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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Three Passes - 4-6th February 2012

Uncle Roddus Tramping Diary:Tramp No.113
The Three Passes 4-6th February 2012

Day One: From Lake Kaniere up the Styx river to Harmon Hut.

Day Two: From Harmon Hut, over Browning Pass to Park Morph hut, then over Whitehorn Pass  before camping at Ariels Tarns.

Day Three: From Ariels Tarns over Harmon Pass and out along the Waimack River to Klondyke Corner.
The Three Passes Trip is a crossover trip, traversing three alpine passes from the West Coast to near Arthurs Pass or vice-versa. This was a trip I was suppose to do back in 2004, but due to an early heavy snow, the trip was cancelled and so I was most glad to be available to tag along for this C.T.C club trip. I was in  the West to East group for this trip.

After picking up Max and Uncle Roddus from Springfield about 7pm and Friday night, the group of 13 enthusiastic trampers reassembled at the Bealey hotel car park to organise car shuffles and tents etc... before heading off to Klondyke Corner, from where the East to West group was departing, lead by Jonathan. This scribe was in the West to East group of 7, lead by Uncle Bernhard, who was also Overlord of the whole expedition. Travelling in two cars belonging to two members of the East to West group, the West to East group, after taking the wrong road to where Overlord had intended to camp, arrived at the start of the track up the Styx river around 11pm. It was thought we might as well camp right here at the track but the grassy area that was originally the parking area was now a well shingled car park and Overlord  decided to continue on around Lake Kaniere to where we were originally going to camp. We finally found the lovely grassy area on the edge of the lake, only to be greeted with a large "No Camping" sign. Uncle Bernhard had turned his car around to head back to another spot we had passed earlier, just as Uncle Roddus noticed another sign indicating a camping area slightly up the bank, whereabouts he blasted the horn of the car he was driving to get Uncle Bernhard's attention before he drove off again. We then drove into a quite full and very dark and quiet camping area some where in the vicinity of 11:30PM. After pitching tents as quietly as possible(although no doubt already haven woken the entire camp) we snuggled down to sleep when this scribe thought he heard the sound of a baby cough, very near by. A minute or so later another cough and a short cry was heard, in response to which this scribe was head to mutter "I don't remember bringing one of them with us" before the peace was blasted by a long and sustained bout of crying. Revenge.

Day One: Approx. 19 Km and 760m height gain.
Arising around half an hour after sparrows fart, we were heading up the Styx river just after 8am on a slightly overcast and misty but warm and very humid morning. The track starts off as a four wheel drive farm track before merging into a well maintained and wide walking track in the wonderful West Coast Native forest.
The Travel up the Styx involves bush track, several river crossings and some bolder hopping with a gradual gain in height as we progressed towards Grassy Flats hut, with several small waterfalls to keep the photographers happy and a picturesque river to follow. We made Grassy flats hut in just over four hours with a couple of short stops and proceeded to have lunch while Joanne decided to have a "roll in the hay", which was laying around the hut from a recent cut. The Hut book informed us that The Peninsular Club was also doing this trip this weekend and had a party of 5 a half day ahead of us.
Continuing up the Styx River in an almost directly east direction, we traversed the Styx Saddle before another short breather at the junction of the track leading off to Mudflats hut, after which we rounded a spur off Mt Browning and sidled along a benched track through scrub and flax and twisted trees in a southerly direction heading towards the headwaters of the Arahura River and Harmons Hut. Unfortunately, While Stephen was taking a drink from a fast flowing stream, his glasses slipped off and were carried by the rapid water into a deep and churning pond from which we were unable to find them. So it became a rather expensive weekend for him. The hut was gained around 4pm, much to the relief of this scribe, after sweating profusely on the way up due to the high humidity. We had the hut to our selves, until a lone tramper arrived about an hour later, having come all the way from Carrington hut in one day. He shared the floor with Max.

Day Two: Approx. 16 Km and 1300m height gain.
An even earlier start on this second day as we has a fair way to go and two passes to traverse. We were away well before 8am on another warmish, but less humid day and the low clouds had departed Browning pass, that were hanging about the evening before, although it wasn't quite the stunning clear day we had ordered. We soon walked off the stiffness from the previous days exertions and started to get the stunning views back down the the valley with Mt Browning majestically in the background. We made Browning Lake around mid morning, where we encountered another party of three blokes resting, who had just come from Park Morph hut, where they informed us that the two PTC groups had also stayed as well as our own group who hadn't turned up till around 10:30pm, and had camped nearby. Another party of two passed us as we approached the lake, this was a busy place. We wandered  along the tops away from the lake to enjoy the views of  Hall Cole, Hamer Falls and the fantastic vista down the Wilberforce river. It was now time to tackle the infamous Browning Pass, the Three Amigos we met resting by the lake headed off the way we had just been and we headed off in the opposite direction, running into the PTC crossover party hunkered down in a small depression just over the top of Browning pass. The pass itself, although steep, wasn't too bad and the views were stunning. We met our own crossover group near the bottom of the pass. They were pretty spred out so didn't stop and reconnect as a whole group, just swapped keys with those we needed to and let them get on with the slog up the pass. We lunched with the sandflys at Park Morph hut before heading off on the next leg of our journey to climb to Whitehorn pass. The travel up Cronin Stream is pretty much one long rock hop, criss crossing the stream where needed and slogging up to the quite steep and loose shingley climb to the pass. Uncle Roddus loves this kind of travelling and soon found himself well ahead of the rest of the group(mainly because Max chose to stay with the others instead of leaving us all in his dust. But by the time he got within a hundred or so meters of the pass where it gets pretty steep and the rocks aren't so nice to travel on, he was getting pretty stuffed and decide to rest while the rest of the party caught up. Max duly flew past while the rest of us mortals slowly slogged it to the summit. Here we rested and recovered and enjoyed the views quickly before the mist blew in. The final part of the days journey was to negotiate the permanent snow below Whirehorn Pass before reaching our destination of the Ariels tarns , where we were going to camp.
The top of the snow was quite steep and although we had our ice axes, we didn't need crampons, as the top was quite soft, bur still hard enough that it was difficult to dig your feet in to get good footing. Uncle Roddus was the first on the snow but after several meters, lost his footing and ended up doing an unintentional bum slide down the slope. Nearly every one else thought this looked fun, and so all did like wise, except Lovisa, who wisely decided she didn't want to get a cold wet bottom. After around 11 hours of tramping we finally reached the Tarns and found it was a really excellent place to camp. Camp was setup, meals cooked in warm but misty conditions and a later evening was had as we were aloud the luxury of a bit of a sleepin in the morning.

Day Three: Approx 18 Km.
With the weather still good, it was time to complete the last stage of the journey. With two of the three passes already bagged, the last one, Harmon Pass, was only a couple of hundred meters from our camp site and even better was the fact that we didn't actually have to climb very far to get to it, so in the blink of an eye were were on the pass and ready to drop down the wonderfully gorgey, but easily negotiable Taipoiti River, or waterfall alley as this scribe noted. Another bolder hop found Uncle Roddus hot on Max's tail, some of the time, before a scrog stop near the White river. The rest of the trip involves the long hike down the Waimack, where we stuck to the true Right, visiting both Carrington and Anit-Crow Huts before arriving at the cars around 4PM after another 7 hour or so day.

Starting off up the Styx on Saturday morning.

Max helping the girls across the river.

Styx Avenue.

View of the Styx River.

A scenic womble.

With plenty of lovely waterfalls.

Toi-Toi's on Grassy Flat.

Approaching Grassy Flats hut.

Uncle Roddus at Grassy Flats hut.

Grassy Flats Hut Weka.

Heading up Styx Saddle.

Lovisa and A Tree.

It was in a small streem like this that Stephen lost his glasses.

Heading around Mt Browning, Harmon Hut is just behind that flat ridge in the middle of the picture.

The swing bridge just before Harmon Hut.

A cracker of a rock.

Looking up towards Browning Pass from just before Harmon Hut.

The approach to Harmon Hut/

A very knackered Uncle Roddus At Harmon hut.

Looking up to Browning pass from the hut.

Heading off from Harmons hut on Day Two.

Bolder Hopping towards Browning Pass.

Great view looking back towards Harmon hut with Mt Browning in the distance.

Nearing the Pass with Mt Browning in the distance.

Nearing Lake Browning.

Uncle Roddus at Lake Browning.

The excellent view down the Wilberforce from near lake browning.

Lake Browning.

Lake Browning again just before we plunge down Browning pass.

The view from atop Browning Pass Track.

The start of the descent of Browning Pass.

Uncle Roddus about to head down the Pass.

Another view of the Wilberforce, just cos it is so cool.

A better view of the bottom of the pass. We met our crossover party near the bottom of the shingle slide.

looking back up at Browning pass.

Uncle Roddus at Park Morph Hut.

Trouble just above Park Morph Hut.

View up Cronin Creek with the Cronin Glacier in the background.

Rock hopping up Cronin.

Nearing Whitehorn Pass.

Looking back from near the top of Whitehorn.

Uncle Roddus on Whitehorn just before the fog rolled in.

Olympic bum sliding.

A quick descent.

Walking down the permanent snow below Whitehorn.

Further down Whitehorn.

Ariels Tarn Camp.

Ariels Tarns. Middle Earth.

Heading off, dat Three.

looking down the Taipoiti river from Harmon Pass.

Rock hopping again.

Bottom of an impressive slide on the White River, just before Carrington hut.

Looking back up the Waimack.

A uick visit to Anti Crow hut

Leaving Anit Crow.

The last slog back to the cars.

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