Huxley Forks Hut, 30 November – 1 December 2019
After an early start from Timaru, we reached the head of Lake Ohau at around 9.30 am. With John’s trusty 4WD vehicle we were able to drive past the Ram Hill carpark along the rough and, in places, muddy and rutted track to a point where two other vehicles had parked up, just short of a stream and shingle fan. One of these vehicles, a two-wheel drive town car, had a flat back tyre and front ones that were out of alignment. How could anyone possibly have driven so far in a car like that? They’d have to be crazy! All was explained when Barry spoke with the chap who admitted he’d driven it in a drunken state!
Leaving this chappie to ponder on his lack of wisdom, we donned our packs and set off up the Hopkins Valley, first alongside the eroding river bank but soon got into bush so retreated and took a high track away from the river. We reached Monument Hut within an hour and ate lunch sitting outside watching four very robust 4-wheel drives coming down the Hopkins and, without any trouble at all, crossing the deep river.Vehicles suitable for the purpose and drivers who definitely knew what they were doing!
From Monument Hut there is a high water track that goes through the bush towards the Huxley River swingbridge. However, it appears that DOC is not maintaining this track. With a tremendous amount of windfall we wasted time looking for the track, moving in and out of the bush, and eventually deciding that it was better to walk on the open riverbed until a sign at the bush edge pointed to the swingbridge, which was a further 15 minute uphill walk.
Once over the swingbridge, we climbed up and then down to the river flats which we walked along for a while and then it was back into the bush. We continued on this high river track through the bush on the true left of the river for about 45 minutes and then were out onto the river flats again before leaving them to cross a grassy, boulder-scattered area about 2 kilometres before the hut. These boulders are the debris from an avalanche off the curiously named peak, Boanerges.
After a nearly 7 hour walk we reached the red-roofed Huxley Forks Hut which, in the last few years, has been altered with the door and a verandah now at the opposite end. John prepared a hearty meal which we ate at the table while gazing out the window enjoying the evening light on the peaks of the Naumann Range on the other side of the Hopkins Valley.
On Sunday we set off back down the Huxley valley at 7.30 am with the intention of walking all the way down the riverbed to the swingbridge. However, with the river flowing swiftly due to recent rain and snowmelt, caution prevailed and we decided the safer option was to return through the forest section. Light rain from the nor’west began falling about 10 am and by the time we were walking down the Hopkins Valley it was pouring and windy. Thankfully, the wind was at our backs and it was not cold. Monument Hut provided a good place for an early lunch.
We arrived back at the vehicle to find our new acquaintance sitting in his steamed-up car, painting. He said that he was getting a ride out in a day or two. (A report in Wednesday’s newspaper said that concerned friends and relatives had reported him missing and had contacted the police who had mounted a Search and Rescue effort for this ‘missing tramper’ who was found safe!)
We hopped into John’s vehicle without any ado and continued to Twizel where we changed out of our wet clothes, then continued on our way home. Thank you Barry for arranging this trip and to John for your preparedness to take your 4WD to get us further up the valley and for preparing the evening meal. Bernard and Catherine were the other participants in this weekend adventure.