Mt Saxton

16- 20 November 2018 (Show Weekend)

Five of us went off on this adventure, which was exploring new territory for all except me. Mt Saxton, 2043m, is a peak up the northern end of Molesworth Station in Marlborough.

I obtained permission from DOC in Renwick to leave the main tramping trails, and they liaise with the station manager about who is around the station. On previous trips up the Saxton River, I encountered large numbers of cattle in the valley, but this time we had it all to ourselves which was great. And with just a small amount of snow on the tops, it was a great time of year to visit.

We did the land custodians a big favour by removing a large number of wilding pines as we came across them. It was distressing to see from the high ridges that there are large mature pine colonies in the Leatham catchment. The seed from these is borne by NW winds and dropped all over the tributaries of the Saxton river, causing start-up colonies everywhere. The Marlborough authorities need to get on to this urgently before it becomes an even bigger problem. It would be a tragedy to allow the beautiful, open tussock spaces of Molesworth to become invaded with conifers.

After a Thursday evening journey, via Hanmer and Jack’s Pass enjoying travel along the quiet backcountry Molesworth road with not a tourist in sight, we camped near the Saxton River Bridge. Next morning about 2 hours of easy valley walking, with a leisurely breakfast stop in the sun, took us to the base of the spur just downstream from Team Hut. Then it was up, up, up for many hours in beautiful weather, the rapid rate of ascent being punctuated by numerous pine-pulling episodes. Once we topped out at 1957m, there was still a ridge traverse of about 2 km before we dropped down to a little tarn tucked under the summit of Mt Saxton. We dined with panoramic views of Tapuae-O-Uenuku and Alarm and other jewel green tarns high on the opposite ridge, causing excitement about possible trips and bathing opportunities in the future! It was very windy overnight with the weatherstarting to unsettle, but we were on the summit about an hour after leaving camp next morning, with good views all around. However, mist and showers were approaching so we canned the planned high-level traverse we had hoped to continue for the next couple of days and dropped quite easily and quickly into the headwaters of Team Stream to exit the mission. More pine-pulling occupied us for some hours as we worked our way back to the main valley for bathing and a salubrious camp amongst the briar bushes. With the bonus of no fresh cow-pats! But horror stories about being pursued by bulls on the Te Araroa Trail from our new and very experienced member Jane. Welcome to the club Jane, it was a great pleasure to have you on the team.

This is a gorgeous area which lends itself to plenty of easy, medium and more challenging tramping. I have unfinished business with that ridge traverse, so look for trips up that way in future programs. I will be going back!

We were: Diane Mellish (leader), Liz Stephenson, Raymond Ford, Peter Umbers and Jane Liddle. (DM)