Backcountry comfort-seeking in the Ahuriri Valley, North Otago
December 27 2008 to January 6 2009
The Ahuriri is an accessible tramping area just outside of Omarama, with impressive snowy peaks dominating the heads of its steeply-flanked valleys. Having felt the poetic pull of its remote splendour on a prior occasion, intrepid tramper Hugh Barr decided to assemble a crew of TTCers keen for some Ahuriri action over the New Year. In return for being able to tag along, I agreed to report on our ten days in the backcountry in a mission write-up of less than 500 words. Here goes!
Day 1: Assembled at Base Hut in the Ahuriri. Survived mass sandfly attack and Hugh’s car breaking down.
Day 2: Took sneak peak into Dingle Burn Valley. Nice view of Hugh’s car being towed away. After lunch, walked into another valley (Canyon Creek), then up and over a hidden cirque.
Day 3: Discovered (and woke up) caveman sleeping under bivvy rock near Mt Barth (actually TTCer Malcolm Cunningham), while setting off on various missions, including an attempt on Barth (turning back at about 2000 metres). Very enjoyable day topped off by some alpine bathing.
Day 4: Walked back down to Base and then part-way up another valley (Ahuriri). Really enjoyed being able to refuel at the last depot (aka, the cars) en route. However, within hours, vigorous debate commenced between key people about who would be eaten first if food ran out. Verdict unanimous, prompting Judith to walk out early with intended victim the next day (under subterfuge of concern about being caught on the wrong side of a flooded Ahuriri).
Day 5: After farewelling the Maxims, experienced a big day in all respects bar tramping. Some serious hut bagging accomplished (one person bagged the same hut about three times), though woke up same sleeping caveman (again) in the process. Consumed decadent quantities of tasty food while celebrating New Year’s Eve 12am Ahuriri time (approx 8pm New Zealand time), seven minutes after everyone decided they’d rather be in bed…two lucky people bagging a hut sleep…
Day 6: First day of New Year commenced at 4.30am, when tenting companion initiated serious politics discussion. Climbed up something (South Temple Col) in frigid temperatures – no doubt punishment for gross displays of backcountry comfort-seeking on previous day. Also looked at something scary (Mt Huxley). Stayed well away.
Day 7: Attempted walking somewhere in rain. Thought better of it and ran for cover after 90 minutes. Hut sleeps bagged by more backcountry comfort seekers (except for staunch adventurers, Julia and Michael, who toughed it in tents). On my part, concerns about spider bunks and mouse huts easily suppressed in favour of horizontal sleep, after two nights of constant sliding out of tent.
Day 8: Successful attempt to walk somewhere (Watson’s Stream), lured out by tantalising glimpses of sun ahead of us (and bad weather chasing us down the valley).
Day 9: Attempted to climb something (Mt Maitland). Ascertained that “rock scramble” is climbing code for “one more centimetre to the left and you are toast” (inducing hasty retreat on part of report writer).
Day 10: Walked out, more or less intact, to realise various dreams about luxuries such as showers, hydrated food, working cars, and for some, more tramping!
With 500 words well up, all that remains to say is that I’d like to thank everyone for a great trip with a wicked bunch of people, kind enough to put up with a strict vegetarian for nine communal dinners.