Henry, Anne and Boucher Saddles

2-3 March 2013

The scheduled 3-day trip to Pinnacle in Victoria Range failed to enthuse enough people but five of us—Chris Leaver, Yvette So, Honora Renwick, Bill Hotter and me, Kerry Moore—signed on to a 2-day substitute over Henry Saddle

Five in a Mazda Familia hatch was a squeeze but we packed in without using the roof-rack. After a 7am start from home we managed to get walking by 10:30. Stowing the car at Deer Valley camping area took about half an hour. At the first bridge at the Lewis Pass end of the St James Walkway we dropped onto the river-bed of the right branch of the Maruia River. Continuing 1km up-river we branched right, up a side-stream for a steady climb to near the head of the valley and then up through open beech forest toward a tussocky Henry Saddle.

As we descended towards the Henry River, Chris pointed out five deer fleeing upward from the five of us. Soon we were in a cluttered patch of beech gradually descending to river flats. Where the river trends north and goes through forest the going gets difficult but it then emerges to broad, grassy flats with plenty of horse tracks to follow. A herd of horses saw us coming and were looking quite concerned until they took to their heels and raced up-river where they could relax—we weren’t going to round them up.

The map shows a big grassy flat up on a terrace so we thought we’d take a look and chose to use this as a short-cut to the Anne River. It was hard work on soggy, tall grass and tussock. We dropped into the Anne Valley expecting to see the new Anne Hut. We visited the old hut site thinking there might be a directing sign. I decided the hut must be further upstream in the direction we wanted to go. Honora thought the hut was accessible to mountain bikers and should therefore be downstream further. Chris thought the track could be well up from the valley floor now that it didn’t need to visit the old hut site. She was right and we got onto it as the light was fading. We continued upstream, but no hut materialsed. Soon head-lamps came on. Where the track moves to the true left to cut off a corner and goes into trees we made camp, pitching a Spectrum fly on a nice level site. In complete darkness we cooked a simple meal of macaroni and mushroom then custard for dessert. Some custard survived till morning to make a good cereal topping. A few spots of rain threatened but not enough to stop Bill from sleeping under the trees.

On a fine morning we shook the dew off the fly and de-camped at 0930 happy in the knowledge we were already 3km up from the Henry-Anne River junction. An hour after setting off, a runner caught us up. He must have been amazed that we’d got ahead of him because he’d passed us, planning to run the whole St James, soon after we started walking the day before. He told us the new Anne Hut was well down from the old hut site. The mystery was solved.

Going down from Anne Saddle a troublesome blister acquired on the “Gardens” trip the week before was slowing Chris down. We stopped and Honora put a bandage on it. At the Boucher Stream turnoff Chris was with us but after 10 minutes as the terrain got rougher she decided to retreat and take the long way out—down the long Boyle leg of the St James walkway. Boucher Stream is not very hospitable. It made us walk on its scrubby terraces and at a gorgy spot pushed us up a steep slope into beech forest. We were relieved to get above the bush-line to easier going on a gentler slope. On the saddle at 1320m we had a welcome break by attractive tarns after a climb of 400m from the Boyle.

The beginnings of “our” branch of Foleys Creek is a steep little trench and awkward to get into. We were relieved when it became a proper stream and was reasonably navigable. Fallen trees forced us onto the steep banks at times. We noted on the map that the Foleys ridge track came to within 200m of Foleys Creek at one point but judging when to climb out of the stream is difficult. We left it a little late and hit the track where it had veered away from us. It was an easy final leg to our trip, emerging at 7pm from beech forest, directly opposite Deer Valley camping ground where our car was waiting patiently. At 7:30 we were at the Boyle Shelter where Chris was waiting. She too had reached the road at 7pm.

Yvette, who hadn’t done a weekend tramp for a year, thought I’d misrepresented the trip as a moderate one. We decided the length of the circuit and the awkward bits make it a moderate-hard. (KM)