Hopkins/Huxley blog | March/April 2022

My earlier excursions up the Avoca and long Wilberforce Rivers during summer had proved a success. It was good to spend some time walking through spectacular mountains, without necessarily clambering over them.

Years ago, when tramping Te Araroa, I had noted that there were a few long Canterbury river valleys to explore: the Rakaia, the Rangitata, the Ahuriri.

Also, up the head of Lake Ohau, were two long valleys that I didn’t know much about.

Now it was time to find out.

There are two big rivers: the Hopkins and the Dobson. The Hopkins River was my primary focus, but I might as well explore some of the tributaries while in the vicinity.

I loaded plenty of food aboard, once again, along with my tent and sleeping mat. I counted out 12 days of food, pretty easy when each meal is prepackaged in Ziploc bags.

A real lump of a pack.

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Day 1 | Maitland Hut

When I finally hit the forest edge I realised that while I was less than halfway, it would be dark when I made it to the hut unless progress improved.

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Day 2 | Temple camping area

Major surprise when getting to the lowest clearing and spotting some antlers quite close.

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Day 3 | Monument Hut

The section up to Monument Hut proved a real plod, but the more distant scenery was certainly spectacular. The mountains are jagged, and the peaks pointy.

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Day 4 | Red Hut

I had been asleep for over an hour last night and slowly voices, lights, and various noises woke me up as a father and his 12-year-old son arrived. They had come all the way down the valley after camping almost at the top hut, Erceg Hut.

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Day 5 | Elcho Hut

Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Sometimes, what is directly in front of your face is enough, and I really appreciated this most extraordinarily beautiful valley.

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Day 6 | Dodger Hut

The valley continues to look spectacular, and I have a choice of two glaciers to peruse tonight, although not from the introverted hut.

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Day 7 | Dodger Hut, second night

These are the days you dream of having.

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Day 8 | Red Hut, again

Before I left the hut, drizzle waxed and waned, but generally increased in intensity until half an hour before Red Hut was the full dose.

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Day 9 | Huxley Forks Main Hut

Crossing the Hopkins River wasn’t without drama.

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Day 10 | Huxley Forks Main Hut, again

One of the great alpine views with the south-facing ramparts of Mount Fraser, 2277 m, towards the north, particularly gnarly and totally impressive.

That’s what I came up here for.

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Day 11 | South Huxley Bivvy

Being a sucker for punishment, Option 3 it is.

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Day 12 | Red Hut, third time

I picked out a path up the other side over the unstable terrain, but when I slid to the bottom, it seemed quite reasonable to just walk down the chute and continue on down to the main river half a kilometre away.

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Day 13 | Christchurch

Sometimes the last steps feel the longest of kilometres.