The Three Passes (2)
Saturday February 9th
Heading up Cronin Stream
Cronin Glacier and Whitehorn Pass
Deb left Park Morpeth hut first, planning to reach Grassy Flat or even
the road that day, but we were up and away about 9am for the hardest
day of the trip, for which I wore my boots
First came the long haul up Cronin Stream, on rocks and without much
of a track - we walked above the cairned route for much of the time,
trying to avoid dropping into side gullies. Along the way I had my
first close-up encounter with a Kea - Joe told me it was a shy one, but
it seemed pretty inquisitive to me! - and we had great views of Cronin
glacier hanging above the valley.
The final steep scramble up to Whitehorn Pass left me pretty done in.
We had lunch at the top, in a chilly wind, and got to see Cronin glacier
calving. Then we headed down across the Whitehorn snowfield that had had
me so worried (almost everyone we passed had been carrying ice axes).
This turned out to be no problem at all - I slipped once and slid a few
metres, but it was a gentle slope with no cliffs around and was perfectly
safe, though Joe cut steps across a few ice patches.
Tibetan flags at Harman Pass
Down the Taipoiti
Then it was a couple of kilometres of rocks down the stream to Ariels
Tarn, where Joe had a swim. Having crossed from the Cronin/Wilberforce
catchment to the Mary/Taipo catchment, we now went over Harman Pass into
the Taipoiti/Waimakariri catchment. It was a steep but uncomplicated
descent down the Taipoiti to White's River (where I changed back into
volleys and Joe checked out the flying fox) and then an easy kilometre
and a half down to the Waimakariri and Carrington hut.
Carrington hut (category 2) was huge compared to the others I'd seen
on the trip. It had bunks for 39, two cooking areas, a watertank, and
even a hut warden, a young Czech woman called Katy
working as a volunteer. She was trying to do New Zealand on NZ$3 a day,
so this was free accomodation while she climbed mountains. There were
maybe half a dozen other people there, but we only really talked to Katy -
we sat up late talking and writing in our diaries, while burning (using
paper wicks Joe made) every scrap of wax we could find in the tea light,
in which the occasional fly immolated itself. It was here I finally
realised my torch batteries were dead, and put new ones in.
There was some explanation of complicated romances - Katy was open and
totally unaffected as well as attractive, so it was easy to see why
too many DOC employees had fallen for her.
But mostly we talked about language: Joe learning phrases to use with
Czech friends back in Sydney, me asking obscure questions about Czech
grammar, and Katy with the occasional question about English, though
she spoke it pretty fluently and was even writing her diary in English.
She made us a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows - we couldn't have
ended a great day's tramping much better than that!
Sunday February 10th
Katy at Carrington Hut
I was up before 8; Joe slept in a bit longer, as usual. Katy was
preparing a love letter for a friend at Arthur's Pass - the radio was a
bit too public for some things! - which she sealed with wax and which we
took to deliver for her (she had run out to the road the previous day
to visit Arthur's Pass, but had pulled a muscle doing that).
We sat around talking for a while but were away by about 9. With the water level low it was an easy walk down
the floodplain of the Waimakariri, though it still took us nearly five
hours to do the 15km or so to the road. Flocks of wild geese provided
the only real distraction, though the views looking backwards were
pretty good. When we reached the campground we had a wash in the river
and changed into cleaner clothes - and immediately scored a hitch the
2km from there to Klondyke Corner on the main road.
I went first with the hitching, with Joe coaching me. Most of the traffic
was going the other way and I had no luck for maybe 40 minutes - and I
was getting a bit depressed with the light drizzle getting stronger.
Then along came Chris, a final-year med student from Otago, who not
only stopped to pick me up but had room for Joe as well and was going
to Hokitika. On the way he and Joe talked medical shop (and we delivered
Katy's love letter at the DOC centre in Arthur's Pass) and in Hokitika
he dropped us off right at the backpackers.
A great way to finish a really great tramp.
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