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Friday, November 22, 2013

Lake Morgan Via Crooked River 15th-18th November 2013

Uncle Roddus tramping diary: Tramp No. 139
Lake Morgan Via Crooked River 15th-18th November 2013

So another two months pass before I manage to get out tramping again, mainly due to the weather. This trip was one that had been on my to do list for several years now but again weather conditions prevented it from being achieved, but when I saw it was being run by the CTC on the long weekend of show day I knew I'd have to go.

Lake Morgan and the Crooked River are two areas that don't get a great deal of visitors. With three days up our sleeves, the intention was to spend day one heading to the Top Crooked hut, day two up to Lake Morgan and Morgan Hut and day three along the tops and bush bash back to the cars. Or so we thought.
Thursday Night, 5 of the party converged on the club hut at Arthurs Pass where we were regaled by many a tramping story buy several other parties taking advantage of the holiday weekend and rudely awakening us at 5AM while they left on their particular  journeys. We met the trip leader and an additional team member at the old Jacksons pub, at the agreed time of 9AM, ready to set off on our intrepid adventure. The day was warm with patchy cloud and little wind as we set off up the well maintained track along the Crooked river up to Jacko Flats Hut. Apart from the occasional wind fall the track is well marked and easy to follow although some of the track is washed out near Jacko Flats Hut. We arrived at the six bunk Jacko Flats hut in just over 5 hours and after a couple of out team took a dip in the Crooked River. Although the track up to the Top Crooked hut is now non maintained, it is still in very good condition and caused no problems getting us to that aforementioned hut in another 3 hours. Total time from the Car, 8.5 hours. With only four bunks available, 3 members tented out as the seven of us tried to cook in the cramped small hut. A perusal of the 22 year old hut book revealed very few names that we knew and lots of wish-fill thinking was partaken in regards to the possibility of the morrows weather forecast being wrong.
Saturday dawned as forecasted, low cloud and light rain, we were not going to get to see much of the spectacular beauty of the lake Morgan tops that had drawn us to this place. The track up through the bush is also non maintained but  had been recut in 2009 and was still in excellent condition. It was pretty steep and so got up up high fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it was quite slippery and rocky and one of the team slipped and knocked out one of his front teeth, not much blood to be seen though. Soon after reaching the top of the scrub line we lost sight of the marker poles in the clag and had to start navigating our way via map, compass and GPS. This generally worked well and kept us heading in the right direction of a straight line directly north west to the lake, unfortunately this wasn't quite the route we were suppose to take and late in the day we found ourselves following a stream that some of us thought may lead us to lake Morgan until suspicions set in and a GPS check found us starting to head back down the Crooked River. After course correction and quite a bit of re climbing, we finally crested a saddle and descended  in the direction of what we hoped was the lake. After descending about 150M the lake finally emerged into view from the fog, much to the relief of 7 very wet and tired trampers. Of course the rain stopped after we reached Lake Morgan Hut. A 6 hour day had extended to over 8 hours due to the foggy and wet conditions. The floor of the 6 bunk hut was soon swimming in water as seven sodden blokes got out of their wet cloths and boots and settled in for the evening.This hut book went back 30 years and this time we found some familiar names in it.
Sunday, the rain had cleared and some patches of blue were visible as we set off early so we could get home at a reasonable time. The views were somewhat improved from the previous day but still not at their peak. We set off following the poled route up Mt O' Shannessy, before veering off to the west and over the top of the Morgan river, we had some nice views down the Morgan River valley before the rain and clag set back in, this wasn't in the forecast. After the previous days efforts we were more assiduous with our navigating with frequent stops to check position and direction. This slowed our progress along the tops considerably and it was already into the afternoon by the time we got to the drop off point where we were to bush bash our way down to the cars. Although the weather had cleared a bit and visibility was better, after we entered the bush, things started to go slightly wrong. As tends to happen on bush bashes, one tends to get pushed into certain directions buy the path of least resistance and although the leader tried to keep us in the right direction, with different people leading the group at different times we somehow managed to end up more west of where we should have been but thought we were too far east or something like that and so ended up sidling along the opposite direction away from where we needed to be, at least I think that is what happened. The day was slipping away and we were not making any progress in the downward direction due to the steep drop offs we kept encountering. By about 6am after 10 hours of travel we started to climb back up to see if we could find some way round a gut but the group were becoming very tired and it was time to admit defeat for the day and find somewhere to sleep. Finding that somewhere in the bush on a hill proved difficult and challenging and made for a very uncomfortable nights sleep, if indeed any one got any sleep.
Monday morning as we all should have been rising to start our new week at work, we awoke still stuck on the side of this hill. Thankfully, the weather had improved greatly after some light rain in the night but with little food and water left we were keen to get the hell out.Very fortunately we had cell phone coverage on this hill ans so were able to let those at home know of out fate. A new day sometimes brings clarity to one predicaments and we were soon heading back to where we should have gone down the hill and after a slow and deliberate bash through the bush we finally made the bottom of the hill by early afternoon after managing to find some water and sparingly consuming our food, of which most of us still had some left at the end of the trip. Another trip to go down in the annals of Club legend.

All packed up and ready to go.

The lower gorgy bit of Crooked River.

Some classic West Coast bush.

Strolling up the river bed.

Further up river.

A nice swim hole.

The opproach to Jacko Flats Hut.

Jacko Flats hut.

Uncle Roddus at Top Crooked Hut.

Jump to Sunday morning at Lake Morgan hut

Lake Morgan hut

Uncle Roddus at Lake Morgan hut

The tops.

The Morgan river Valley.


honora said...

Ahh...wondered what happened as I heard the trip was late out. Good analysis on your part. I know exactly what you mean about being seduced off the bearing by easier vegetation. It really needs some discipline and maybe a group aren't happy to be led through crappy stuff. I know I've been leading on a bearing and the whole party have buggered off in the wrong direction (ridge, FFS!)as they don't want to be led and would rather go on instinct in the clag.

Roddus said...

Yeah, leaders need to stress keeping in the right direction, learnt a lot abot the down side of GPS navigation, but on the bright side I have finally ordered myself a GPS.

Anthony Menzies said...

A friend and I did this tramp in about 1976 and we weren't able to find the Lake Morgan hut due to the fog and rain. No GPS in those days!!! So we ended up traversing the Morgan River to get back down to the Crooked River. The map we had showed it as "almost impossible to traverse" and it wasn't easy!!! But managed to get out OK. I did quite a lot of tramping in this area in those days as our family had a bach at Moana. Great times!!!

Anthony Menzies said...

My friend and I did this tramp in about 1976. We also got lost on the tops due to the fog and rain but no GPS in those days!!! So we had to go down to the Morgan River and follow it back out to the Crooked River. The map we had labelled it as "almost impossible to traverse" and it wasn't easy but we got out OK.

I did a lot of tramping around this area back in the 1970's as my family had a bach in Moana. Visited Jacko Flat a number of times as well as doing the Trent Saddle trip etc. A great area and had good times.