Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 6, No. 9 July 14, 1943
Up the Airy Mountain
Up the Airy Mountain
Once a year the V.U.C. Tramping Club has run a trip which has not returned to schedule. The four stalwarts on the winter Arete trip kept up the tradition. They had an adventurous time, although conditions hardly warranted the alarm and rumours that nourished at Varsity on the afternoon of Monday, Julie 28.
All went well until midday on Saturday, when the Tararuas turned on their usual winter weather. Talk of Arete and Dundas died hard, but it died. Sunday's weather was like Saturday's, and we had no choice but retreat. The Ohau river did not disappoint our expectations. It was in good flood, so we spent the afternoon climbing up and down the cliffs on the bank. While we were scrambling round a cliff, Doug. Yen became separated from the party. We followed down river for a time until it became obvious firstly that he had taken to the river, and secondly that we had no hope of overtaking him before dark. Three worried trampers then considered whether they ought to take the more dangerous course of following Doug, down the river or the safer course of climbing out of the gorge on to the higher ridge of Gable End, and returning later to search if need be. Eventually we decided not to risk three more lives, So we slept in a wet tent on a narrow ledge high above the Ohau, despite rain, hail and hunger, to dream of fishing a small Chinese corpse from the river.
We arrived at Ohau on Monday to find that an ice-axe and Doug's shoes had disappeared—a hopeful sign! The road was searched before dark, and on arriving at Levin we were relieved to hear that the wanderer had gone on to Wellington.
Later we learned that Doug had slipped on the cliff and been slightly stunned by the fall, but not realising his weakneas or injuries had attempted to go on and had fallen into the river. With a combination of swimming, floundering and luck he managed to get Bafely out. He spent a lonely night in the bush, and despite an injured leg proceeded on his way down the river on Monday, getting out several hours ahead of the others.
It was an ordeal for all of us—at times a nightmare. We all learned something from the trip—including what it to possible to do on a mouthful of bread. To all kind pampers who offered to organise a search party we are very grateful. Flooded rivers in winter are no joke.