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Heels 1969

The Travers Valley

The Travers Valley

Evan and I decided to spend 10 days, last August tramping and climbing in the Travers Valley. After some slow hitching up the Wairau valley we arrived at St.Arnaud at 10.00 one fine morning.

Two hours and much suffering under heavy loads later, we arrived at Lake Head hut where lunch was taken. The weather now seemed to be deteriorating, but undaunted we pressed on up the Travers. At Hopeless creek, we decided to camp for the night. Suddenly, just after the tent was pitched, it started to snow. Not wind-driven swirling snow, but large flakes, slowly drifting down through the still air, until everything was covered with a white powder.

Early the next morning the valley was a beautiful sight, as we tramped up through snow covered trees and the occasional river flat, at the other end of which Mt. Travers could be seen towering above the valley. John Tait hut was soon reached and we decided to spend the rest of the day in an attempt on Cotterell pk. (6890') on the St. Arnaud range. According to the Nelson Lakes National Park page 23handbook, one crosses the river opposite the hut and starts climbing straight up through bush. This we did, but after climbing through the bush and up easy snow slopes, we realised we had climbed something, although obviously not Cotterell, which could be seen way to the north. However a magnificent view was enjoyed and we were happy retracing our steps back to the hut.

Huey was not so kind to us the next day, so we decided to stroll up to Cupola basin hut, where Clive Bolt, Pete Radcliffe, and Ross Gooder were in residence. Before we had time to leave the hut Clive ("the weather's sure to crap out") appeared on his way to St.Arnaud. However, the others did not share his pessimism and soon we were cursing our way through windfalls en route for the hut. This was soon reached and we returned with Ross and Pete to John Tait, where the afternoon was spent playing cards.

We all awoke early next morning to see the starlit sky we wanted for our attempt on Travers. As the day lightened the cloud increased and about half an hour was wasted dithering around trying to decide whether to climb or not. Eventually the ayes won and we were on our way. Initially, we climbed up through the bush on the northwest ridge, but not liking the snow conditions sidled across to the usual route leading up from Summit creek. Then plogged up through the snow to the summit, with its expected view of about 25 yds in each direction. Coming down we had a little excitement, as three of us nearly managed to glissade over a hidden bluff, but all arrived safely back at the hut just as the weather started to deteriorate - a sneaky climb.

Next day Ross and Pete left for civilisation while Evan and I suffered up to Upper Travers hut in indifferent weather. A perfect morning dawned after this and soon Evan and I were on our way, wading up through calf deep snow to the basins below Kehu. Later, Evan realized he had lost the circulation in one foot so we piked.

Laziness overcame us again the next day, which was also fine and we just strolled up to Travers saddle in the morning and spent the afternoon lazing in the hut. We decided to travel down to Hopeless creek hut next day and then out the day after.

Hopeless was reached after walking down the Travers and then up Hopeless creek for an hour and a quarter. It is the nicest hut in the valley, being somewhat larger than a forest service hut and is equipped with indoor running water, an efficient fire, mattresses and a library of mountaineering books. That evening the weather cleared and realizing it was going to be fine the next day, we made a snap decision page 24to attempt Hopeless.

At first light we were away, ploughing through scrub to reach the sidecreek which was followed up to the large snow basin below the summit ridge. From here we pigeonholed straight up a large couloir on to the ridge. A few rope lengths along the narrow, beautifully corniced ridge brought us to the summit. From here in perfect conditions we enjoyed a magnificent view of Nelson Lakes peaks, the Kaikouras, Lake Rotoroa, and the cloud surrounded west coast hills. We then sped down to the hut again and hastily packed our gear to leave for St. Arnaud at 3 p.m. This was reached at 9 after a 2 hour tramp around the lake in the dark and so we finished the trip exhausted after a magnificent 14 hour day.

Party - Keith Jones, Evan Thomas