Waiau Hut 1 – 4 June
This Queens Birthday Weekend trip was made possible solely because of the most generous donation by our club member, Robert Birks, for the building of a new DOC hut in the upper Waiau Valley. Robert was also willing to lead a trip to visit the new hut over this 3-day weekend.
David Mason, who now lives at Amberley, kindly accommodated the six of us who had arrived from Timaru on Friday night. It broke the journey from Timaru nicely and enabled us to begin walking by 11.15 am on Saturday.
After leaving Hanmer we encountered snow almost as soon as we began the ascent of Jacks Pass and were surprised at how much there was. It was easy to see why DOC closes all 4WD tracks in the St James Conservation Area during winter. The Maling Pass track was covered in snow, though it was soft and not too thick so walking was quite easy. We were cheered on our way by warm sunshine and were shedding layers of clothing as we made the steady ascent to Maling Pass at 1308 metres. Here we met a young chap who had skied from the carpark and was practicing jumps.
As we began the steeper descent we enjoyed great views of the Waiau Valley and by 3 pm were at the end of the 4WD track. From there we continued up the valley where, in the late afternoon light, the still waters of side streams and the odd tarn, provided wonderful reflections of the surrounding mountains. In and out of various patches of bush we tramped and just on 5 pm arrived at the new hut set on an elevated bank at the bushedge.
What a wonderful facility this new hut is! With six bunks, log burner, stainless steel benchtop, table and two forms, the hut is a fabulous asset, especially for those walking the increasingly popular Te Araroa Trail. Already, since the hut was finished last November, there have been over 500 people spend a night there. It must be very satisfying for Robert to know the hut will continue to be so well used.
Three Christchurch trampers were already in residence when we arrived. They had the same idea as us: that to go in the wintertime would probably mean they’d be the only ones there. Fortunately we had taken tents so Catherine and Owen set up theirs, as did Barry. One person laid a sleeping mat on the hut floor, meaning we were all accommodated for the night – some enjoying a degree of warmth more than others!
On Saturday we walked 3 km further up the valley to the 2-bunk Caroline Bivvy which hitherto has been the only hut in the area. Although a refuge if needed, it has now been superceded by the new Waiau Hut. While four of the group returned to the hut, Catherine, Barry and Dorothy continued up valley to enjoy the winter wonderland: snow hanging on tree branches, icicles drooping from boulders beside the clear blue river and more beautiful reflections of snowy peaks. Meantime, others back at the hut were appreciating the cosy warmth from the log burner. Some collected firewood to ensure a good supply was left for the next people.
As we left the hut at 7.15 am on Monday cloud was hanging around the hills but there was no rain. We were back at the carpark by 1pm after a six hour hike. How lucky we were that it was only when we were in the vehicles driving out that any precipitation began to fall.
After a welcome cuppa at David’s house, the Timaru crew members were on their way soon after 4 pm and home soon after 7 pm.
Special thanks to Robert for arranging this trip to ‘his’ new hut and to David for his warm hospitality. All very much appreciated by the rest of the group that comprised Catherine Thomas, Owen Morrison, Barry Robinson, John Hyland and Dorothy Tomlinson