The party left Wellington in a howling northerly, passed thru' Blenheim in very hot sunshine, Kaikoura in torrential rain and arrived in Christchurch in a freezing wet southerly, all in the same day. Next day people started converging on Otira, which was unusually attractive with clear blue skies, and rata in full flower on the hillsides. The last arrived by railcar at 1.20 on Monday afternoon whereupon we set off down the main road, crossing the Otira river to the Deception after about an hour. The narrow flats near the mouth of the Deception soon peter out and the route follows the riverbed. The river is never really gorgy but one person was impressed enough to stop and pack all his gear inside his sleeping bag cover. Two hours up we came to a nice little forestry hut, and settled in as a light drizzle began in the evening.
We continued upriver for four hours in the rain next morning, past Upper Deception hut, until Goat Pass was sighted about 300' up on the true left. A few minutes up a small sidestream followed by a short scrub-bash took us to the top of the broad, flat pass. By this time we had a gale force northerly and driving rain at our backs so we pressed on without stopping. A wee creek draining from the pass was followed until it became rather gorgy where we climbed out on the right side which was actually the wrong side (i.e. the left side was the right side) for we had a split gorge between us and Mingha bivvy. The bivvy was found (eventually) to be dry and cosy and the ideal size for a four man party, so we decided to stay. The bivvy is sited to catch the best part of all the foul weather which funnels thru' the pass, but it was still there next morning. By the time we left the storm was virtually over, further east a clear blue sky could be seen.
The head of the Mingha river is broad and tussocky but becomes very gorgy at the bushline where a good sidle track starts. This track climbs high above the river and in one place (Dudley Knob) gives a good view of the upper valley and surrounding mountains. The weather was now partly cloudy with thick storm clouds pouring over from the west. At the bottom of the gorge we left the river and bush-bashed up a steep slope for no less than three hours before the bushline was reached. To cross Williams saddle between Mts Oates (6900') and Williams (5700') one has to climb so high on Williams that it was an easy 10 minutes along a wide rocky ridge to the summit, beyond which the ridge becomes a jumbled maze of bluffs down to the Edwards river 3000' below. We strolled down to Williams saddle from which an 800' steep scrub bash took us down to a hut at the bushline in the Edwards river. page 23It was a hot and long day, also exhausting, so we were all glad to hear rain pouring on the roof that night.
Two wet windy days followed. On the second day, three of the party left on an energetic day trip, down the Edwards track, bush-bashing along the banks of the Bealey River (which annoyingly flowed next to the left bank the whole way), then across the railway bridge and down the main road to the Bealey Pub. This took 3 1/2 hours nonstop in continuous heavy rain. After a few refreshments we set off back to the hut. By this time all rivers were in high flood but the only one we had to cross (East Edwards) was sufficiently braided to be crossed easily. A waterfall in the main Edwards was most impressive, a mighty torrent of pog-coloured water roaring thru' a slit, then dropping out of sight into a cloud of spray. As we neared the hut the temperature took a sudden plunge, making us glad we had brought some liquid to keep us warm that evening.
We shivered away from the hut painfully early next morning intending to cross Amber Col then Walker Pass into the Hawdon. Tramping smartly up the open grassy valley of the Upper Edwards we met the first sunshine at the foot of a spur leading up to Falling Mountain. A steep climb up this grassy then rock and scree spur warmed us up desite the thin layer of snow which had fallen last night. We soon reached the top of a knob on the main divide. From there it was an easy scramble up coarse scree (average rock diameter 10 ft) to the top of Falling Mountain (6000'). This was the epi-centre of an earthquake in 1929, which is responsible for the heap of rubble on Taruahuna Pass 2000 ft below. In fact, the whole area has suffered tremendous rock shattering by this and other earthquakes. Back at our packs we dropped off the western side into a tiny headwater of the Otehake river, and followed it down to Walker Pass (3615'). This is one of the few N.Z. rivers which has no waterfalls between 5500' and 3500'. We had lunch on the top of Walker Pass where there is a surprisingly large lake. We were reminded of the rain we had had before when we saw the non-aquatic plants growing 3 feet under water at the edge of the lake.
A creek draining from the lake runs into the West Hawdon river but we chose to sidle at a higher level to drop into the West Hawdon further upstream. We went up to the bushline to camp under the impossible looking Trudge Col we intended to cross the next day. After a little rain overnight we set off upwards in fair weather. We made an about turn soon afterwards after a bit of inadvertent rock chundering. We salubed down river to Hawdon Forks hut, which was found to be dead, so we camped out again. It rained again. The next morning was fine enough for an exploratory trip up the east page 24branch and on to the Savannah range. The East Hawdon looked as if it would provide a better route to the Poulter than Trudge Col. That same day we took our packs down-stream to a forestry hut half way down to the Waimak, where we spent the next two nights, with a stroll up Sudden Valley stream waterfall in between. This waterfall was made further up stream than marked on the map, the only error we noticed in an otherwise excellent map (NZMS 1 "Otira"), although this map did disagree with the provisional National Park map over heights of mountains by hundreds of feet in many cases. The rest of this day was spent playing cards, pushing over large rotten trees and jandal racing on the river until we were driven back to the hut when a cold front arrived at 5.00 p.m. sharp.
More snow fell higher up overnight but it was a fine morning when we walked the remaining 5 miles to the main road at Mt. White bridge.
This area of the Arthurs Pass National Park is not as well known as the Waimak region (in fact, the Mingha and Edwards valleys were unexplored until 1930); and there are no high peaks and permanent snowfields - but it is no less interesting. Well mapped (now) and easily accessible by rail or thumb, it has plenty of scope for trampers.
Party: Nick Whitten (leader), Gerald Edmunds, Keith Jones, Peter Gin.