After canyoning in Robinson Creek, we drove North up the West Coast in uncharacteristic sunshine. We stopped at the car park to Blow Fly Hut and after much faffing walked into the hut for lunch. Well kind of lunch. We consumed a tub of yoghurt by the river and then continued walking. We climbed up to the tops which was a bit of a slog. Unfortunately the cloud had come in and pushed the sun away. Along the tops we walked. Sometimes the cloud would clear briefly and we’d get a view out towards the valleys below. We reached the new Mataketake Hut, which is bookable. It was cosy and full of girls so we didn’t stick around (it had also been booked out) preferring just one female and lumpy ground. We continued on towards Dime Lake where we planned to pitch our tents.
Abruptly, the cloud began to clear as we were pitching our tents and we climbed back up from our tent site and took photos. We had pitched some way above the lake in some moderately flat spots. I started preparing our rice risotto for dinner and we chatted. It was a nice evening and the disappearing clouds had left stars in the sky. I took some night photos of the glowing tent as Craig and Rachel headed off to bed.
The cloud snuck back in by the morning and we walked down to Maori Saddle Hut from the tops. We faffed around there with cups of tea and food for a while before walking out towards Blowfly Hut and back to the road. We treated ourselves to a swim in Lake Paringa and drove North. We camped at Lake Ianthe in the evening and enjoyed the sandflies and mosquitos as we cooked “the last supper”. The following day we drove back to Christchurch. The sky was moody and so was Craig’s stomach so we skipped our planned canyon and went through Cave Stream instead.
After our French Ridge tramp we drove to the Haast Pass on a very sunny day and went canyoning. Craig had picked Robinson Creek, which he’d done before. We had a bit of a gear faff in the sun at the side of the road and then set off walking up into the forest ascending for 15-20 minutes to the top of the canyon. I had my new 5 mm wetsuit which I was hoping would keep me warmer than I usually am in a canyon. Rachel squeezed into her, somewhat too small, Trademe wetsuit. This involved Craig and I lifting her up by the waist of the wetsuit and trying to shake her down into the suit.
We started with a few small abseils. It’s a very pretty river and the features weren’t too difficult. We descended and the sides became steeper until it was no longer possible to escape. We came to a section where the guide had warned us about an unprotected traverse out to the anchor bolts. Craig went first and I watched as he abseiled, then walked down a narrow slot and climbed over to the bolts. He set up the anchor there and Rachel headed down the rope next. Craig belayed Rachel across to the anchor using my climbing rope that we’d brought with us to use as a puller. I abseiled, pulled down the static rope and then headed over. Craig belayed me across to the anchor and started setting up the next abseil. Everything going to plan.
I went first and abseiled into a huge cavern. The water tumbled past me on my right and I got a little caught in the flow for a while. It hit my helmet with some weight but I slid down the rope into the water without a problem. Rachel and Craig did a better job, more or less keeping out of the flow. It was amazing looking back up to the top of the abseil and to the light coming in from the river above. It really was a huge cavern. Once the others were down we took happy snaps and then walked out to the next feature.
We had a few more small abseils and we were at the bottom of the canyon and out into the sunshine. We emerged by the road and dumped our wet gear at the layby. It was a definite high-summer feeling and I was keen to camp somewhere and relax. We drove down the road to Pleasant Flat and set up our tents in the sun dumping our gear on the grass to dry.
After the Rees Rees we drove back to Wanaka for the night and the next morning Craig and Rachel rolled up in my car. The trusty outback was overflowing with stuff. After a cup of tea we said goodbye to Jeremy and Katie and drove around the lake to hospital flat and went climbing. Six bolted climbs later we went back down to the lake to swim and contemplate our next moves.
After much deliberating we decided to do an overnight tramping trip up to French Ridge in the Matukituki. We camped at the road end and walked in the valley the following day. It was an unusual day. It was extremely humid and the sky was white with homogeneous high cloud. This made for a sweaty walk. The ascent up French Ridge was steep and scrambly and it took us quite some time. We set up camp further up the ridge, above the hut and cooked dinner amongst a tiny rock biv that someone had constructed.
The weather was amazing the following day and we awoke to blue sky and sunshine. The views from the ridge were grand and we could see all the way across the valley to the Liverpool Hut with it’s red satellite toilet, two small dots in the distance. We could also see back across to Cascade Saddle where I’d been a few days earlier on the Dart side. Poking out through the saddle was what looked like Mt Earnslaw far in the background.
We packed up our tents and stashed some of our gear before wandering up the ridge towards the Quarterdeck, the ramp up onto the Bonar glacier. We followed the rocky ridge up crossing patches of snow and watched as a small avalanche came down off Mt French and onto the Quarterdeck. We took posy jumping photos and then headed back down. I joined the patches of snow together as much as possible glissading down the steeper sections.
It was time for lunch and hot drinks and then we collected our gear and continued down back into the Matukituki. After swimming and drinking more tea and waiting around for Plod we started heading out towards the car. It was already evening but it was still really hot. I walked without a t-shirt. It felt like high summer and really good.
We got out to the road end at dusk and cooked a quick cous cous meal before setting up camp.