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Heels 1970

Once Upon A Queen's Birthday

Once Upon A Queen's Birthday

The Queen's Birthday trip was going to be a Middle Crossing, so the trip list said. Nobody went on it. (Grunt).

No. They all went to Moorcock Base hut in the Ruahines, on a fine Frosty Friday night. The fresh snow shone hard and clear on the tops the next morning, when we pushed off through the ice crystals on the farm track towards Pohangina Saddle. Some old faces and some new faces, on a trip to a new range, for me. By midday we had pushed up through some flaxy scrub onto the snow high country to the hut at the Saddle. Powder snow, icicles on exposed twigs, views of miles of Hawkes Bay farmland - a rare phenomenon. The party gathered for lunch in the frozen ice of Oumore, nibbling and talking as they put on more clothes, before advancing into the soft drifts that made going far and fast out of the question. Shoving with shins against the crust, but page 21revelling on the sights and freshness. Just to be up high in the snow on a fine day, among the myriad snow forms, is very good. Ease your mind, don't blow your mind. From the hard-won summit of Taumatataua our eyes were constantly gauging the distance, in time and effort, to where Howletts hut lay. The darkness was creeping up out of the valleys, chasing away the winter sun, now pale as a city chook's egg. The leather-wood shivered in the wind with the snowgrass and my feet were getting cold. A few minutes - and - there was the hut. Klompy-klomp boots on the doorstep and inside to this man's cave of tin, dry and dark. The stew was added to with the contents of several rusty tins, and eaten quickly from steaming bowls nestled on pits.

The objective of the trip - Sawtooth Ridge - was hidden in cloud the next morning. The photographers of the dawn found that there was also a keen cold wind. This didn't stop us from stomping along to Tiraha, at the beginning of Sawtooth Ridge. A little ice here and there; a Brocken Spectre or two; hare's tracks. The objective was left severely alone - we were without crampons, among other things, like time and experience, so we romped and glissaded back to Howletts for water - cool clear water. Gee, was I thirsty, and unfit. Lesley, Bryan and John decided to go home that day, so the other four followed them down the fairly direct Daphne Spur to the Tukituki River. Five of us stayed at Centre Tuki that night,telling stories and getting roasted around a large fire,until we snored off in a torpid state, late in the possum-ridden night.

We took to the river the next morning before the sun had reached it. Wandering down its confined course we stopped often to look at red rocks, and take photographs of backlit trees and water. I even whipped out a delicious trout from a shallow pool with my ice axe. It must have been asleep, I think, or maybe very tired. By the time we trickled out onto the bright green farmland the bright snows of the Ruahines looked a good way away. Back in the pub at Dannevirke we sank a few cool ones before rocketing down the Wairarapa to our various flats and homes.

It had been a good Queen's Birthday, a good trip.

Keith Jones-Bryan & Lesley Sissons-John de Joux-Dave Bam-Andy Wright-Lauchie Duff-PKR.