North Opuha

30th Sept – 1st Oct 2017

Six in two cars left for Spurs Hut on the North Opuha track, not far from Fox Peak ski-field—about 3 hrs car travel. We got away at the civilised time of 8.30 Sat morn. Kerry, Dan and Lee enjoyed a Geraldine coffee stop and caught up with Raymond, Peter and Di at the Hill Top Farm café. The pleasant winding inland Canterbury roads through green pastoral farming country ended at the Fox Peak ski-field gate.

A 2½ hr valley walk on an old 4WD farm track with a few gentle ups and downs got us to Spurs Hut which is a rustic 6 bunk shelter, probably an old musterers’ hut. A hunter was there relaxing in the peace and quiet. Then we arrived. He set off late afternoon to hunt tahr that evening but saw nothing. He told us there is plenty of game on the wrong side of the fence, out of DoC territory.

We pitched our tents leaving the hut to the hunter. After a brew we took a stroll up the valley to scope out a route to the tops for the next day. The country of wide valley floors is surrounded by red tussock-covered hills with many small streams. The tops above 1500m were snow covered; the views quite panoramic. Later Di served a delicious dinner followed by an exquisite plum pudding and custard. Sat was warm and sunny. Sunday’s forecast looked ok however the temperature dropped very quickly after sundown. We retired early.

In what seemed the middle of the very frosty night, the writer deep in Disneyland, heard urgent shouting. “Everybody up, quickly now, come on!” OMG! What’s happening? Fire? flood? No, it’s Di, reverting to her climbing days habit of starting off in the dead of night by headlamp! 6 o’clock! We staggered up, had a bit of a wash, a tepid coffee and, bleary eyed, headed off to the spur we had scoped the day before.

It was rough climbing at first, through tussock, speargrass and matagouri. Lee accompanied us for the first hour or so then retreated back to camp to finish The Press crossword, guard the camp and relax. Another hour and we broke through the scrub to rocky slopes then further on, snow. The weather was holding. Crampons on, we started up firm snow slopes towards a 2001m peak. Raymond spotted two tahr high up on a snow ridge. They were quickly gone, leaping into space over the other side of the ridge. At about 1800m we stopped for lunch in cool but clear conditions and wondered if we had time to push on to the 2001m point.

Cloud descended and made up our minds for us. We started back down, staying close together in 50m visibility. The weather cleared and we enjoyed glissading and bum-sliding down the snow slopes. Kerry skilfully “boot skied”. A couple of hours later with sore knees we were back in camp gasping for a brew after our 7 hr excursion. Three and a bit hours later we were back at the cars, changed and off to find coffee and cake. Our relaxed drive home took us through tiny country enclaves such as Cave and Albury as we enjoyed the scenery of South Canterbury before stopping at Pleasant Point, the home of the famous Denheath custard squares. Dinner at the local pub was very nice, but alas the Denheath Bakery was closed.

Thanks Di for a very enjoyable trip in a part of Canty I haven’t seen much of.

We were: Diane Mellish, Raymond Ford, Peter Umbers, Kerry Moore, Lee Varty, Dan Pryce (DP)