Edwards River - Tarn Col - Hawdon River

Queen’s Birthday Weekend 4 – 6 June 2022

Early in the week we had a car-load set to go and we planned to work in with Hagley TC to assist with transport. Things went awry when one of our people caught the virus and another felt unwell. Also, rain was forecast for the middle day so the Hagley people cancelled. The trip was resurrected when club member Malcolm and his friend Chris decided to go, and called Kerry.

The three of us planted Kerry’s $60 bike near the Hawdon Shelter and parked at Greyneys Shelter on a fine, frosty Saturday morning. A minute later a car rolled up and the driver came over to chat. It was Barry Wybrow, with friend Michelle. Suddenly there were five in our team. Crossing the Mingha wasn’t too painful because it was quick, unlike the wide Clarence crossing needed to go up Maukuratawhai. The Edwards River flats were well cemented by frost in this shaded valley. Boots got another dunking at the East Edwards, then we were heading up a quite eroded forest track, high above the river. The big Edwards waterfall is always worth a photo-stop. Back alongside the river, near the hut we stopped to look for blue ducks but they were in hiding. The well-shaded Edwards Hut was quite well used when we arrived, mid-afternoon, though four were runners who had come all the way from Hawdon Shelter. They moved on to Greyneys to be replaced later by six of their tramping friends. Another group of three, Peter, a lone tramper and our five meant the hut was quite full.

This “serviced” hut has a meagre wood supply. The wheelbarrow helps people gather damp wood from beech forest 150m away. Barry tried to coax the fire into life. Kerry offered a little scrap of candle wax which coincided with real flames, so our team made much of this tiny contribution. Encouraged, Kerry offered a piece of split log which Barry took with mock, effusive humility. Soon, the hut was warmed to a comfortable 8C, and with our cookers, probably got to 8.5C. The six that was crossing paths with the runners arrived late-afternoon. Our threesome had teriyaki beef dehy, extended with rice and lentils for main and banana bread for dessert. Barry and Michelle had something more lavish.

Sunday dawned with a pink, then grey sky and a light breeze. To get most of the Tarn Col leg done before the rain arrived, Malcolm got us up at 6am, so we were away at first light, up the broad, frosty Edwards River. We were up to operating temperature by the time we made the first of our four crossings. The last crossing was where the river swung to our right as it drains the Amber Col area. The track crossing Taruahuna Pass is quite well defined when you consider the coarseness of the rubble from Falling Mountain. We started climbing up the dry stream-bed towards the col on nice steps but the way got steeper with minimal vegetation, so walking poles were helpful. Sidling a little to a minor spur certainly made it easier. Chris went a different way and wasn’t enthused by that path when he reached the col. Soon we were past the tarn that defines Tarn Col and heading into a branch of the Otehake River. The stream drops fairly steeply, making for a reasonably rugged path with many stream crossings needed. Where another branch joins, flowing north from Amber Col, we stopped for lunch at noon, just as spots of rain arrived. With coats on, and a short lunch, we were then walking south, then east, alongside Otehake’s East Branch, towards Walker Pass. The big tarn 200m past the pass was full. The track crosses Twin Falls Stream in places then heads up some bare rock to connect with a forest track. Light rain and some wind gusts made us pleased to be under trees on this steep, rocky track. The falls 50m away weren’t a major attraction as we focussed on getting to the hut.

Arriving at 2.30, we found the Hawdon Hut had a fair patronage but we were able to get a top bunk. There was a family of four, and the fifteen crossing from the Edwards. With big trees around it, this hut has a good wood supply, so was a lot warmer than Edwards Hut. Chris was our cook and provided a very tasty pesto pasta dish. Malcolm topped it off with a chocolate slice for dessert. Peter, the solo tramper cooked steak for afternoon tea and then something equally delicious for dinner, then relaxed with a 400ml can of beer and a gin and tonic.

Rain persisted all night but the Hawdon didn’t seem flooded when viewed from the hut, so we set off down-river at about 9am. Crossing Discovery Stream was no problem and the main river wasn’t high enough to wet our shorts. The rain stopped soon after we left the hut and we arrived at Hawdon Shelter in sunshine, surprised to see a group with a fire going in the shelter and another outside in a brazier. The shelter was in the shade so we chose a nice sunny spot to get changed as we watched cars arriving for the big lunch at the shelter. One car arrived with a trailer-load of pine logs for the fire as though they planned an extended stay. A group of burly young men told us they were a Methven rugby team.

Peter got cellular reception part-way down the Hawdon, so was able to call his wife to tell her where to collect him. This worked well for us as our drivers got a ride 20km back to Greyneys to retrieve their cars. The $60 bicycle was not needed but again stood tall on Malcolm’s car. With all five of our group taking photos, we were able to share a wealth of memories of a great Queen’s Birthday weekend trip.

We were: Malcolm Gollan, Chris Hyslop, Barry Wybrow, Michelle L, and Kerry Moore [KM]

Red sky in the morning, tramper's warning

Approaching Taruahuna Pass

On Taruahuna Pass with Tarn Col at centre

Approaching Walker Pass