Hanmer Base

2 – 4 September 2022

Back to Hanmer, this time for a spring base, later in the year than previous bases and snowless. It still proved to be a good time to be there. In past years our Hanmer bases stayed at the Hanmer Springs Forest Camp but these days (since 2019) we have a good system of closing numbers early, then shopping for a holiday home to suit our team. This time we booked a nice two-storey timber house in St James Ave, very handy to the centre of town. Glenda and I arrived about 3.30pm Friday and opened the house up to air on a rather lovely afternoon. What we hadn’t picked was that the only heating was the log-burner, so it fell to me to chop kindling and split logs with their blunt axe.

Base trips are usually interesting logistical exercises and this wasn’t any different when it came to transport. Car-pooling was limited. Anyway, we ended up with our full complement there on Friday and Saturday nights, which made for a sociable weekend. On the Friday night some of us made our evening meals, while others supported the local food industry.

The forecast for the weekend was looking so-so—maybe cloudy with a nor-wester on Saturday, then sunnier but a stronger nor-wester on Sunday. So, on Saturday we ruled out anywhere up-wind such as over Jacks Pass to walk up to Fowler Pass, then climb Mt Seymour. Or even more westerly on Dumblane. Instead, we drove up Jollies Pass Road to the corner beyond the Trust Camp and started walking at 9am, up the road to the pass. From Jollies Pass we took the ridge track to Isobel. As we climbed the cloud blew away but then a series of misty, damp clouds came down-valley from the west, each with its own rainbow.

Approaching Mt Isobel

We reached the 1319m top at 12.20pm and chose a lunch spot out of the wind. Most of us had finished lunch as light rain prompted a move. We staggered along the exposed ridge in a strong nor-wester with sleet stinging our faces. It was a relief to divert down the eroded Dog Stream Track, away from the breeze. Clarence Valley Road connected nicely with Pawsons Road. On previous tramps there, I failed to find a good connection from Pawsons Rd to the town. This time we seemed to be doing the same again—too many bike tracks! But from a junction we took a track going sharp right to travel west that took us back past the wetlands and on to the walkway. That took us out exactly to Caverhill Close at 3:30, just up from St James Ave. John then took the drivers back along Jollies Pass Road to retrieve their cars.

Then came the joys of a base camp, a hot shower and cuppa, followed by a visit to the hot pools by a number and later, the usual Saturday evening base feast, thanks to everyone’s contributions. Starting off with drinkies and nibbles after 6pm and finishing off with Kim’s carrot cake.

Sunday’s weather looked as forecast, sunny but nor-west, so a full day excursion seemed unlikely. Instead, we did the clean-up and went our separate ways by 9.30am. Sue and Mark drove to Kaikoura to visit family, Glenda and Merv went to check-out the current situation with three local tramping access points. Everyone else also did some short walks on the way home that you would not normally stop at—the restored Hurunui Bluffs fire lookout over the former plantation, the Maori rock drawings near Waikari, and the Weka Pass Frog Rock. How about that!

Glenda and Merv checked Chatterton Rd which leads to the track up to Jacks Pass—definitely 4WD at present. Also, Rogerson Track, west around the bottom to the old reservoir. The track beyond seems clearer than previously but has now been ripped up by 4WD’s. It may be better in summer. Away from Hanmer, on Leslie Hills Rd we checked a farm that had previously given permission for a walk on the Amuri Range. Driving to Waiau, we stopped at a very sheltered spot for lunch in the Riverside Reserve at Rotherham.

So, our base trampers went on no big expeditions but had a very enjoyable two days. We were: Kim Ashmore, Sonya Donaldson, Wendy McCaughan, Glenda & Merv Meredith (leader), Kerry Moore, Sue & Mark Piercey and John Robinson. [MM]

The Hurunui River from the former lookout

The site of Maori Rock drawings near Waikari