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2019 Jan 07-10 Harman Pass Trip

Friday, January 18, 2019

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Harman Pass trip 7-10 Jan

Seven of us enjoyed this trip under the capable leadership of Russell Ramsden.

After shuffling cars around we set off late morning from Kelly’s Creek just past Otira, bound for the Carrol Hut and the tops of the Kelly Range. It was good tramping weather, overcast and cool, and we made good progress despite it being quite a grunt for some of us. Mist was threatening when we set off after our lunch stop at the hut, and soon we were surrounded by windy, cold dampness as we followed the clearly marked route through the high country tundra. Eventually we came to a sign: “To the Taipo Valley”, and we started a free-for-all steepish descent through tundra and scrub. Below the mist the Taipo came into sight, glistening in the afternoon sun, with the Taramakau spread out lazily beyond. Then it was through the bush and down, down, down. At one point the side of the track was missing due to a major collapse into the stream a couple of hundred metres below, the going was particularly tricky at one spot. Some of us found the relentless steep descent tough on our legs! A compensation was the rich and varied plant life along the way, some I don’t remember seeing before. The Dillons hut was a very welcome sight after a long day.

Day two was up the Taipo which was a bit above normal flow. The first section was quite tricky, including a pause while we worked how to navigate round a bluff cut into by the river. Then it was across the river on a three-wire cableway and a steep scramble up over a bluff – and then another steep scramble back down again. I found this the most challenging section of the whole tramp. Back on the flat the going sped up considerably. A bit further on one member of our party volunteered “The Mid Taipo hut is just along here round that bluff”. Hmmm. The hut remained obstinately out of sight for a long, long time. Eventually though, with perseverance, it did appear and we had a well-earned lunch. The afternoon was hot going along the exposed flats, but this changed and the last quarter of the day we found ourselves walking along a wide, grassy track through delightful bush. A highlight was a high bluff right beside the track carpeted in a rich, green moss, down which water cascaded in many mini-waterfalls and streams of droplets. Such natural beauty. I want to get a copy of the picture Russell took! We reached the hut is good time, squeezed in and prepared for an early morning start.

Day three was cooler. We started early and made good progress moving purposefully upwards along a nice wooded valley, eventually coming out into a typical high country valley surrounded by impressive peaks festooned with snow here and there. The going became slowish with lots of big boulders to circumnavigate and a few times scrabbling through the scrub. Eventually the pass came into view and we made slow but steady progress up the last 300 meters to the top. We relaxed over lunch enjoying the view towards the Waimak valley. Then it was steeply down with lots of rough scree slopes through several impressive narrow gorge sections, with several challenging river crossings on the way. The White River seemed to appear quite quickly, then it was one more river crossing and along the level to the Carrington hut. There was still some afternoon left so we took the opportunity to relax, socialise, learn Uno, or read a book. With heavy rain predicted there was some discussion about whether we would be able to get out the next day.

After heavy rain overnight we nevertheless set off in slowly abating drizzle. The Waimak appeared, looking very ferocious. There was no way we were going to cross that rushing fury! Some side streams slowed us down while we located suitable crossing places, and grouped river crossings became almost routine. At one point the Waimak pushed us into the adjacent bush, and after a bit of bush-bashing we found a proper track and made good progress to the Anti-Crow hut where we had lunch. From there it was straightforward trudging along the flats. Finally we could see our return vehicle waiting just across the river but we had to do it the long way via the Bealey side of the Waimak bridge.

One bit of excitement occurred while we were crossing Turkey Flat. We spotted a man in the distance running towards us. He seemed to be in distress, so a couple of us turned back to see what the matter was. “Someone has my boots!” he gasped out. He had run all the way in someone else’s boots from the Carrington hut to find the culprit and reclaim his own. How could that happen? Who could it be? Sufficient to say, after a brief encounter involving some fairly strong emotions of relief, surprise, embarrassment (and others?) he turned to retrace his steps all the way up the valley.

I enjoyed this tramp and appreciated getting to know my tramping companions. We were a pretty diverse group with very different backgrounds, but a shared love of the outdoors that drew us together. And thanks to Russell who proved a capable leader, rising to the occasion several times when the route ahead seemed blocked. Some of us found the tramp was a bit of a stretch for our level of fitness but while our speed was at times on the slow side we got there! And it was great to be rubbing shoulders with and swapping stories with people with a great wealth of back-country experience.

Trampers: Russell Ramsden, Alison Downard, Peter Moody, Ben Heese, Geoff Mahan, Tim Emson, Tim Slack


Photos by Russell Ramsden are here:

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