Vuwtc - Mediums - Nelson Lakes - August
Vuwtc - Mediums - Nelson Lakes - August
"Who would true valour see, Working in a brewery?" (J. Black 1973)
Actually no one felt particularly brave when on Saturday night they found themselves rudely deposited on a cold and wet Lake Rotoiti foreshore. Nevertheless the 11 official members of the Medium party stumbled around the lake edge in the dark and eventually assembled at Lakehead Hut whose spaciousness readily lent itself to the evenings activities included in which were spilling all the stew over Oliver, listening with contempt to stale jokes from the Fit party, pretending there was more food than there was, and bloody infighting for pit space (the latter two to be continuing themes throughout the week). It was all too much for some who retreated to refuge under canvas for the night where wounds could be licked in peace and washed in the rain.
On Sunday morning it was thought proper to allow the Fitees to depart first. Even so, fortified as we were by a macaroni cheese breakfast (or to be more accurate, driven out by the nauseating stench from the cheese) we were ready to hit the trail by half past nine. Actually there wasn't really a trail at first as the swollen Travers River had covered some of it. At this stage of the trip we were Joined by Rod the piker who decided to defect from the Fits (he may have been expelled but we can't be sure). Rod went on to ensure himself a permanent place in the annals of the club's history by piking from and rejoining the Mediums no less than three times in the short course of the week. Anyway notwithstanding this unexpected handicap we moved on up the Travers Valley, fully able to appreciate its quiet beauty despite the mist and drizzle. Unfortunately the weather got worse and Hopeless Creek seemed an appropriate, place to consume a hasty liquid lunch. By mid afternoon we reached John Tait. He wasn't there but his hut seemed to be quite comfortable. The leaders pretended to be enthusiastic about moving on up the valley but knowing full well which side their Tararua biscuits were buttered on voted with the majority when it came to the crunch (Ugh). So we stayed. Someone's crossbow failed to find its mark: in fact it found no mark: no one was more dumbfounded than Mark so it got no marks. The night was passed in glorious song. The repertoire was extensive but fortunately no one on the top bunk was tactless enough to try "Smoke gets in your eyes". It was at John Tait that the party was to be joined by a thirteenth member. He arrived about eight o'clock that evening as we were drinking our custard. Dressed always in light coloured clothing and wearing unusual headgear he was a quiet and unassuming sort of person but his pervasive personality was to have a profound effect on everyone, particularly after dark. The leaders attribute to his presence a seventy-three percent reduction throughout the rest of the tramp in the number of late night bogs and billy washings.page 34
Monday morning: "But look the morn in russet mantle clad Walks o'er the dew on yon high eastern hill."
Bullshit. It's raining again and yon hills are covered in mist. Still we got away to another respectable start in readiness for the long and technically demanding ascent to Upper Travers Hut. By midday we were there in the snow at last. It all proved to be too much of a shock for most peoples' systems, and a rest afternoon was called for and freely granted.
Eventually explorers returned, tea was served and devoured in record time, and some turned to ponder over word games. Others, less academically inclined grovelled on the floor for pieces of chocolate. It was a pitiful sight - human beings reduced to mere trampers.
Tuesday was to be the day of the crossing over into the Sabine Valley, so it was not surprising that it was snowing as we set out, climbing up to the saddle, confidently expecting to be forced to return to the comfort of the hut at any time. Occasionally as we plodded on up the clag would partially clear revealing quite spectacular views at the St. Arnaud Range. Those with nothing better to say made fatuous poetic allusions (no doubt recalled from school days): "...that vast sky neighbouring
mountain of milk snow:
Winding so high that as they mount they pass
Long flocks of travelling birds dead in the snow
By the air, and scarce can they themselves
Slake their parched throats with sugared mulberries -
In single file they move, and stop their breath,
For fear they should dislodge the o'er hanging snows-"
In fact the snows weren't o'er hanging - just cold, deep and extremely soft. Accordingly, Frank and Olly were appointed depth-sounders, but were to prove unequal to the task and were often just two bogged down to be of any use! So we waddled over the saddle, and descended from the pristine slopes in misty rain and worsening sleet, down into the gorgeous East Branch of the Sabine River, eventually arriving at the West Sabine Hut.
On Wednesday the tireless thirteen raced three non-pikers from the Fitees up to Blue Lake. Everyone was really rapt about this part of the park. In the afternoon most scrambled over the snow-covered moraine to have a look at Lake Constance. Unfortunately the mist obscured about 96 per cent of it, but to make the trip worthwhile we all assured ourselves of the probability of its magnificence being unparalleled. Wednesday night was extremely cold, and the singing proportionately lusty. Despite the temperature Rod laid his inhibitions bare and downtroued all night (he said he was only cold between the down and the trou).
Thoroughly disgusted we headed off next morning for Lake Rotoroa via the Sabine Valley, which most of us found even more beautiful than the Travers. Six lagging behind acquired a sudden taste for aquatic sports when a sharp-eyed wandering Blues Singer spotted something in a quiet side stream. There basking lazily in the sunny waters was two and a half pounds or real live page 35Food - the ideal supplement to what had proved to be a restricted diet. Olly saw it, Frank poked at it, Ken sat on it, and Rod finally landed it. Jane and John just stood on the bank and laughed. But everybody enjoyed it when it was finally cooked. After much running to and fro through the bush a suitable (?) campsite was found and Thursday night was spent on the cold, cold ground. Pits were warm however; too warm for some who after breakfast in bed were unable to stir themselves until half-one, about three hours after everyone else had taken off for Speargrass Hut. A slight miscalculation about travelling times meant that the lazy four spent two and a half hours of Friday night beating about the bush feeling ridiculous. Fortunately for them they reached Speargrass before the last of the stew had been consumed. With fifteen in the 6 man hut conditions were a little cramped, an incentive for some to make an early start in the morning for St. Arnaud. The great pie and milkshake stampede had begun. The walk down Speargrass Creek and through the beech forest where the morning sun dazzled through the leaves, warming the spongy bracken underfoot was soothing and invigorating; an ideal end to a week's tramping.
Thanks: to everyone for fitting in so well - apart from that hectic night at Upper Travers there was never a cross word to the leaders for getting the tru blue crew through.
and especially to the Airman whose influence on this trip has ensured that our nights in the bush will never again be the same.