Christmas Trip: Hopkins and Huxley River Valleys
Dec 28 to January 7th, 2007
Six TTC club members trudged into Monument Hut laden with very heavy packs feeling the effects of Christmas quickly wearing off. On arrival, some of the group, carrying a selection of heavier food items and an empty 20L white plastic bucket (with a tight fitting lid) trekked up to the Huxley/Hopkins fork to find a good hiding spot, where the bucket and some fuel were camouflaged to be retrieved for the second leg of our tramp up the Huxley River. Next morning, waking to fresh snow on the mountains, we donned our (slightly) lighter packs and made our way up the wide river valley of the Hopkins towards Elcho Hut where we spent our second night.
From Elcho, we set off up the valley towards Dodger Hut via Elcho Stream. We made good progress reaching the bridge, but once over the bridge, the track on the true left was much tougher going. Patches of slips and windfalls where trees had been cut but not cleared made for slow, slippery progress. Once back in the Hopkins Valley we discovered the scarlet red in the distant beech trees near Cullers Hut was not rata but mistletoe which looked very pretty against the backdrop of blue sky and white snow. Arriving at Dodger early afternoon, we spent the rest of the day lying in the glorious afternoon sun looking up into the great mountains of the main divide of the Southern Alps in the North West and the Neumann range in the South East.
After 4 days up the Hopkins Valley, we retraced our steps and entered the narrower Huxley Valley with mountains behind and ahead of us, waterfalls spilling out of the steep hills either side of us which provided a contrast to the wide, braided river valley of the Hopkins. It was an easy day walking along the river valley, the sun was still shining and the scenery stunning.
We headed towards Brodrick Hut from Huxley Forks Hut on the hottest day, taking a combination of the sidle track (which involved some steep ascents and descents to avoid slips) and rock hopping/clambering along beside the river. The final ascent up tree roots of beech bush was steep and finally we were rewarded to find Brockrick Hut perched on top. From the Hut the outlook was impressive, looking out to an amphitheatre of immense uplifts which swooped to the sky and form the Southern Alps, and downward to a winding river far below. The spectacular view was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.
After lunch half the party went further up the valley with the aim of climbing up to Brodrick Pass. However, the route up was not easily distinguished. Recent avalanches, evidenced by brown flattened grass and avalanche debris, ensured that any cairns or signs were long gone. So the party continued up the valley and saw Memorial Glacier which is the source of the Huxley River and Mt Trent. Notable in the valley were the large white mountain buttercups. After spending a night at Brodrick Hut, we retraced our steps back out to the Hopkins Valley.
On our final day, we awoke to the weather closing in, a grey day threatening rain with very strong wind gusts. We were lucky, not only to have had a window of continuous sunny weather, but also to have the wind behind us as we made record time back to the cars. The huge mountains and wonderful river valleys of such a special part of the country were an inspiring way to start the New Year.
- Party members
- Alan Wright (leader), Sieny Pollard, Patrick Cuming, Adrienne Vermeulen, Ingrid Snoek, Colleen Davey (scribe).