Kahutara Biv, Clarence Reserve

25-26 September 2021

This was yet again another weather-induced change of plan. The trip was down for Discovery Stream - Sudden Valley. The club has been trying to get back there for a while, without success and this time the forecast said nor-westers on Saturday and southerly rain on Sunday. So, a Plan B was needed. Liz suggested Kahutara Biv and if Peter chose that, she would come too. So, we did, in the hope that the NWer wouldn’t be too bad in the Seaward Kaikouras and Sunday’s southerly not as wet.

Kahutara Biv is reached from the historic road that starts on the north side of the Kahutara River on the Inland Kaikoura Road. The road goes all the way over the range and down to the Clarence River. The route to the biv starts at the ‘real’ saddle at 1200m± on the high point about a kilometre north of Blind Saddle. Warden Hut is about 6 km further on. Getting down to the biv requires a sidle up from the road to cross the 1354m high-point that leads down and around a number of spurs and faces to the biv in fairly high regenerating bush. Liz had checked with Bill Templeton who suggested that giving the matagouri a bit of a tickle would be appreciated, so we took our loppers.

With an early start from Christchurch, we had driven the short distance up the riverbed track to the locked gate at the start of the hill climb, got packed and were walking before 10am on the steady plod up the road, with the nor-wester increasingly becoming a pain. Fortunately, we picked a sheltered bend in the road for a good lunch spot, before continuing on up to Blind Saddle. The nor-wester became a severe head wind. Approaching the turn-off to point 1354 at 1.15pm, Kerry decided it would be wise for him to bail out and return to the vehicle for the night. We discussed the logistics and agreed that, apart from missing out on dinner, Kerry would be happiest retreating.

Above Blind Saddle. Photo by Merv

Rounding the face and into the full force of the nor-wester, the upward sidle on scree and tussock really wasn’t fun. I could have bailed too, had we been in voice contact so we scrambled on. Higher up, I was having grumpy thoughts again and managed to signal Peter and Liz with my loppers. Peter dropped his pack and came back to me. Give up? What? Was this really Peter firmly suggesting he and Liz really did want to get to the biv? Either way, I continued up the scree to point 1354m. Getting down from there would normally just have taken a bit of navigation, plus a bit of snipping of the matagouri, but the wind made it a constant effort to brace against the blast and keep moving. It was quite a fillip when we spotted the biv below. As we got closer, the bush was higher and the wind kinder. Arriving at the biv at 4.20pm was time to relax and enjoy a brew.

The biv is a rounded top, high-ceiling Marlborough type. Fine for two in the bunk and one on the floor. Liz volunteered Pete for the floor. The biv is well above the river and has a small water barrel but with a very short catchment gutter, so there were a few 20 litre translucent water containers there as well. There is a chopper pad down the spur a bit. And as far as provisions go, a clearskin bottle caught our eye—cheap South African junk wine but no-doubt it could add a small degree of refinement to dinner. Why not?

The forecast was for the nor-wester to turn southerly with rain, early morning. The nor-wester died, leaving a gentle southerly with the odd white cloud. Prior to day-break at about 5.30am the hut was getting an increasingly noisy clatter. Was it the goat we saw? It sounded like a kea on the deck but the bashing seemed too much for a kea. In fact, it really was a solitary kea!

Our arrangement with Kerry was that we’d get up early and be back to the car by midday. Up before 6am, we were away at seven. This was Kahutara time, not your Daylight Saving time. Returning up the hill on the known route and without the wind was simple, although Liz did go straight up to point 1354 just to check it. From 1354 we saw three young cyclists coming up to the saddle from Warden Hut. As we descended, they stayed on the saddle until we arrived. For at least one of them, this was his first overnighter on the bike. And yes, yesterday was more than exciting, getting to their hut. They then shot down the road and we started our, now easy, plod with sweeping views ahead.

As it happened, we arrived down to the car at 11.55am, still in pleasant weather and with Kerry not showing any signs of suffering from lack of food. He even had a bit left. Driving out, we struck rain before reaching the main highway, so how was that for timing? With a food and drink stop in Cheviot, we were home by late afternoon (our time) with plenty of time to clean up.

The crew on this dry-sock trip was: Peter Umbers (Leader), Liz Wightwick, Kerry Moore & Merv Meredith. (MM)