7 - 8 January 2022
Helicopters often bring welcome news in the mountains as they respond to incidents; but not this time. Raymond brought his trip to Mt Guinevere in Arthurs Pass forward a day to fit the weather forecast as his party of three had the flexibility to leave earlier. Laurayne had not been out much with the PTC since starting her family and this was her first overnight PTC trip since leading Mt Longfellow a few years back. Despite this it was Gary lagging in the usual hot gravel bash up the Waimakariri River. The turn-off into the Crow River bought a welcome relief with bush travel and shade and we arrived at the Crow Hut for an early lunch.
The route that Raymond chose climbs the first scree fan past the hut, initially through scrub and boulders and then more steeply on looser rock hugging the true right side of the gully. Helmets were donned as a precaution. The series of gullies narrowed and always threatened to end in cliffs but each time a terrace appeared to the left allowing escape onto a broader ridge before the start of another gully. We finally reached the upper basin and the wider views of Mt Bealey, Avalanche Peak and Mt Rolleston. Larger scree boulders heralded the location of the surprisingly large tarn nestled under the approaches to the peak itself. Level scree fans above the tarn provided excellent camping areas that could accommodate far larger numbers than our two small tents and we settled in for the first of a series of brews and then dinner.
The summer evening stretched on, spent discussing routes to the top for the morning and potential trips to the surrounding peaks. It was just starting to get dark and we were preparing for bed when we heard the first hint of something untoward; the sound of a helicopter in a National Park. It flew along the ridge, made a low pass across the basin and then turned to land. We thought it was dropping someone off but there was only the pilot in the small two-seater. He turned the machine off before coming over and asking for Laurayne. He had been sent by the police to pick her up as her husband, Nigel, had been critically injured in a freak accident that morning. He had few details of what had happened but at least knew that her boys were not involved. She hurriedly packed and was whisked away to the landing site in Hagley Park opposite Christchurch Hospital. Raymond and Gary spent a restless night before packing up the tents and heading down at first light.
The good news is that Nigel is getting better although it will be a long road to full recovery. We were impressed at the efforts the police had made to locate and return Laurayne to Christchurch. Raymond had prepared and distributed the standard trip plan. The police had contacted Laurayne’s friend, now located in Wellington, who had been tramping with Merv and provided his details. He contacted Maureen, as one of the PLB contacts, who emailed the plan to the police. The details of our route and intended camping spot enabled them to send the helicopter. We often think that emergencies will only happen to the people in the mountains. This time it worked the other way and the accident was back home.
Trampers: Laurayne, Raymond Ford and Gary Huish. (GH)