Williams Saddle

19 – 20 October 2013

Another classic trip for PTC, but we hadn’t done it for a while. I had been a member of the well-recorded June 1984 party that had spent a long time playing bowls on the frozen tarns, on the Sunday. And I repeated the crossing a couple of times in the late eighties to early nineties. So this trip was well remembered, albeit twenty-plus years later—well overdue for a repeat visit.

The lead-up to the weekend involved the usual hand-wringing about the weather with repeated nor’westers and rain right up to Friday. What a boon the Met Office Arthurs Pass forecast is now though, with detailed projections for morning, afternoon and evening for AP, Hawdon and Carrington. For this trip, we knew exactly what to expect and had plan B ready with only a 50-50 chance of being able to cross the river at the start.

Parking at the Mingha bend, we set off in a stiff westerly to cross two sections of the Bealey. The first one wasn’t too wide and I decided Ruth and I could cross first, then the other three. That was misjudged. We staggered out to the far bank through an unseen hole. Laurayne, Nadeine and Derek followed with the ‘stagger’ a total immersion for Laurayne during which her pole bounced off down-river. So after that, the following crossings of the Bealey, Mingha and Edwards were mostly made with a full group of five. Forty minutes later we were ready to start up the Edwards flood track. Although a bit flooded in places, it’s a nice walk up the Edwards. Crossing the East Edwards was no trouble. Edwards Hut didn’t seem any different, except for a new chimney.

Sunday morning with the river and streams all down, we were about to leave the hut when a figure appeared. It was Adrian Daly, who had spent the night on Williams Saddle. Back in January a PTC trip bumped into Adrian and Laura at Hapuku Hut, on a Mt Fyffe traverse. Where next Adrian?

My memory of the route to the saddle was to go straight up the stream until it tightens up significantly and then sidle left to above the saddle. It doesn’t tighten up any more and I forsook a sidle left to continue on up to well above the saddle. It didn’t matter as we had a good view of all the tarns as we descended. The next trick is the sidle down through the bush on the Mingha side, travelling left above the bush then picking an entry spot and lining up the stream on the far side of the Mingha below the gorge and following a compass bearing down. That all went well over the first half, except it was repeatedly easier to drop rather than sidle. Consequently, we dropped too far and found ourselves blocked by a deep gully running right to the river. On earlier trips, we would have gone over the top of the gully. It was a concern but we followed down the side of the gully and found our way easily across the stream mouth and down into the gorge. After lunch there, it was then a straightforward walk out, with the river channels now placid in sunny weather, although that last channel of the Bealey was still flowing quite fast. We were: Ruth Barratt, Laurayne Devery, Nadeine Dommisse, Derek Gane and Merv Meredith. (MM)