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Heels 1968

Northwest Nelson

Northwest Nelson

We left Wellington on a fine morning in the holidays and with expert thumbmanship travelled from Picton at 1.30 to the middle of nowhere beyond Motueka at nightfall. Tramping along the road in the dark we suddenly came across a nearly completed house by the road, so we crept in and laid our pits down on the floor. We were glad of that shelter as the night was clear and very frosty. A few more short lifts took us up the Graham Valley to Flora Saddle - the last lift being on a tractor. By this time it was midday and there was one little cloud in the sky. We climbed up thru' the bush for half-an-hour by which time the one cloud was no longer little; it covered the whole sky and also the top of Mt. Arthur, so we contemplated the view at the bushline before retreating to Flora hut.

After a little rain overnight we set off downstream in cool murkey conditions. A perfectly graded pack track followed down Flora Ck then up a sidestream to Salisbury hut on the Mt. Arthur tableland. From there the track continues across the open tussock of the tableland to Balloon hut 1½ hours from Salisbury. 30 seconds after we arrived at the hut it started snowing. That was when we noticed it was 400 yds to water, so we grabbed a basin and kerosene tin and set off in the blizzard to the distant waterhole. There we noticed that the kerosene tin had a hole in the bottom. However water problems were solved when the snow turned to rain and increased in intensity, so we spent the rest of the day in the luxury of this fine new hut. High winds shook the hut that night but the next morning was considered suitable for a stroll to the top of Mt. Peel (5300'). Despite continuous rain, conditions were reasonable, with visibility good enough to pick out the outline of Cobb Lake in the murk from the top of Peel. That was the only place page 16where we struck snow (1 inch of it above 5290 ft).

We left the hut the following morning with a rather watery sun shining thru' the clouds, and the ground saturated after heavy rain overnight. We dropped off the western side of the tableland on a spur leading to the junction of the Peel and Leslie rivers. This spur also had a stupid graded pack track on it. On reaching the river we set off down-stream to Leslie hut on what would normally be called a "good pack track" but which was [unclear: as rough] as guts compared with the other tracks so far. Only at this stage would we have been surprised to meet somebody on a motorbike. We dropped packs at the hut then continued downstream to the Karamea river, where there is a nice little forestry hut complete with rubber mattresses. Back at Leslie hut we vowed to bring some Dimp if we were ever back here again.

The next day's work over Baton saddle looked rather interesting from the map. There was a prominent line of bluffs about 1000' above the river, and where a creek crossed this line there was a waterfall. Then the map marks a track going straight up one of these waterfalls. So we decided to travel up the ridge on the true right of the river. This provided easy travelling up as far as the said bluffs, and probably easy travelling further up but for the small matter of a 100 ft. vertical limestone wall. We scrambled down to the creek, using our ice axes for the first time, to cut steps in steep mud. When we reached the creek we saw that it wasn't there because it flows underground. So [unclear: does] the waterfall. We picked up a rough blazed track which winds its way up between huge boulders, then travels along the flat for miles, then up for miles until it finally reaches the bushline. We could just see Baton saddle 200 yds on our right where the ridge dipped slightly below the cloud level. Behind us was a huge bush filled basin, the far end of which was those bluffs dropping out of sight towards the Leslie river.

We dropped blindly into the mist on the eastern side to find ourselves in a large tussock basin at the head of the Baton river, with a belt of scabby scrub-bashing between us and the bushline. A surprise awaited us at the bushline, in the form of a hut, very small even when there is only two in the party, but nonetheless cosy, and extremely welcome as we were expecting to sleep out in the rain.

A morning's stroll down the river got us to the road end where we met a few gold prospectors. More expert thumbmanship that afternoon was rewarded with a 20 hour wait at Picton for the ferry.

- N.K.W.

Party: Nick Whitten, Nigel Eggers (no leader)