifred Hut in the cool of the evening.

The Havelock needed to be crossed twice and with the snow-melt still in high gear we had to choose crossing points with care. Arriving at the hut we were surprised to find the light on and someone in residence. By the door was a small inflated boat which the owner called a pack-raft. He, Forrest McCarthy, had walked from Scone Hut on Westland’s Perth River, over Dennistoun Pass and down Eric Stream. Rather than our long trudge back down-river, he planned to cruise down on his pack-raft. We were green with envy. We were hoping for the river to drop, he wanted full flow to whisk him down to Peel Forest where he’d hitch a ride to Chch.

In the morning David and I woke to the aroma of billy coffee as the rafter prepared to set sail. We saw him off in his little craft and then crossed Eric Stream to visit ancient Agony Island Biv where we switched to day-tripper mode and headed up-river to Veil Stream. A sign in huts warned that Veil Biv was being undermined by the river and had been removed so we knew not to look for it. A few hundred metres above the biv site we encountered a large snow bridge. To get a view of the valley-end we climbed above the obstacle, took photos and headed back to Mistake Flat Hut for another night. We could have taken two days to head down to the car but with a NW wind picking up strength and luck in finding useful cattle and vehicle tracks we made good time and pushed on the whole distance—about 28km from Mistake Flats to the car.

Neither of us will rush back to this valley. It’s good enough scenically with well-spaced huts but without a serious 4WD visitors will find access arduous. The nearby Lawrence is a better bet. Mind you, if you take a pack raft it’s just a one-way walk. To learn more about this new form of transport, do an internet search on Forrest McCarthy and pack raft.

We were: David Ramm and Kerry Moore. (KM)

Mistake Flat Hut

Cloudy Peak 2403m from near Freezing Point

Upper Havelock River