Sylvia ‘surely not in the cloud again’ Tops

9 – 10 March 2019

The first time I did this trip was in Nov 2010 with Dan Pryce. The details then were:-Leave town 7.00am to be walking from the Deerstalkers Hut at 9.30am. Turn off the Nina track to cross the Nina River and follow all day up the spur on the true right, from east to west. The ‘new’ as in 2008 Devil’s Den Bivvy is right on Devilskin Saddle whereas the old bivvy used to be in the bush a little way down Blind Stream.

Both the spur on the way up and the bivvy, would give a great view in all directions on a clear day. I say would, because Dan and I saw the inside of the cloud all day and kept saying, ‘wouldn’t this be great on a fine day’. But we enjoyed our stay in the new bivvy, plus the easy walk out down the Nina on the Sunday was in sunny weather.

So I scheduled it again in March 2017 and cancelled it when bad weather was forecast. So THIS time, the odds were for fine weather and great views. The forecast was OK a few days beforehand, and Markus and I were happy to go. Vesna emailed that they had been there the previous week in brilliant weather, and provided the latest route info. But 24 hours beforehand, a front moved down across the island. We still went.

Leaving Markus’ place by 7.30am, we drove in cloud almost to the Deerstalkers Hut before blue sky started to appear. Walking by 10.00am, accompanied by a large party from Hurunui School, a check at the intentions book suggested there could be two hunters at the two person bivvy. Hope not, but Plan B was always to continue on to the old bivvy site and camp, if that happened. Leaving our school group at the turn off, we dropped down to the Nina River, noting that, as Vesna had said, it is now a well marked route all the way to the bushline.

Merv descending ridge before Pt 1625. Photo courtesy of Markus Kaufmann

The sun didn’t last. We stopped at the bushline at 12.50pm; it was a pleasant place for lunch. It didn’t take much climbing after lunch to ascend in to the cloud. I hadn’t taken the GPS as originally it was going to be fine, so we were soon in to some serious map and compass work and the day kept rolling by, in a similar fashion to the 2010 trip! Also toward the western end, I again had navigation trouble with 1662m! The drop off to the norwest is not obvious in cloud. And in dense cloud now getting wettish, it was worse trying to guess when to circle down when approaching 1625m. As it happened, we emerged on to the route toward Blind Stream about 300m down from the saddle.

6.30pm. And there was a cigarette in a hand hanging out the bivvy window. Our two young hunters were there. Welcoming, but the hut stunk of tobacco and continuing on to the shelter of the old bivvy site was always going to be our best option. Markus was keen to trial his modified one man tent, so I had bought my Minaret with the tent stripped out. At the biv site we set up in the damp and worked our way through a rather late dinner. However, dinner had its highlight. I had bought fancy almond biscuits as a ‘dessert’, but Markus had packed a surprise ‘mystery’ dessert which he said would go fine with the biscuits. It did indeed. Packed in a double skin stainless pottle – a plentiful supply of ice cream, still nicely frozen!

Sunday was a much shorter walk out down the Nina River. Up at 7.00am and walking at 8.30am we dropped down Blind Stream to the now deserted Nina Hut at 10.30am. Our two hunter friends caught us up while we were still there. Crossing the Nina swingbridge a couple of hours later we stopped shortly afterwards at a tiny gorge for a pleasant lunch and walked out to the road in hazy sunshine by 2.30pm. Well; a second time in cloud. Navigating in cloud solely with map and compass was satisfying, but it would still be more so to do the trip with a great view either side. A third attempt? Maybe.

We were: Markus Kaufmann and Merv Meredith. (MM)