In the past two years of dating Joe, we have yet to spend a Christmas together. We have always managed to spend so much of our time together before, with either traveling or Climbing but right when Christmas Day was upon us, we would go home to our families and see each other soon after.
We had found ourselves in the small coastal town of Hokitika when Christmas Eve was upon us. We explored around, and found ourselves eating breakfast on the rocks that overlooked the Blue Gorge and soon parked the car by Kaniere Lake for the rest of the day. We laughed and talked about what are families would be doing on Christmas Eve (even though it was actually still the 23rd back home). A can of chili beans was heated up in the Jet Boil, and placed into tortillas with red peppers, onions and sharp cheddar cheese to make our Christmas Eve wraps. We watched the sunset over a beautiful quiet lake while I skipped rocks and we ate a package of mint cookies, the most perfect first Christmas Eve together.
In hopes that the crowds would all be home for the holiday, and with a little bit of research on Christmas Day we decided to hike up to a small Alpine hut called Mt.Brown Hut. With a later afternoon start, and some distant dark clouds overhead we started up the trail. Spider webs grabbed my face and legs, making it apparent no one had been up there anytime recently. The trail went up and up and up, until the large Beechwood forest was behind us and the alpine tussocks swiped our legs as we finally saw the hut. After 3,100ft of elevation gain the sight of the Hut was so wonderful. Just as we stepped inside the wind outside wrapped around the little 4 bunk hut, and the rain convinced us to stay inside.
We changed out of our sweaty clothes into warm dry layers, with thoughts of my family at home cooking Christmas Eve dinner, eating pie and telling stories around the table... it was hard not to feel a bit homesick. The feeling was short lived though, as we laughed, ate food, read stories and enjoyed this small little alpine hut. Even if it felt a million miles away from home, we went to bed content.
The morning sun warmed the hut and we awoke to the sound of the metal stretching in the change of temperature. We stepped outside to watch the local ground dwelling birds, called Weckas run around and greet a beautiful day. After some brief exploring, we said our goodbyes to the small orange hut and headed down a wet and muddy trail back to the car.
With such a successful trip up to Mt Brown Hut we quickly started to research more huts in the area. We knew we wanted to go to Arthur’s Pass at some point, so with good weather in the upcoming forecast we drove West to find our next adventure.
We explored a bit of the town and after talking to some fellow hikers that were headed over to Crow hut and talking to the DOC about the hike- we decided to go there the next day.
We set up the car near the town at a free Camp spot with a large stone three wall shelter with a fire place. The night went on to attract plenty of other hikers and travelers, and after talking we soon learned we would all be climbing the same mountain tomorrow. Joe and I would be the only ones to be carrying over to the hut in the valley on the other side. We laughed and enjoyed the camaraderie that the Camp site brought.
The next morning we arrived at the DOC to purchase our hut passes, only to be informed two other groups were ahead of us and one more walked in right behind us, all headed to Crow Hut... if we wanted a bunk we better get on our way.
The track that lead to the top of Mt Avalanche was steep, but we intentionally made our packs as light as possible and as a result we flew up the mountain. We passed day hikers, and I started to feel like all this hiking was paying off!! We arrived at the top of the peak and were greeted by plenty of other hikers. Most importantly our whole group from the night before was enjoying the summit, what a fun coincidence that was.
Mt. Avalanche is one of the most popular hikes in the park, so when we headed the opposite direction from everyone else we were happy to have the solitude. Though it did not last long. As we dropped down the opposite ridge, fellow hikers all headed to Crow Hut, hiked along with us.
Light grey clouds kept the sun from baking us alive as we walked on the exposed ridge. Mt Rolleston filled the horizon with sheer rock ridges and glaciers filling the stream beds below with cold melt water.
We all arrived to the skree field that lead to the valley below at the same time. We agreed to leave plenty of space between us, as to make sure not to dislodge a head smashing rock on the person in front of us.
The six of us carefully spaced out, stepped, slipped, slided and plodded down the never ending rock field. Deep small pebbles made for secure footing but when the pebbles turned to shallow sand you were quickly reminded of how steep of a grade you were on as gravity tried to rip your feet out from under you.
By the time we made it to the valley floor we were excited to be on stable ground again. The hut was not far off and walking through the door with plenty of bunks to choose from felt like victory.
The hut never filled up, but a few late day hikers arrived to finish off the day with a good group of hut dwellers.
The next day was a long plod through the valley. After a few river crossings, one minor slip into one and some very wet shoes we stood on the side of the road, with our thumbs out and smiling as we gave the universal sign for “we need a ride”!
After finding our way back to the car, and settling in at the Camp ground, we looked at the weather for the upcoming week.
Rain... and rain... oh and more rain.
|PC- JDStylos... Our only photo of Mt. Aspiring, our original main objective of the trip. Very accurate photo for this trip|
So with Arthur’s Pass about to pummeled by quite the storm we headed back to the West Coast in hopes to find something to do while we waited.
Not the best plan, as all it did was rain there too. So after much frustration, we decided to drive back to our favorite town in NZ called Wanaka.
The next few days were filled with some beautiful sunshine. We found a good place to sleep right near some great rock climbing. As if it weren’t enough that we had failed to bring our rock shoes, I failed to see the edge of our neighbors van door and walked my head right into it. Blood dripped down my face, but luckily enough Joe and the other neighbor came to the rescue with a fix it kit.
With my new battle scar we decided to take the next day and make it an easy one. We opted for a brief 30min run around the lake shore, and just as we were about a minute from the car, a root FLEW out of the ground, grabbed my ankle and yanked me to where it came from. I walked the rest of the way back to the car only to reveal a nice bloody knee to match my head. Luckily the closely parked mothers were quick to bring bandaids and betadine to clean up the mess.
With all this trouble, we still loved Wanaka. We managed to stay about four days with only minor problems here and there. But rather than stay and make anymore trouble we went into town to do some research on where to go next.
We tend to be on a bit of a back track, as that evening we found ourselves looking at Mt Cook while trying to get WiFi in Twizel. We stayed at one of our favorite campsites and watched The movie Groundhog Day.
The next morning we drove into the town of Tekapu to fill up water before driving down to our next little hut objective. After getting slightly lost we eventually found our way to the trailhead.
We hiked through flowers covered in busy bumblebees and hiked through fields of golden grass. Though beautiful, the hike had no sense of scale and the ascent of the little saddle seemed endless. The sun baked us as we hiked and once the clouds gave us some reprieve, we ate some snacks and immediately started to feel a little more enthusiastic.
We rounded the corner, and the valley took shape with The Camp Stream Hut just coming into view. The wood pile was stacked high, and every metal barrel was stressed at the seems with wood. The rustic walls had seen many of people as the door said “1898”. This little hut was filled with the most character we had seen. 100 years of smell from fires, cooking, shepherds, and hikers alike filled your nose. The concrete foundation was worn with the foot traffic over the years, and treasures left behind lined the walls.
We read, listened to stories, played games and explored until enjoying our Spaghetti dinner than was originally planned for one of our summit day climbs. Oh man did that taste good!!
We awoke early in the morning to what sounded like rain pattering the hut only to realize that the slight change in the temperature caused the huts walls to awaken and greet the new day.
It was hard to say goodbye to the small hut and all the character it had to offer, as there is a chance it might be our last of the trip. We arrived back at the car late that morning and drove into town to fill waters, grab some groceries, fill the gas tank and start the drive towards Christchurch.
We've settled in well here at the hostel in Christchurch. We enjoyed a real bed, shower, and washer for the first time in over two months. It's felt like luxury. It's been a bit tricking to get the car sold but we're working on it!! With about two days to go before we fly out, we're trying to relax and enjoy the city before we are engulfed with travel and jet lag!