09 July 2010

New Zealand Jan 2008 - The Three Passes. Part 2

...Wilberforce R, Browning Pass, Arahura R, Styx Saddle, Styx R

Day 3, we headed up the Wilberforce River. Here you can see Hamer Falls again, below the rightmost of the Twin Peaks, and the grassy climb up Browning Pass (Noti Raureka). The 400m climb zig-zags at the bottom, but seemed to be ascended very quickly.

We're only about half-way up, but already the view down the Wilberforce is breathtaking.

Mt Harman/Kaniere, and Lake Browning/Whakatewa.
If you do this trip as a three-dayer, camping up high, this would be one of your spots. Gorgeous in the sun, but the water was very chilly.
From the Wilberforce up to Browning Pass, and over into the upper Arahura, we were following an old stock route for sheep being taken west. Apparently they had to be winched up the last part of Browning Pass.
The Arahura River initially drops 500m from Lake Browning /Whakatewa in less than 3km. Making it extremely active.

Continuing down the stock route, we were all a bit flummoxed at how they would have crossed the Harman River, as they wouldn't have had the high suspension bridge that we had (pictured left with Mt Browning behind).

We continued down the Arahura along the eastern flank of My Browning for a little longer and then climbed west into the Styx Saddle. This remarkable place is a suspended swamp, where the tramper must take care or they might end up slipping into a thigh deep muddy pond!

We were really getting into Westland territory, characterised by the lush green, and wetness underfoot. This was one of many sidestreams of the Styx River, as we commenced our final descent.

Oh, and did I mention the moss? This is a whole wall of moss, all of it drinkable. With only overnighting at Grassy Flat Hut to break up the walk alongside the river, we were treated to about 10km of this sort of vegetation, a sumptuous finish to our four days, 52kms travel, 2700m ascent and 3270 descent. A grand walk!
As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

07 July 2010

New Zealand Jan 2008 - The Three Passes. Part 1.

Waimakariri R, Taipoiti R, Harman Pass, Whitehorn Pass, ...

Inspired by some tantalising descriptions of this walk, we thought we'd try the slightly wilder Three Passes Walk. We took it east to west, starting at the Waimak and finishing on the Styx, but you can also do it the other way.

We took two and two-half days, staying at Carrington Hut, camping at Park Morpeth hut (it was full), and Grassy Flat Hut (13km, 12km climbing 900 and descending 900 metres, 16km climbing 500 and descending 850 metres and 12 km out). It can be done in three longer days (17km climbing 700m, 12km climbing 250m, dropping 850m, climbing 500m, and 23km, dropping 1200m), camping at Harman Pass and Browning Pass, which would be beautiful in good weather, and insane in bad.

It was a toss up as to whether or how we'd do this walk, as a front was predicted to cross on the day we were to start. However, after much humming and haing, we changed into our "tramping uniform" (polypro under gortex, shorts and gaiters - goretex not used in fine weather) and got dropped at the Waimakariri. Our object was to get to Carrington Hut 13km away in the afternoon, before the rain came and the river flooded. All the predictions worked out pretty well, and we avoided any flooding, however, by the time we arrived at the hut, we were soaked to the skin, and the rain battered at the hut most of the night, making the Waimak impassable the following day.

This was actually not a problem, as the following day we left the Waimakariri, crossed a rather active White River, and headed up the Taipoiti River. Amazingly, we woke to a a beautiful sunny day. Normally, we are not fans of huts, but when the bad weather comes through, they serve a vital purpose. So, we donned our apparel and headed off through some forest towards our route up to Harman Pass.


And so we came to a rather windy Harman Pass. We found a sheltered spot to stop for lunch and then headed further on towards Whitehorn Pass (somewhere beyond Glen's elbow). Even though this pass is continuous with the valley that leads to Whitehorn, it is a picky 2 km of climbing over rocks and debris to get to the snow.

The snow was actually quite soft, and we were at some risk of falling through to the river if we took the wrong route. We puffed our way up the 400m in the sun to Whitehorn Pass, which offered a stunning view of Cronin Glacier falling into the Cronin Stream valley, which was our next stage...

An earthquake several years earlier had rendered the descent down Cronin Stream valley rather treacherous, as the boulders were all unstable and large enough to break your ankle. It was an exhausting stage that took 2 and a half hours in western sun to descend the 800m in 5km. We were very pleased to find our campsite with some light still left. That's the 90m Hamer Falls nestled about 500m below Twin Peaks. We head that way tomorrow.

To be continued...

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.