Temple Huxley circuit
27-31 December 2018
This was a family medium-fit trip from Temple Stream in the Barrier Range to the Huxley south branch and looping around the Hopkins back to Temple Stream. The trip involved an alpine pass crossing and steep alpine terrain, offtrack navigation, stream travel and backcountry camping.
Starting at the Temple Stream DOC campsite, we walked in the evening to South Temple Hut, taking advantage of cooler temperature.
The next day was our main fine weather day and we utilised it to go all the way up the upper South Temple stream, heading towards Temple/Belfry Peaks. After some scrub but mostly easy stream travel we reached the three-way confluence of streams under Belfry Peak. Here we turned west into the headwaters, ascending scree and snow for 400m vertical. By this means we gained the easy ridge just south of pt 2058. From there we sidled on slushy snow to V-notch Pass to descend into the Huxley. This pass was not the easiest I have crossed, being a steep (~50 degrees) narrow tongue of snow initially on the Huxley side. This required careful downclimbing with an ice axe and avoiding narrow bridges over a watercourse running underneath. Eventually the descent was on scree and slabs and onto tussock/snowgrass. We camped at approximately 1500m between the main watercourse coming from the pass and another creek to the north. A 14 hour day rewarded with great views of the Huxley and north to Aoraki Mt Cook!
The slope into the south branch of the Huxley is tricky with broad bluffs cut deeply by streams and a nasty band of scrub extending up to 1300m. Having read about the scrub in advance, we deliberately went further west. This required climbing back up to 1600m then sidling through two or three streams above large waterfalls into easier slopes to the west. Reaching the next major stream we found a cairn above a deep waterfalled gorge with no obvious route into it. We ignored the cairn and continued a descent line through the bluffs using hebe and leatherwood vegetation to downclimb in places. It took several hours to reach the valley floor from where we moved down to a pleasant river bank camp more or less opposite South Huxley Biv.
Picking up the marked track next day we continued on the true left out of the Huxley south branch. The sidestream off Anita Peak was challenging to cross: erosion had cut a deep gorge which obliterated the track and required a careful downclimb of boulder/silt walls into the stream which was easy to cross once reached. Apart from that the walk out down the Huxley was straightforward. Our next camp was an hour before the main swingbridge where the Huxley exits to the Hopkins.
The last day was the standard plod down the Hopkins past Memorial hut. We met the Huxley Gorge Station farmer on the way, driving sheep up valley. Later the farmer kindly gave us a ride from the Hopkins road end across the station to near the Temple car park on the ute with the farm dogs. It turned out he is a keen backcountry snowboarder so we swapped a few Ohau stories.
Overall a very pleasant 5 day trip, just challenging enough and travel on entertaining terrain. I recommend all participants having basic snowcraft skills for this trip. Main planning consideration is the potential for heavy rainfall here on the main divide making sidestreams uncrossable.
- Clark & Ella McLauchlan, Lisa Grainger, David Grainger
- (leader and scribe).