17-18 July 2010
This was a trip which required all of Mary Hines' organisational skills. Participants were dropping in and out up to the last minute, with Tim Hines staying home sick. Mary picked up four of us, me, Rori, Katie and then Graeme.
We joined up with the other car-load in Burnside and drove on to Arthur's Pass. In view of the shortage of daylight and the fact that we were all in two cars, a "car-shuffle" was impractical. The other car-load (John, Laura, Adrian and Joy) was very fit, however, and wanted to make the full crossing, so we settled on a key-exchange car-swap. As the "fit-four" had both a longer drive and a longer walk ahead, the "slower-five" stopped for a sneaky coffee at Arthur's Pass village.
The weather was interesting—rain in Christchurch, solid cloud up to Porters Pass, then broken cloud, then full sunshine in Westland.
Our group had a leisurely tramp from the Blackball end. The track is very good, and was mainly very dry. We stopped at most of the historic sites, and made a side-trip to Garden Gully and the nearby stamping battery, which was used to crush gold-bearing ore before the final extraction with mercury. We also saw an old sluicing-jet pipe discarded in the bush, so water sluicing was obviously used by some miners.
For anyone with a historical bent, I recommend a trip in from the Blackball end, even if you don't plan to go to the hut for the night. The DoC placards which describe the history and mining operations are very thorough.
The slower five (myself trailing) got to Ces Clark Hut, built largely by volunteer effort, just as the sun was setting. Some of the "fit-four" party was already there—absurdly fit, some people—and we were also joined by a "coaster" with his family of two giggly girls and quiet young boy. The coal-stove had already been lit before our arrival but needed a bit of tweaking to get it to heat well, while the rest of the "fit-four" arrived, having completed the uphill slog from Barrytown in record time.
Mary was soon at work preparing the dinner, with a little bit of help from others in our group, and we settled down to a meal of lentils, beans, etc, with couscous, followed by Mary's delicious homemade cakes served up with custard. With hot drinks, there was the usual amount of banter that goes with a group of people of mixed interests and occupations, and the evening passed quickly. I missed quite a bit of it as I turned in very early.
The hut itself is well-equipped, with an indoor sink so dish-washing was a breeze, but has a step down from the entrance into the main hut. This is treacherous for anyone moving around in the dark, and next morning also resulted in my doing a base-over-apex flip at the bottom of a top-bunk ladder, which is carelessly sited directly next to the step in the floor.
The westward bound five dashed around and finally got on the track for Barrytown at about 8:30, a bit later than we’d hoped. We moved at a fairly good pace, but after we'd made a side-trip to Croesus Knob, the high point of the trip at 1204m, and taken lots of photos (even the Mount Cook group of peaks was visible well to the south), time was pretty limited.
Air temperatures were never low, though we were walking over frozen ground on the tops and there was a chilling wind for a while just before we entered the beach forest. Despite Mary cracking on the pace, and Rori lending me a walking pole to speed up my descent, it was about 2:30 before we reached Barrytown.
The descent had been through an amazing range of vegetation, starting with rich alpine scrub, into silver-beech forest, then into red-beech, with Toro creeping in, down into almost pure Kamahi for a while, then through Nikau palms and majestic tree-ferns and broad-leaved lowland trees to the very narrow coastal plain at Barrytown.
We found the other group's car with no trouble, and Mary drove us to Jacksons, where she had arranged to meet the "fit-four" at 2pm! After swapping cars and bidding farewell to the others, we five had drinks and some food around a great open fire at Jacksons pub, and finally were on our way back to Christchurch where Mary chauffeured us all safely to our chosen destinations.
Taking part were: Trevor Blogg, Adrian Daly, Rori Green, Laura Haslam, Mary Hines (leader),Graeme Nicholas, John Robinson, Joy Schroeder, Katie Shorrock (TB)