Merv put this on the club trip program and talked of an attractive campsite and pleasant travel along ridges. We were sold. Eventually conditions were ripe for the plucking. His proposed route outlined a deviation to bag 2 minor summits en route. A query revealed that that was the way they’d gone last time so I accepted that these things will happen on club trips.

We drove to the road end up the Harper Valley though not as far as some of us would have preferred but Merv explained it was club policy not to oil the farmer’s palm with 4WD track charges. Considering the track was probably financed by subsidies back in the day, this would make it more galling.

We set off on a hot morning which had me dousing my head then rushing to catch up. Others were carrying their own water supply so didn’t need to stop. We crossed the Avoca a little way up from where it joins the Harper and bee-lined for Centre Ck, stopping for lunch shortly before reaching the creek which was accessed via an overgrown 4WD track.

The others had gone ahead but Frank waited for me at the turn-off. We scratched our way through matagouri and other low scrub to reach Centre Ck and met up with the rest of the team. Centre Ck was not fast travel with a choice between beech forest regen or tutu-clad banks hiding boulders. We rested at an idyllic little clearing then carried on, passing hunters’ hoochys at what looked like the perfect campsite.

Then it was time to find our campsite but not before Merv refuelled with a bit of magnesium for cramps. We carried on and located several flat spots on mossy areas close to the junction of the stream with the 33m waterfall and the eastern tributary. Wind was minimal so we had a pleasant evening with a brief visit by a hunter and early bedtime for a wake up call of 6.30am.

In the morning we headed north, passing the area where Merv and co. had camped on their trip 20 years before. We crossed the stream and I deviated east to travel with more breeze up the fringe of scree in low carpeting scrub while others followed Frank up through tussock.  Both routes took the same amount of time. Then we snacked, sitting on a big rock and waited for stragglers to join us.

We rounded an attractive spur and lingered downstream of the 18m waterfall for drinks and replenishing water bottles. The party then travelled to view the turquoise-hued tarn in the upper basin (200m north of Pt 1625) though Frank waited for us at the edge of the tussock as he didn’t see the point of going for a look at a tarn we could see in the upcoming ascent and he was right.

There were copious flat areas in the tussock nearby if people wanted to camp further up the valley e.g. for climbing Packard Pk. We discussed routes from the tarn to the summit ridge and decided a direct ascent to the enticing flat ridgeline north east of Pt 1972 would be the go so we diagonalled across scree to successive leads of tussock, rounded a corner, sidling into the final tussock lead, gaining the ridge and shortly after this our first summit.

We continued down the chossy ridge to a saddle then pondered on the best way from there to follow up the ridgeline. The way looked nasty and precipitous (here be dragons) with foreshortening but proved to be a doddle with hands in pockets. At Pt 2021, we stopped for lunch then dropped down and scrambled up finally to our objective of Thesis Pk. From here I was eyeballing a direct route to the valley floor where we had camped the evening before. There was a bit of discussion on the best way down to the Avoca Valley. The ridgeline to a scree purporting to be good going looked nasty. It might be possible to drop down the western spur a little and then descend into this scree heading down to the Avoca south of the peak but the scree leading NW looked as though it ran all the way to the valley floor. Merv’s recollections were a little hazy so we choose the more northern option.

Initially it was good going with runs of finer argillite but we had to deviate where there was a chokepoint with possible bluffs (which Frank had predicted). Most folks dropped down directly while Frank and I explored to our right onto a small unpleasant spur briefly, then dropped down to rejoin the main scree with the others. By the time we got to 1500m a.s.l. the scree was now unpleasant and slow-going so I moseyed over to the true right where I could see clayey terrain with small beech trees growing on it.

This was faste and more pleasant travel (until I skidded and landed hard on my shoulder). We waited to regroup in tussocks and then headed down to the attractive park-like more open but steep beech forest, pushed through that and emerged on the flanks where a yazoo stream had formed and we could slake our thirst. It was now 4pm and we had 20km of mainly 4WD track to plod along. At 4km an hour , this would take us 5 hours but people were saying we’ll be out before it gets dark. Unfortunately 2 of us had work the next morning and one of them was me.

We trudged down and crossed Basins Creek but avoided going up to the hut from where the 4WD track continues down valley. Frank goaded us to take a shortcut to it though the matagouri but no one was keen so he turned and led us down the creek to the main river. However I left the main valley to check out how far away the 4WD track was and indeed it was 200m west of where we were. However I realized everyone except Frank had followed my deviation so Frank got ahead and we didn’t see him until we reached the roadend.

The route march continued past Centre Ck, a lovely verdant spot, down to the Avoca/Harper junction and south of Corner Ck we began heading downstream, crossing the Avoca, towards a vegetated bluff in the Harper Valley where the 4WD track and Te Araroa trail run. We got on to the trail then lost it until I recognized where the track had crumbled away from a fence-line though others had spotted the markers well before that. Down the Harper Valley we continued, gaining a 4WD track in the dusk but leaving our head torches unlit to assist in peripheral visibility.

Frank’s torches lit up our destination.  I put my headtorch on to give him some indication of how far away we were and at 10pm we arrived at the car for a drive home that had us in bed around 1pm with no dinner. The emails were appreciative of the trip but there were a few blisters among the stoic. I still have no idea why Sven Brabyn et al. chose to climb Thesis Pk indiretissima on that trip and why we had to replicate this on ours