Lewis Pass to Lewis Pass, and back to Nelson | February 2017
The third tramping expedition of the 2016-17 summer had a grand ambition — the Lewis Pass to Arthurs Pass via some large western rivers that had not been previously explored.
The tramp started very well, at least for the first day.
Then it took some surprising turns, mainly due to the poor weather: low visibility on the alpine tops, high winds and further low cloud, continuous heavy rain for a few days, windfall sections of forest, washed out track, etc.
After that the itinerary went in a completely unexpected direction, at which point the weather gradually improved.
This is how it went . . .
I stopped at the second tarn I came across, too far down to the first, although it looked a good and sheltered campsite.
Low cloud was streaming past a wet tent at some velocity in the morning.
Up there it’s hard not to think this area should be a national park, but I guess the hunters would object, this area immediately west of the highway is reserved for recreational shooters. Helicopter shooting not allowed.
Not much time to contemplate the general landscape, I was using all that fitness I’ve gained over the summer to motor along, wary that one minute of looking around might be worth five minutes of scrambling when the light deteriorated.
I sat in my sleeping bag to keep warm, reading the hut literature and having the occasional nap. Just like you are supposed to do on a rest day.
Hmmm, better to go to my fallback weather assessment: today will be exactly the same as yesterday. This has a remarkably successful predictive ability, except for the 25% when it is catastrophically wrong.
I spent about four hours doing not much on the pass, so it was getting on when I started my descent, never my preferred direction due to generally poor agility and somewhat dodgy knees.
Sadly after eight days everything, particularly anything to do with my feet, was starting to seriously pong.
On the negative, well, I’d smash my way through a confusing jumble of mature fallen trees, pushing through dense bracken, etc. This was not easy travel.
It’s been a crazy itinerary for the summer. Nothing much like I had planned back in September.
For once I was hoping to rain so that I had an excuse for a rest day.
If yesterday had me starting to be reacquainted with civilisation, well, today the human numbers went way up.
When you meet strangers and have a shared Little Adventure, like crossing Waiau Pass, you can have a bit to talk about.
It’s just special. This is my world.
I had everything I needed, but not all I wanted. Kinda like life.
Maybe I started with grand ambition, but that didn’t last long. I sat at the river crossing, the site of the old Maitland Hut for an hour.
What else would I be doing?
The track has its moments, eight creek crossings, some gnarly rocky areas to traverse with a few decent drop-offs, but it seems in better nick than it was last time, or I might just have become used to peril.
I watch the local weka stand in the water attempting to peck at the tadpoles, which tend to move just beyond pecking radius.
Around 1600 m climbing and descent for the day. Almost 21 km cracked out.
I kind of think I might never come back, so I should take the time to experience the place rather than run on through to the next destination to tick off on my itinerary.
Not much to say about the day, I had that destination on my mind for once, and smashed it out.
Somehow my pack felt heavy on my shoulders, despite the almost complete lack of food within.