Gorgy Creek Lake Trip, Arthurs Pass National Park

Mid-January 2020

After several weather-thwarted attempts to run this trip over the last two years, I took advantage of a good weather window with low river levels. At short notice I rustled up the team of people who had signed in previously and off we went.

Route Information: This route starts on the Waimakariri Falls track. Just past where Campbell Creek flows in, climb a steep face to tarns at 1390m. We chose the right hand side on this face, climbing up a very steep bouldery scree, a rib, then a steep vegetated gully to a little lookout above a very bluffed-in waterfall on our right. This leads to a bigger, more open, but still steep boulder fields which are best negotiated by staying close to the stream bed. Some of us stayed well to the left, which was not a good idea. The tarns at 1390m are an ideal lunch spot with great views.

We took 4 hours from our camp at the foot of the face to the tarns. From there, it is an easy amble down to Campbell Pass, approx.1.5 hours. We dropped straight down and crossed Tumbledown Creek, and then sidled low on the true right of Gorgy Creek. This took us through several eroded gullies and steep sidles with exposure to nasty bluffs beside the creek below us. It would have been much better to go high, over 1445m, before sidling over to the lake. Our total time from the Campbell Creek- Waimakariri River confluence to the Gorgy Creek Lake was 9 hours. A younger, fitter party would be much faster! We decided to abort Plan A, which was to climb over to Waimakariri Col the next day, as we had ice axes, but no crampons or helmets. Some of us also had less than ideal boots for the alpine section. It would be a great option for suitably equipped parties. Instead we did the easy sidle around to Bijleveld Col and out via Hunt Saddle and Kellys Creek. Once we struck the flood-damaged sections of the old track up Kellys Creek, we dropped into the main riverbed and stayed there, which was fast and easy travel. I suspect the final big climb through the bush that we did to exit the valley to the carpark was a flood track, and we should have stayed in the riverbed. Must go back soon and check this out.

Phew! Made it up the bluff. Photo courtesy of Di Mellish.

Our Experience: We took a leisurely 4 days for this trip in perfectly fine settled weather, when even the sandflies at Kellys Creek carpark were not biting. How lucky can you get? Camp 1 was at the Campbell Creek- Waimakariri River confluence, Camp 2 at Gorgy Creek Lake and Camp 3 at Hunts Creek Hut. We all loved the variety of challenges and terrain, the views, the way we pulled together with route finding and supported each other in the scary bits. Meals were delicious, relaxed affairs, sitting outside in the most gorgeous settings. We could afford to go at a leisurely pace.

It was a trip that just kept delivering the best aspects of mountain adventuring and camaraderie. Even to the extent that Merv came back from a long hitching mission to retrieve his car just buzzing with excitement. A generous young Spanish tourist picked him up, was very interested to hear of our adventures and insisted on shouting him coffee at Arthurs Pass on the way through!

Highlights: Flat, friendly terrain and lunch at the 1390m tarn after hours of grovelling up the bluff. Beautiful alpine vistas opening up as we approached Gorgy Creek, which cascades down a long sequence of spectacular waterfalls from the alpine tarn to the lower valley. Camping by the lake with a big mountain cirque surrounding us. A long leisurely morning tea break on Bijleveld Col soaking in the views and reminiscing about past adventures. Marvelling at the beautiful vegetation in Hunts Creek valley – glossy mountain lily leaves the size of huge serving platters and flowers everywhere. The feel of the cool mountain air on my skin and the subtle scents of scree and scrub in the early morning. The rare joy and relaxation that comes from not having to weather-watch. This was one of my best trips ever. Thanks to my daughter Belinda for inspiring it.

We were Diane Mellish (leader), Jane Liddle, Peter Umbers, Kerry Moore, Merv Meredith (DM)

Camp site near Gorgy Creek Lake. Photo courtesy of Di Mellish.