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Note: A CTC map image or a GPX route shows the approximate route taken by a particular party on a particular day. It should not be regarded as a recommended route or even necessarily a good route. Also, permission from land-owners may be required.
This was my third attempt to lead the Lake Christabel/Rough Creek trip and my third failure.
This time the cause of the failure was snow. Lots of snow. LOTS AND LOTS of snow. One of the heaviest Canterbury snowfalls on record, in fact.
Immediately following the snowfall, the party of eight would-be trampers exchanged optimistic email plans of doing at least some variant of the original trip despite the snow, but as newspaper and TV reports showed the scale of the snow dump, the level of optimism steadily decreased. Finally, on Friday, when the Arthurs Pass road reopened, I proposed we drive out that way, hoping to make an assault on Edwards Hut if possible, or the club hut otherwise. And so it was with that plan in mind that the party, now reduced to three die-hards, headed off resolutely on Saturday morning.
As we sailed past the Mt White turnoff, which had been used by several vehicles since the snow, we idly discussed the possibility of trying for Hawdon Hut instead of Edwards Hut. On the plus side: it was further from the Divide, which was expected to cop some rain. On the minus side: it wasn't as pretty or interesting. The prospect of staying dry, plus the exciting but unvoiced prospect of trying out my newish 4WD Subaru Forester in all that snow for the first time, won the day.
The Mt White road was fine until we got to where the side road to the Hawdon shelter wasn't. Should it be right opposite the signpost, or a few metres past it? I proposed an experimental vehicle charge into the white unknown to see what happened but was out-voted by the voices of common sense. So we pulled off the road near the signpost, shouldered packs, and started plodding in the general direction of the Hawdon. After a bit, Brian ducked off to the left and announced "Well, this is clearly the road." Indeed it did now seem pretty obvious where the road went, under all that white stuff. So ... why not try driving it instead? Back to the car we went, throwing packs in the boot and caution to the wind, and the Forester forged off into the snow. Happily, what had appeared to be a road still appeared to be a road as we drove along it and all went well until a hundred metres before the final rise to the Hawdon Shelter when the snow became worryingly deep. At this point, common sense was allowed another chance, and we pulled off under the trees and headed off on foot for the second time, with Brian bounding ahead like a fox terrier on P. "I'm pleased we brought him along" I said to Susan. "If we play our cards right, and hang back a bit, it looks like he'll plug steps all the way to the hut."
We donned sneakers to cross the Hawdon River and the Sudden Valley stream and then switched back to boots. Brian and I stashed our wet sneakers under a shrub and took a GPS reading. Then we were on our way again, heading up on the true right of the Hawdon, with no more river crossings to come. Or so we thought. What poor memories trampers have. In no time at all, we found ourselves following alongside a deep stream that flowed parallel to the forest edge. Why hadn't we remembered that one? I demonstrated how not to cross on a fallen tree, getting my boots throughly wet. Brian and Susan carried on upstream a bit before crossing on a rather more stable log than the one I'd tried.
Although my feet were wet and cold, the sun was out, the sky was blue, Brian was still in fox terrier mode, and things were looking pretty good. Until, suddenly, over went Brian while stepping down a rocky bank and bang went his knee against a protruding rock. Abrupt end to fox terrier mode. In fact, abrupt end to any form of motion for a bit, while we pondered whether to continue to the hut or turn around and head back to the car. Brian had the vote and chose to continue on, but, alas, his step plugging was over for the day and Susan and I had to do some real work at last. My memories of the trip are somewhat less rosy from that point on, and all I really remember is the pleasure of arriving at the hut at last, some 5.5 hours after leaving the car. Brian, with his bashed knee, was even more pleased to stop tramping.
Unsurprisingly, we had the hut to ourselves.
Sunday morning, and off we headed again in pleasant weather, retracing our footsteps as far as the East Hawdon. At that point, Brian, who had regained some of his fox-terrierness, proposed going back down the true left to avoid the side streams. This worked well, and we made much better time than on the way in, particularly now that the snow had melted in many of the dry river bed sections. We were out by 1:30pm, heading for the cafes of Springfield.
Trampers: Brian Dougan, Susan Pearson, Richard Lobb (scribe).
-- Uploaded by Richard Lobb on 19 June 2012.