The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1935
Christmas Trip to the Holyford
Christmas Trip to the Holyford
To have travelled over 700 miles in 44 hours was the record of the official V.U.C Tramping Club party, when at 4 p.m. on December 26th they reached their first base at the Homer Hut. We had just completed the journey by steamer to Lyttelton, by train to Invercargill, by special car over 180 miles of scenic road, and some 10 miles on foot. Most members felt tired, but assuredly all were happy to reach that haven, nestling as it did on the banks of the Homer River, a tributary of the Upper Holyford.
Nature can be cruel at times, and it had been somewhat cruel to us. Readers will have heard of the beauties of the scenic road now being constructed up the Eglinton Valley, through the Upper Holyford Valley, under the Homer Saddle, and so to Milford Sound. We had looked forward to the motor journey to the end of the formed road, but the weather was alternately misty and raining, hiding the surrounding country from our view; only once or twice did the clouds break, to thrill us with fleeting glimpses of jagged peaks reared against the sky line. But the drive itself was a compensation of unsurpassed beauty—for miles on miles a birch forest penetrated by occasional shafts of sunlight, towered overhead to enfold our road, visible now only to a corner, now to the stretch of a mile.
A wet day enabled the party to obtain the necessary recuperation for a trip to the Gertrude Saddle on the 28th. Dr. Moir has described the view from this point as "the most wonderful in the world," and it is only when one has been there that his feelings can be properly understood. The Saddle is less than 5,000 feet in height, with majestic peaks close at hand, and, on this occasion, enhanced by passing clouds; a short five miles away lay Milford Sound with Mitre Peak guarding its sanctity; to the west precipitous cliffs dropped from the saddle thousands of feet almost to sea level to bar any possibility of direct access to Milford in that direction. For over an hour we remained there drinking in the beauty of the surrounding country, until compelled to retreat to the Hut.
The next day it was necessary to change our base to the Howden Hut, and the return down the Holyford River in fine weather enabled is to see and appreciate what had been hidden from us two days previously. An hour on our journey we came upon a large natural park, perfectly flat, covered with grass and the lighter varieey of vegetation; one wondered why it should be there, in such a rugged mountainous area with the sheer precipices rising to heights of 7,000 feet on both sides. Hours later, when circling the northern end of the Livingstone Range on the well-worn track, we gazed to the west through a leafy canopy to admire the austere grandeur of Mt. Christina, the Queen of the Ranges. With wisps of mist bounding from the summit, it was indeed a twilight long to be remembered. Shortly afterwards the track turned to the north and we espied Lake Howden in the Valley below.
Key Summit on the Livingstone Range was our objective next day. It was an easy trip, but one most interesting and useful. The view from the top of the Range was very extensive comprising the Upper Holyford, the Marion Valley, Mt. Lyttle and the Lower Holyford, and the Ailsa Range with Mt. Bonpland to the north jutting up to give us a keen anticipation of days to come. A word about the Marion Valley may be interesting. The Valley feeds into the Holy-ford River and really comprises three lakes, Marion, Mariana, and Marianette, guarded on the south by Mt. Christina and on the north by Mt. Lyttle. The latter two lakes have never been visited and if reports are correct, they never will be. There can be no means of access by desrpnt from the surrounding Ranges while the traveller from the Holyford River meets, just above the Marion, an unscaleable wall of rock. At least in that fastness Nature will not be disturbed.
We had intended on the last day of the year to cross the Lake Harris Saddle to the Route-burn Valley at the head of Lake Wakatipu, but it was from every point of view a wet day. We were not unduly disturbed by casual visitors and the day inside was enjoyed by all. New Year's Day also broke dull and misty, albeit slightly improved on the previous day, but the trip had to be done, so 5 a.m. saw us on our way. At 9 o'clock a halt was called at Lake McKenzie. a pleasant spot which seemed to change our fortunes. From then on the weather cleared steadily for several hours and as we wended our way around Ocean Peak we were treated with some page 66 fine panoramas. Glaciers glinted and peaks beckoned across the canyon of the Holyford. Seawards towards Martin's Bay, one could see, at times, Lake McKerrow. Occasionally a mist would enfold all and then unwrap again, to re-veal in a new shade, a new light, maybe a tinted glacier or maybe a sylph-like waterfall. At the Alpine gardens not far from the Saddle, a wealth of white nodding petals greeted us, but regretfully we could not tarry. Three o'clock rewarded us with Lake Harris Saddle, and but a few yards further, the Lake itself—an alpine gem set in the rugged grandeur of agate cliffs Spread out below us were the green, fertile flats of the Routeburn Valley, lawns almost, with clumps of trees dotted here and there by the artistic hand of Nature. The Routeburn Hut was indeed a pleasant and refreshing resting place that night.
A seventeen-mile journey faced us next day to connect with the s.s. "Ben Lomond" at Kin-loch at 3.30 p.m. and so to Queenstown; half the distance was a bush track, the other half a road. A late start at 9.30 a.m. necessitated a forced march, but still at 3.10 p.m. we spied the steamer's funnel and felt relieved by the knowledge that only the last 300 yards remained. Suddenly and unexpectedly the boat whistled and a farmer casually remarked that it was just leaving. Obstacles disappeared in the last dash; we caught the boat; but the master of the "Ben Lomond" was a public servant for more purposes than one on that afternoon.
Queenstown was very pleasant for the next day but little more need be said of our home journeying via Dunedin and Christchurch. Visits to the Art Gallery at unorthodox hours and other such exploits enabled us to uphold the Varsity reputation in Dunedin, we hope, to satisfaction. No one can deny that the trip was outstanding and in every way successful, and it remains but to express our appreciation to Don Viggers for his untiring and capable leadership.
P.S.—Three members of the party having a few days to spare decided to go further afield. We made Lake Wakatipu our objective. We followed the open Routeburn Valley and saw cattle grazing on its large grassy flats. The Dart River, which is known to have quicksands in it, is about a quarter of a mile wide and re-quires care in crossing. With the aid of four horses our crossing was accomplished quite safely. About half an hour's tramp round the north end of Mt. Alfred brought us to Paradise. As the name implies, this is no ordinary spot. The mag nificence of the scenery defies description. Looking north there is the EarnsLaw Spur, further away the snowy peaks of the Barrier Range; nearer mountains of various shapes—Cosmos Chaos, Nox—etc., and the Dart River approaching from the distance. At Paradise itself there is Mt. Alfred (4,568 ft.), at the foot of which nestles the Diamond Lake. The green fields and the lakeside drive through the open beech forest called forth our admiration. In the height of summer, fortunate were we, to see this district to its best advantage. A two-day tramp up to the Earnslaw Basin was undertaken. Mt. Earnslaw (9,250 ft.) is a massive mountain somewhat shut in by high hills and to view it well, it is necessary to climb 4,000 feet and then proceed along the edge of the bush. There is an excellent shepherd's hut about four hours from the road and from the hut to the basin is only about one and a-half hours. From the basin the avalanches fall and great masses of ice project over its jagged rocks.
Before our departure from Paradise we visited a hermit, in whose garden grows the large cherry tree in New Zealand. The way we relieved the tree of some of its burden is a happy memory.