Barker Hut with the “PACK-WEIGHT POLICE”

Labour Weekend 2016

The trip started very normally for me and seemed so promising: a Friday night walk in to Carrington hut with the last of the southerly showers greying out the tops intermittently. While I don’t like to see Canada geese fouling our backcountry areas, I could not help but admire a beautiful nest Liz almost tripped over in a shallow scrape in the river gravels. Five large speckled brownish eggs were encircled by an exquisite fluffy ring of white down feathers, then an outer border of twigs. How does that all stay in place when the nor’wester blows? Our torches were needed for the last section of travel as darkness overtook us.

Morning dawned clear and calm and we were soon around the corner and heading up the White. About an hour in, to my dismay, my energy was running very low and despite the flat, easy riverbed travel and perfect weather, I was struggling. It was not long before I needed to confess to the others and ask for support, a very humbling and unfamiliar experience for me. I have always been on the other end of that dynamic. It turns out that a gastro upset form the previous week was making a comeback and totally zeroing my energy. Anyway, as with many challenges in my life, I now bless the episode for the learning and connectedness to others it brought. My companions were so supportive and understanding, carrying some of my load, waiting lots, not looking too uncomfortable when I needed to cry with frustration at the top of a steep incline, and most importantly speaking up. It was maybe soon after the tears when one of them gently mentioned my pack was about twice as heavy as Liz’s. The “pack-weight police” had been secretly patrolling at Carrington Hut that morning!! Though rather embarrassed about this new information, given the longevity of my tramping and climbing experience, I decided to get curious and ask the police lots of questions about what was in their packs.

Liz draining the whisky from her boots after crossing Whisky Falls Creek

Understandings gleaned from my inquisition now mean 1. I have found a cunning way of getting enough river water out of my climbing boot linings overnight to leave the extra river-crossing footwear behind. 2. I weigh all food, especially snacks, using Geoff’s weight guides from the Moir’s Guide book. 3. I will be retiring my heavy old ice-axe and carrying a modern lightweight one. 4. I know that at any age and level of experience there is always more to learn, and PTC is a great environment for that to happen. 5. I figure that the older I get, the lighter my load will need to be! I am pleased to report that a couple of weeks later my load was down to 9.8 kg (pre party gear) for a weekend trip. Way to go!

Luckily the slowness of the trip up to Barker hut did not spoil the trip for others. The snow was too soft for afternoon climbing anyway so we had a delicious Saturday afternoon lolling around the hut environs sunbathing, eating, chatting, sleeping and enjoying the gorgeous views. Gary and Aarn climbed most of the way up Mt Harper early Sunday morning in perfect conditions. Liz and I had a very leisurely trip down valley (I was still quite unwell) with a swim on the way, the others catching up in time for a second dip in a beautiful river pool. And we enjoyed the company (and banana cake!) of a very interesting Sri Lankan woman aerospace engineer back at Carrington. We were able to pass on some enthusiastically received river crossing skills to her next day returning to the cars and explain the advantages of joining our club.

Thanks team for a great trip. We were Diane ( of the heavy pack), Aarn, Liz and Gary (the light pack brigade).