24-26 June 2011
The blurb in Footnotes said “A moderate traverse of Mt Fyffe with a Friday evening start to Kaikoura and a walk up the 4WD track by moonlight to Mt Fyffe hut. Saturday involves the Mt Fyffe traverse across Gable to Gables End and down to Kowhai Saddle and Kowhai Hut. Sunday is more leisurely—down the Kowhai River and out.”
So five of us headed off from Christchurch in the dark after work on the Friday evening, meeting Trevor Blogg in Cheviot. We didn’t get to the road-end until about 8.30pm and there was no sign of the promised moonlight so we plodded up to the hut in darkness. We used our torches occasionally for some patches but tried to do most of it without—it wasn’t too difficult as the track is a good 4WD track most of the way. Once we allowed time for night vision to kick in we could just about see our feet! We got to the hut at about 11.30pm and disturbed a Canadian couple who had just arrived in the country. We told them it was perfectly normal kiwi practice to walk in the dark.
The next morning was beautifully clear and sunny with no wind and some frost. We got an early start to continue up to the summit of Mt Fyffe for morning tea and then along the undulating ridges to Gables and Gables end at just over 1600m—about the same height as Mt Fyffe. A lunch stop on the way gave fabulous views across to the higher inland Kaikouras, then we had a steep drop, down to Kowhai saddle. Here the track is marked, down through the bush, following the stream, and being in shade, it was still icy in places. At one stream crossing I slipped, fell backwards and put out a hand to stop myself but landed badly and managed to bend my fingers backwards on a rock. My hand swelled up like a rubber glove and was very painful but after a short stop and a hot drink (thanks Trevor!) I felt able to go on. Tim had to help me down the steeper sections as I had to do the rest of the trip one-handed. We got to the nice little Kowhai Hut in good time and settled in for the night. We had the place to ourselves and so all got a bunk!
Sunday morning was clear again, but some snow had fallen on the tops during the night. We set off down the valley and in a very short time reached the junction with Spaniard Spur track. The river was higher than the last time we did this trip back in Feb 2008 so we had a lot of river crossings. Fortunately the gorge sections were not that deep. We got back to the car park by lunch-time and some people had lunch there and some decided to wait until we got to Kaikoura for a cafe stop. After lunch in a lovely cafe with blazing fire we headed to Trevor’s where he provided a lovely afternoon tea for us—a civilised end to a nice sociable, sunny weekend! Thanks to Tim Hines, Yvette So, Trevor Blogg, Keith McQuillan, Douglas Woods and Mary Hines.
PS. I got my hand X-rayed and it wasn’t broken, just very badly sprained! (MH)