Hawdon - Tarn Col - Otehake - Edwards

12-14 March 2021

This was planned as an in-and-out trip; in to Hawdon Hut Friday evening, Walker Pass, Tarn Col, down to Otehake Hut Saturday night, then out on Sunday. Things got a little complicated before the start. A non-member who couldn’t leave town until 5pm was coming but pulled out at the last minute with an injury. Maybe we could leave earlier? Not much. Eventually the four of us were walking from Hawdon Shelter at 6.30pm, so it was going to be dark getting up to the hut. We were intrigued to see loads of vehicles parked around the shelter. Once in the dark we were rewarded with the loud calls of two kiwi, close by. Over the last little bit we lost the track but eventually spotted a gap in the trees above us and scrambled up to arrive at 9.50pm, waking Nigel, the sole occupant. So, where had the owners of all the cars gone to?

Saturday was a lovely day with no wind. We were up at 7am and away at 8.10, Nigel was intending to follow us a little later. 9am on Walker Pass, then a 12.30pm lunch-stop on Tarn Col where we talked to part of a large Tararua TC contingent, who apparently were spread around the area. So now we had an explanation for the cars at the shelter. After lunch we did the steep descent from the col, talked to Nigel again for his comments about the Otehake route and started down-river. At about 4pm, as Nigel had described, we picked up the route on the true left, just after the Lake Sally Stream confluence. By 5pm we were down to the flats and arrived at Otehake Hut at 6.10pm to stay at this good hut for a pleasant evening.

Sunday was another fine day with no wind. Our planned return meant walking up the Otehake East Branch, which would bypass the steep climb up to Tarn Col and take us directly to Walker Pass. On the map it looks gorgy for a good chunk of the way but Peter understood it was possible, so why not try? Up early, we were away at first light, 7.15am. We very soon came to the first small gorge. No problem; water only up to the shorts, then quickly opening to an easy stream-bed again. Around the next corner and oh dear, look at that! Getting up through those waterfalls and rapids isn’t going to happen. We climbed a slope to bypass the awkward bit, hoping to drop down around the corner. It became obvious we would not be able to get back in the river – and time was going by. We retreated, staying high and dropped to the river, opposite the hut.

9am at the hut, we decided to take the easier option of exiting down the Edwards River, instead of going back via Tarn Col to the Hawdon, we just had to cross tiny Taruahuna Pass, then to Edwards Hut and out to Greyneys Shelter. Stopping at 12.30pm for lunch in the upper Otehake we had a lovely view down-valley. By 2.10pm we could see the Edwards from Taruahuna. At 4.20pm I left the others at Edwards Hut to walk out asap, deciding on the way that the Edwards wasn’t a high-speed track.

Out to Greyneys Shelter at 8.05pm only left me a few minutes of reasonable daylight to hitch and then I had to resort to waving my headtorch. Soon, John walked out, then a young couple who had been up-valley, then Diane and Peter at 9.20pm. Could I get a lift? Yip; I squeezed into Conner’s car and was dropped off at the Mt White turn-off. Now, with boots on, I walked about 40 minutes to the car, and drove back to Greyneys. Two older trampers who had been up Dome via the big scree had also arrived, needing a ride back to their vehicle in Arthurs Pass. I couldn’t turn them down when I had got a lift, could I?

Our four made a stop at Diane’s daughter, Sonia’s place in Castle Village where Diane was planning to stay the night. There we were treated to tea and toast as the clock ticked towards midnight, so we were home in the small hours. Exiting down the Edwards turned out to be the slower option but no complaints. It was a weekend to remember.

We were: Peter Umbers, Diane Mellish, John Robinson and Merv Meredith. (MM)

Diane on the 'easy' stuff in the Otehake East Branch - photo by Merv