I make a point to never check the weekend forecast for an upcoming tramp before Thursday, Wednesday night at the latest. It’s not a superstition, exactly, more my way to cope with an ever-changing forecast and an aversion to decision-making. Better to see the forecast just once, close enough to departure to be pretty solid, and make one decision about where we’ll go to avoid the rain.
But THIS time the whole of our weekend driving range looked amazingly good. Cold, for sure; it IS winter after all. But dry, sunny, and with calm winds. Carrie and I reveled in the unexpected luck in getting yet another winter tramp in fine weather. We both have kids and partners and jobs, so overnight tramps don’t happen spur-of-the-moment, and if the calendar appointment happens to fall on a good weather weekend, it’s cause for joy.
We opted for Edwards Valley. We had both been there before, but it’s less than two hours drive from Christchurch, and has a snug hut above the tree line, and side trip potential.
The walk up the Edwards starts with crossing the Bealey and the Mingha Rivers, which aren’t bridged, but in low flows are straight forward. I even kept my boots somewhat dry, with the aid of gaiters and a walking pole. The track isn’t technical, but, as we were reminded by a couple staying at the hut, it IS a big step up from the Abel Tasman great walk. The track bounced between a steep wooded path around gorges and stretches of gravelly river bed, but since you’re going up river and the hut is on the river, you really can’t get lost.
“During the magnitude 7.1 Arthur’s Pass earthquake on 9 March 1929, a 900-metre-high section of mountain peak collapsed onto Taruahuna Pass, close to the epicentre. The landslide continued partway up the flanks of Mt Franklin opposite. It then slid about 5 kilometres down the remote valley of the west branch of the Otehake River. The collapsed peak was later dubbed Falling Mountain.” https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/4493/falling-mountain-landslide
I’ve been in the Taruahuna pass several years ago and I remember the landscape–huge rip-rap type boulders fill the entire pass, your entire field of vision for at least an hour of hiking. Can you imagine a land slide big enough to shoot rubble 5 km down the neighboring valley? It did occur to me that one would have to be extraordinarily unlucky to be in the mountains during that kind of event, and of course it’s not unprecedented…. But you can’t live your life worrying about these things.
The hut was unexpectedly busy for a winter weekend; of the 16 bunks, 13 ended up full. Around one table that evening we had cool range of accents, and countries of origin. Chinese, Canadian, German, Kiwi, Dutch, Zimbabwean, American and Australian. The sky was cloudless and the moon hadn’t yet risen; the milky way was more spectacular than I’d ever seen it.
Still, we felt pretty accomplished. Once you’re confident with navigating off-trail, all kinds of amazing adventures open up. Carrie and I are working on building those skills and that confidence, while at the same time being aware that a whole lot can go wrong while making up your own route in the mountains.
Comfort zones nudged out a bit towards more adventure–yay!