We decided to beat the rush, so 3.15 pm on Thursday 5 April saw four of us on the flight to Nelson. Stu and Nora along with Sieny's brother, John, from Auckland, met us at Nelson airport. Peter Kemp transported us in his usual efficient way to Lake Rotoroa, where the water taxi delivered us to an almost empty Sabine Hut at 6pm.
The forecast had improved in the last days before we left, so with high hopes of a clear day on the tops, we were away at 7.40am, reaching the turn-off for West Sabine Hut at 11.40. The bridge is now a few tangled planks and wires, and Stu, Russell and Janette amused themselves walking out on the log which has replaced the bridge. There is a very ineffective wire next to the log. We lunched a little further on, sitting in the sun on stones by the river. The rest of the walk to Blue Lake Hut was as beautiful as ever, right beside the rushing river, but definitely the grunty part of the day. We had all forgotten the last little 60m up to the hut and mutterings were heard as we reached the hut at 3.15pm. We found ten members of the Parawai Tramping Club had claimed bunks, leaving us six for our party of seven. Stu nobly took the floor, and we all had time to sit in the sun by the lake and admire the clearest water in the world.
Saturday dawned frosty promising good weather, and, leaving at 8.20, we made quick work of the steep scrub climb up to the tussock, where the sun was glinting on some lovely tarns. The poles made the ascent to the pass very straightforward, with only the last 100m a bit of a scramble. We could see in all directions with not a cloud in the sky, and descended slowly to lunch by the tarn looking across at Mt Ella. The gradual descent to the bushline was through lovely terrain of smooth rock and tussock. We were all looking forward to the rope descent, and many photos were taken of members from interesting angles. Then it was a steep dropping sidle, crossing two creeks to the D'Urville valley and the bridge to the true left. We arrived at George Lyon Hut, formerly Ella Hut, at 3.15, just in time to bathe in the sun. George, whom the hut was named after, was a single-handed park ranger, builder, boatie and fix-it man for many years at St Arnaud. The hut has two rooms, as many in the park like Upper Travers used to, and DOC has decided to leave it as a record of this type of hut.
Easter Sunday was a spare day, allowed in case the pass was impassable on Saturday. Nora and Stu elected to stay at the hut, while five of us set off at 8.30 with day packs to explore the upper D'Urville. We retraced our steps back to the bridge, then continued on a very well-cut track, reaching the tidy Upper D'Urville hut, 2 bunks, at 11.20. We continued on until we broke into the open, crossing the stream which drains David Saddle. Three of us had traversed high around the valley on Peggy's trip from Lewis Pass to St Arnaud in 2006, and were keen to see the Upper D'Urville Pass we had crossed, so we continued on into the trees again, which according to the map is way past the end of the track. We were surprised to find a beautiful track, but disappointed that it turned steeply up towards David Saddle, rather than going where we hoped it would. So lunch was taken by the stream in hot sun. The return trip was speedy, arriving back at the hut at 4.15.
Monday was yet another lovely day for our walk down the valley to D'Urville Hut, departing at 8.10. Two young women had spent the night with us at George Lyon and we spent the day playing team tag down the valley. We had an extended morning tea in the sun at the superbly-sited Morgan Hut, but found reports of wasps in the toilet correct. There were, however, few wasps to be seen, but not so few that Russell and Stu didn't take sting or two each. D'Urville Hut, (ten bunks), was occupied by six holiday-makers who had arrived by boat, and were a little perturbed to see us. The water taxi was due to collect our two companions from the previous night, so we decided to see whether she could take us to Sabine Hut, (30 bunks). We amused ourselves while waiting by swatting sandflies and admiring the huge eels below the jetty. Kerry was happy to take us across, and we discovered when we had a bathe near the Sabine jetty that there are eels there too, one of whom was very keen to make friends with Nora.
Kerry picked us up at 9am, and had kindly phoned Nelson Lakes Shuttles to come early. They dropped us back in Nelson, allowing a couple of hours to eat before our 1.15 flight.
- Party members
- Russell Cooke, John Scholtens, Nora and Stu Hutson, Peggy Munn, Sieny Pollard, Janette Roberts (leader and scribe).