Up The Hodder In May
Up The Hodder In May
or How to climb Tappy on a bottle of lime gin and half or quarter bottle of rum
Four of us, Ross, Peter, Keith Gibson and myself set off from Picton on Friday in one mighty white VW and one poor little mini. By 4.30 p.m. we had parked at the mouth of the Hodder and were gayly romping up the first easy stretches of the river. The weather was sort of cloudy and westerly. The Shin confluence was reached in ¾ hr. and this was deemed excellent by all and sundry so a short rest was taken. A further 1½ hrs. saw us in open valley (such as it is) after passing thru' a narrow gorge. By this time people were beginning to discount the statement of one R.Gooder that the waterfall is 1¼hrs. above the Shin confluence as absolute rubbage, so a further halt was called. After some discussion the tent was pitched (after a fashion) half over a grandfather matagouri, and dinner was cooked (out of tins) (moan moan) -by the light of a candle masquerading as a carbide lamp or was it a carbide lamp masquerading as a candle.page 25
Daylight on Saturday put a different light on matters (so to speak) and one Christchurch member piked, proffering imminent exams (finals no less).
So the 3 remaining members of the party then headed up stream under high cloud and heavy packs and two rustic tent poles. With expectant looks we turned each corner in the river (now once more gorgeous) expecting to run smack into a waterfall each time. After an hour or more of this in a somewhat disheartened state and more or less exhausted we arrived at a place which we thought was just down stream of the waterfall - although we couldn't hear it. A high sidle was embarked upon which was moderately successful and got us back to the river at Totara camp - above the offending waterfall. The river was by this time branded as disgusting but different.
A further hour took us to a point near the top of a large scree slope at the last Hodder fork. Excellent chundering was indulged in for some time. Then a descent was made to the river and a campsite was found and operated on. In a cosy tent surrounded by a 2' wall (Peter is now a qualified stone mason) we sack-bashed from about 3.00 p.m. The weather was cloudy and we only had a vague idea of where the mountains were. With discussions, recitations, cards, occasional swigs of nauseating green liquor and a huge stew (by Ross) the afternoon was spent. We went to sleep with little hope for the morrow but set the alarm for 3.00.
A clear morning - I could hardly believe it (nor wanted to). Ross cooked once again and we streaked away at 5.15 a.m. -ridiculously early start for a South Island peasant such as me.
We took a fairly fundamental route - i.e. straight out the tent door and up! Progress was swift and well before we saw the sun we were on the ridge just under Pinnacle. Here in a freezing wind we changed into parkas and longs. On crampons we traversed to the col between Pinnacle and Tappy, then sneaked round the back and up a couloir on the Clarence side to an easy ridge leading to the summit. In strong winds we crawled on to the summit in various stages of exhaustion at about 10 a.m. Great battalions of hogs-backs were seen trooping over Mitre but those disappeared, so in a strong, cold westerly we traversed towards Alarm. A pinnacle about half way was sidled rather than traversed (just as well since its back side was rather steep), and we arrived at the col about 1500' under Alarm at about mid-day, I suppose. By this time Tappy had disappeared in westerly yick and Alarm was about to. We climbed on the sheltered side of the ridge to about 200', from the top of Alarm where a move to the windward side was indicated.
After roping up the mighty Sissons stepped out only to page 26come stumbling back making large piking noises. Gooder was heard to mumble something about worse weather in the Arrowsmiths but nothing further was achieved. Retreat in a fast gathering storm was taken after a miserable meal in the shelter of a rock (this time it was my turn to scrounge the Bermaline). Back at the col conditions were quite rough. However after a couple of attempts continuous snow was found leading between bluffs down to the lower valley. Long bum glissades were enjoyed by all and after an hour or so walking down valley we stumbled back into camp at about 2.15 p.m.
A rearrangement of bedding gave me an unwanted opportunity to delight my fellow twits with an exhibition of my culinary ability (how about that). This demonstration however was delayed till 5.30 because we all fell asleep.
We woke up to find the tent flapping round our ears and for one terrible minute I thought the back tent pole had failed due to buckling instability (how about that one, Peter?).
After tea we had a mighty if slightly disturbing (slightly? - I had visions of the river rising several feet) electrical storm which lasted till well into the night. With the last of the lime gin and some Captain Morgan inside us we hit the sack talking of Alarm-Mitre traverses for the morrow. (Secretly, I was hoping that we could still get down the river).
Monday - an early breakfast again and it was still raining. We decided to go out. Everything was packed inside the tent and I donned two parkas. We climbed out, packed the tent and were away.
The river wasn't even slightly coloured and the rain stopped about a minute after we left (it was only drizzling anyway). 4½ hours and we were back at the little white VW all having once fallen into the Hodder (such a delightful little river with nice greasy boulders and only about 80 crossings. Two hours and we were in Blenheim where I callously chucked Peter and Ross out into the side of the road and headed home.
Misery is eating pog for every breakfast on a three week trip.
- Bryan Sissons