I never imagined I’d be back to Jagged Stream with its slopes carpeted in a thankfully short type of Spaniard. This trip came on the Peninsula Tramping Club program and Frank shared my interest in revisiting this area. The club newsletter described “a day-tramp up to this 2000m col promising magnificent
As the first day was only a short stroll up the Rakaia to the Thompsons Hut we didn’t leave
Dan was nominated the driver. He’s been away from the club for 7 years or so. We set off in his spacious and commodious vehicle and after a detour of the back paddocks of Double Hill station, got to Glenfalloch and the end of the 4WD track. I guess those cockies had been smiling as they saw us heading thataway! We parked up and set off but before long stopped to chat to some guests of Glenfalloch at Lake Stream, who’d come all the way from Hamilton but were familiar with the area from horse treks in former times.
The stroll up the true right bank of the Rakaia was very pleasant, interlacing our way through leads of white moss amid merciful spacings of matagouri. At a rocky corner the wind came up and snatched Kerry’s hat. I paused in a little grotto for a sheltered drink. The first crossing of a tributary of the Rakaia lulled us into a false security as to the depth and current of the second crossing. Kerry and Dan soon linked up but it was apparent they were experiencing a near miss with the river well above the plimsoll line.
Frank and I retreated and moved a little upstream where the descent of the river, thus the current, would be less. Unfortunately we forgot that we should have been in the full MSC mutual support link-up so I was providing no support, only being a potential liability to Frank should I falter. We concentrated hard on securing fully braced footing and communicating our readiness in turns to enable the other to make their move. Dan and Kerry came towards us and stretched out a reassuring pole. Frank made noises about being at his limit but going forward was by now the better option. In hindsight we needed to have crossed the river as a party of four.
A debrief had us committed to a proper link-up for the next occasion but Frank was thinking of returning to the car via a climb up a horse track from Thompsons hut to the 4WD track that runs over Prospect Hill. We linked up satisfactorily for the next 2 crossing that were only up to the tops of our thighs, The MSC method has us in a tight bulletproof formation after the shaky fragile pairs we had been.
We crossed the outlet of Washbourne Stream and I led the way onto a matagouri forested terrace. It wasn't a good move for someone who'd not been there to be deciding the route to get to Thompson Hut. We stopped to confer and Kerry said there was a clear way to the hut and perhaps it made more sense to go back to the river. However Frank pushed on across the matagouri, following narrow leads with me in the rear. Dan became separated from us as he thought we were implementing Kerry's strategy.
After a few minutes, Frank spotted a grassy rise and made his way to it intending to use it as a viewpoint to spot a clear route to the hut. This gambit was fortunate as from here on it was clear to the hut we could now see. Kerry had gone further up the creek and along the old 4WD track to the hut, arriving there before us but Dan was not in evidence. As he had no map Frank and Kerry set off to find him, calling out. I was too keen to get my wet socks and boots off and drying in the warm wind to join in the search.
Dan eventually turned up and I went to find Frank down valley of the hut and reassure him that Dan was now accounted for. Frank had found the 2 tracks leading to and from the hut plus the horse track that leads people up to Prospect Hill bypassing the slipped away old 4WD track that poses a challenge to some. I was wearing someone's servicable runners and Kerry scored the use of the others in the hut.
The 6 bunk hut was in good condition and was occupied by 2 young hunters. With the strong winds I wasn't keen on camping and trying to sleep through flapping. Fortunately they very kindly on hearing our plans to travel up to Boulder Col where they had been intending to hunt, decided to travel further another hour to Banfield Hut. This was very generous as they were shouldering 8 day packs from Lake Heron. So the next morning they would hunt Jagged Stream while we ascended the Washbourne to Boulder Col.
We got down to the business of unpacking and enjoying a hot brew. I went for a sortie and discovered a boulder bearing a plaque in memory of 2 trampers who'd drowned not far upriver some years ago. Kerry began to cook his tasty lentil meal so we could have an early night for a rise at 6.30am when it began to get light. I studied the hut book, getting a sense of who comes. The hut belongs to the Todhunters of Lake Heron and only seems to get used by them about once a year but plenty of other grateful people were using it. It had had some TLC since Kerry had last visited 18 months before but was well ventilated though possum-proof.
I was in bed soon after 8pm even though it was my birthday! The chatting men eventually quietened down though the hut shook with the strong wind. 3 Johns was on our minds at times during the night and the others didn't sleep well. As I sleep badly these days anyway, my sleep was average. It was very warm with a beautiful full moon to begin with.
Kerry was up, whistling quietly at 6.30am with the stove running for our breakfast. I struggled with my breakfast as I'd added raw muesli to leftover custard and stewed mixed fruit. It was a combination that resulted in my leaving a good half of it to whatever lucky wildlife was around to discover it. Frank and I realised the plan was to go over the Col and down Jagged Stream. Just as well I'd decided to wear boots and not my usual sandals with all the speargrass in that stream. So we packed daypacks and left the hut by 7.45am.
The way up to the col was very pleasant with fellfields of fragrant herbage. At a narrowing of Washbourne Stream Frank persuaded me to bypass the stream by ascending and traversing the slopes on the true left. Not only was this a very pleasant and quicker route but we got to see a chamois that was intent, watching the other 2 of our party below us. We sidled on an easy gradient and fortunately came to little running seepages to replenish our water supply as it was an overcast but warm day. The breeze helped keep us cool. Perfect tramping weather.
Frank maintained the lead while I stopped to drink just before the lip of vegetation that finishes half an hour short of the col. Here there were big chunks of pink sandstone talus that was reasonably stable to travel on. This segued into a causeway then the scree proper. Frank chose a route that made sense, being of an indirect thus more laidback gradient. I followed and was delighted to find myself sidling around nearly level with the col. He was exploring the ridgeline and taking shots, having got there 15 minutes before me. It had taken him 3 hours and he and I had both estimated 3-4 hours for the 1300m climb to the col. It was now 11am.
We had a spectacular view of the Reishek glacier and a few peaks. Frank and I had failed to climb any of these on our previous trip to this area as the rock was evil choss and we'd been cut off by slots from going to Red Peak. Kerry and then Dan arrived and we had a small lunch. Kerry shared his yeasty home-baked bread with dates with us. The wind picked up. We decided on the best route into Jagged Stream which was straight down through reasonable leads of scree. We shoved our way through a curtain of paralysing wind and had a satisfactory descent.
After regrouping by Jagged Stream we set off via attractive amd easily traversed slopes adjacent to the stream. Frank estimated it would take us 2 and a half hours from the col to Banfield Hut. Where the stream dropped away and became draped in scrub we consulted the map to decide the best altitude to avoid having to shove our way through unpleasant vegetation. We ascended a little and traversed scree covered slopes. Dan stepped aside and got a bit left behind so we waited. He had forgotten to put his orthotics in his boots and his soles were becoming sore with blisters but he carried on stoically.
As we dropped towards the hut, the carpetted slopes of speargrass flourished among a nasty divaricating and dessicated shrub. On my previous trip wearing an armour of plastic climbing boots I had discovered the best way to deal with these little vicious plants was to tread in the centre of them. Not very respectful of the flora but there seemed to be plenty of spares (spears). We arrived at a termination of the scree. Where to now? Kerry recalled a track through the trees by the stream and Frank spotted a cairn that lead us to a well-cairned and occasionally traveled pathway. We got to the hut at 3.15pm at our leisurely pace.
The chamois's head outside the door told us the hunters had been successful. They came out and chewed the fat. The one that looked like Art Garfunkel had spent 170 or so nights out hunting while doing his degree! Unfortunately their animal was only a female with an unimpressive set of horns. As Kerry and Dan had also sighted a chamois in Washbourne it augered well for these guys to hopefully get a trophy. They offered us a leg but I, thinking of the ascent over Prospect declined. Kerry who lives on the bones of his arse, accepted it with glee.
I chivvied our loquacious party into returning to Thompson's. The young fellas had taken a direct route to Banfield resulting in an unnecessary hour's additional tangled travel in matagouri with rifles. Frank cautioned me not to try to outsmart myself so it took us only half an hour! I showed Frank the memorial plaque en route. We arr ived at the hut to enjoy a cuppa and for me the second lunch before a further possible 3 hour's further travel.
Fortunately we got some buy-in for the full MSC river crossing method so Frank was happy to travel out via the mighty Rakaia which saved us an hour. For me this was a very pleasant walk in golden lengthening sunshine. The crossings were no issue for our compacted locked-in unit. The wind was at our tails unlike the walk in. There was a beautiful pattern of silver streaks and spots across the blue sky and the colours of the hills of gold and sage celmisia were delightful. After crossing Lake Stream I paused at the summit of the debris fan lit up with scattered red willowherb, savouring the vistas.
We regrouped although Kerry said if we walked slowly enough to the car it would make it a full 12 hour day. I said I'd rather have the extra sleep as I could see we wouldn't be getting home until after 10pm and then we'd have to have a decent feed of protein to prevent our muscles cannibalising themselves for repair. We changed, chugged Up and Goes and set off. Dan drove very safely and introduced us to a short cut that bypasses Hororata. We were satisfied with our acheivements in a splendid location in such delightful conditions.