Lake Tennyson to St Arnaud 25th – 31st March
This turned out to be a bit of a boys only trip. For Bruce it was on the Bucket List, to be able to relive a trip done many years ago as a teenager with his brother. Wayne, it was an opportunity to go back to the Traverse Saddle area. For me, John a trip back into the area that was my first ever real tramp. This was a five day hike.
As you all know the weather has been a bit of a mixed bag this Summer / Autumn. We travelled to Hanmer on the Saturday. Bruce had been studying the weather forecasts. At least we are closer to the start and can make a decision on the day. We awoke to a pretty dismal dull day. It’s a runner, let’s go for it. We required a ride to Lake Tennyson and our car brought back to Hanmer so we could pick it up the following Friday.
Trouble was we weren’t able to get away until just before noon, then the 40 odd Km drive to Lake Tennyson on the Rainbow Road. Estimate 15km hike, up the side of Lake Tennyson, up the Clarence River Valley, over the Paske Saddle down to the Paske Hut. Sounds easy, 7 to 8 hours, should be arriving at the hut just on dark. Ha, oops, got that wrong.
By the time we were at the end of the lake, raincoats were on. This of course made the hike up to the saddle very slippery as we made our way through the tussock grasses and shrubs. Glad they have a good hold in the ground as I certainly needed their assistance to get to the rocky basin ahead. That was another mission, boulder hopping, then trying to get up the scree to the top of the pass. Phew, full packs, who needs to work out at a gym when you can do this.
Oh boy, top of the pass. Headlights out, top of the packs open and the rain goes in. Bother. With Wayne’s outdoor experience and an old style GPS. Bruce’s extensive map study, it was a wander down the other side in the dark. The odd hiccup here and there like a bluff. Only had to back track and sidle a bit a couple of times. There was nowhere you would pitch a tent, unless you wanted a Spaniard in an undesirable place upon your person. I will admit I was a bit apprehensive about this adventure by now. There was nowhere to stay up there so we had to keep going down, as we knew the Paske Hut was on a river flat.
You could hear the Paske Creek on your left. Somewhere ahead was a side stream as we pushed our way through the Beech Forest. Wayne’s got this canny knack for finding his way through this stuff. Find the stream, follow it down to the river. Hang a right, GPS out, 1.2 km to hut, sweet. Lo and behold he led us straight to the front door of the hut. I won’t say what time it was, but it was late. Candles lit, fire going, billy on, cuppa, bed. A nice clean tidy hut for the night, better than sleeping on the Spaniards.
Monday, Day 2; No passes today. Just a walk up the valley towards the headwaters of the Rainbow river and the confluence of the Begley Creek. Find the route through the Beech trees and up the flats to the Begley Hut. Don’t follow the creek, you soon cotton on that it’s the hard and wet way to go. A bit of a bush bash, uphill of course, we are on the trail again. That was on a mere 6½ hour day. Nice hut again, fire going, billy on, dry out. Yep it had been another wet day. Tea and bed.
Breaky, sunshine, just as the weather people had predicted. Perfect for the next grunt up to the Begley Pass. Just a case of wandering back down the valley abit. Bush bash down to the creek, across the creek and up the other side through the Beech Forest. Head to the basin, boulder hop your way to the scree slope, up the scree to the Begley Saddle. Down the other side you will see the Traverse Saddle Hut. Pick a route down and you will be home laughing. Sounds easy. Huh.
First off, don’t disturb the wasp nest at the creek, they don’t like it and they don’t like you. I don’t like them down my shirt. Threw my pack off, shirt off, !!!!!! little buggers. Oh well that ordeal over. Bruce and Wayne copped a couple of stings as well.
The next mission, tackle the Beech Forest going uphill. In fact the Beech Forest tackled us. There was no easy way up, The trees were thin, very close together and strong. They did not want us there. Eventually found a clearing for a breather, packs off. Wasp nest, packs on, into the Beech Forest we scarpered. I had seen enough of them for the day.
Eventually as you get higher the Beech trees get thinner. It took about 3 ½ hours to get out of there onto the rocks. An hour later of sidling easing your way upwards towards the basin. They weren’t boulders and not loose scree but was a grunt. You really needed to have the quality leather boots for this stuff.
At the basin you could see the saddle ahead. Go for the gap to the left or the right that was the question. Last water stop for the big haul up, boulder hopping for a start, then came the big grunt on the loose sharp scree. Four hours later we were at the saddle looking back at our achievement. For me it was picking a feature in the landscape going to it, breather, picking the next feature going to there. Not looking at the top otherwise I might have been wanting to turn around and go home. Just kidding, but it was a gut buster.
At the saddle more decision. Remember this is an unmarked route, no cairns, pole lines. You choose which way down. Bluffs to the left, steep rocky gut to the right to climb down. Wayne takes a wreckey, down the gut it is. Close formation so no one dislodges a rock on anyone below. Just to make it more fun, the sun had dropped behind Mt Traverse, so light was fading quickly.
As we hit the tussock, scrub etc we could see the roof of the Upper Traverse hut. Whoopee, still a way to go, this time under head light again. Wayne took off in search of a possible way through all this mountain scrub. Thank goodness for canvas gaiters. OhOh, trip, falling, Spaniard to the left, fall to the right. Landed, can’t get up, undo my pack, what’s holding me down? Look about, that’s the back of Bruce’s headlight just in front. He too had taken the tumble, landing on me. Stood up, had a laugh and off we go again. More bush bashing through the Beech Forest and lo and behold Wayne had led us straight to the dunnies of the hut. A welcome sight.
The hut was nice and warm, not a soul to be seen. Five others had turned in for the night, so the billy came out of the packs, tap water, luxury, cuppa and bed for us. The end of another long day. Tomorrows a short day, just 4 to 5 hours to John Tait.
A bit of a lie in. The others were up and getting ready to move on over the Traverse saddle to Sabine Hut. There was two separate parties, one couple of senior years to us and three foreigners doing the Te Araroa trail. Good on them. It was soon our turn to depart and head down the valley in sunshine.
Lunchtime, John Tait. No great adventure here now. We have done the hard yards. We just wanted to rest. No one at the hut, it was all to ourselves. Two mattresses each. By 2pm there were 3 gentlemen snoozing off. At 3pm a couple of trampers stopped by and filled in the hut book as they continued on up the valley. As the sun dropped we had guests for the night. A young couple of Kiwis who had been overseas and now doing the whole nine yards of the Te Araroa trail, having started at Cape Reinga in November. An Interesting night of tales and what surprised me their very little outdoor experience before setting off. Finding things out on the way with the help of Mr Google on their phones and the thick book of the Te Araroa Trail. Good on them I say. An achievement to look back on as one of life’s adventures.
Last day. John Tait to Lake head to St Arnaud. 8 ½ hours. The body had had enough. The feet were telling me something. As Bruce would put it “Don’t get your ambitions confused with your abilities”. It was time for a beer. We had earnt it. We had helped Bruce relive his dream as youngster. Well worth it, but not a trip I will be repeating. Thanks Bruce and to Wayne for your good bush craft skills.
My last thanks go to Louise and her Hill Stick. A personalised Manuka pole like the high country Sheppard’s use). That stick virtually touched the ground on every step I took. All 3 of us had poles in the end. The aluminium trekking poles would not have lasted the distance.
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