Arthur’s Pass Base Camp

10-12 July 2020

I last ran a traditional winter Arthurs Pass Base Camp in 2014. It used to be mostly every second year, but the response had become patchy and booking of the Catholic Outdoor Club house in the village then had its problems. However, that’s now resolved by using a longer close off date and asking for a deposit, before making any firm accommodation enquiry. It was also a pleasant surprise to get the house at No. 10 Sunshine Terrace at a special rate plus occupation is now standardised from 5.00pm Friday to 5.00pm Sunday. Very practical for two full tramping days.

Base camps are usually interesting logistical exercises, but this one was relatively easy, except for the transport. We had eleven, but then Bridget had to pull out for family reasons so we had ten people there both nights which made for a sociable weekend. Our group included Tim Bower, home from Japan, and it was good to catch up with Tim. Since we were there last, it looked like the roofing iron had been replaced and the outside walls painted. Someone had been there before us so the overhead infrared heaters took no time at all to get the house cosy on Friday evening. The weekend forecast was for a good day tending NW on Saturday and bad news on Sunday. But that’s the joys of base camps; we can cope with whatever weather comes along.

Saturday morning, we settled on Mt Aitken as offering variation and a little more shelter. Whichever the destination, the snow cover was going to be high, light and mostly soft. Not the easiest. Away from the house at 8.25am, through the village and soon climbing up the track beside the Devils Punchbowl. We had the whole group, except for Maureen T and Maureen W. Maybe some of us with limited experience of those sorts of snow conditions but I think, everyone was happy to achieve what we did on the day. By 11.50am, we had reached the high ridge adjacent to Pt1844m. From there, the route is usually up the ridge to Pt1863m and across to Mt. Aitken at 1858m, then dropping into the basin to return. But with the westerly now fairly blustery and the snow cover light, the group was happy to drop back a little off the ridge and settle for an early lunch before returning back to the village. It made for a shorter day but enjoyable conditions further down including a sidle around to the Falls for a look.

Yes, lots of Kiwis were checking out their own backyard in the village and not all Kiwis. Then a leisurely time back at the house including hot showers followed by the inevitable, over indulgent, organised pot luck dinner. Great contributions from everyone, thank you all.

We knew the Sunday weather was coming so no surprise when the wind got up and it rained from the small hours. No hurry to get up in the morning. Eventually, Sacha organised a group for a walk in the rain to Bealey Chasm area. Once back, we continued with packing up and leaving, with the possible idea of a day walk further east. John and I did the ‘winter shutdown’ in the house and left before 11.00am. No surprise to find Sacha, Wendy and Maureen W still in the Taste of Kiwi Café in Springfield when we also stopped there for a coffee!

And so home early to a lovely 17 deg NW day.

We were: Sacha Baldwin, Wendy McCaughan, Maureen Whalen. Maureen Thompson, Shi Ping Wang, Mary McKeown, Tim Bower & Kerry Moore Merv Meredith (leader) & John Robinson. (MM)