The Three Bridges to Margaret Burn
30th November- 1st December
Last December Franz led a Barrier Range trip, which was curtailed by heavy rain. I’ll write it up for the Annual. Meanwhile, here’s something about some bridges.
The title page of Moir’s Guide North has a photo of a wiry, laden tramper leaping between giant schist boulders over a river. The river is the Margaret Burn and we crossed it at the same point, only one of us managing the athleticism of the pictured tramper.
The trip started with a sunny stroll (albeit with very heavy packs) up the Dart to Daleys Flat Hut. Next morning, as forecast it was raining. Nina caught up on some sleep while the rest of us did a reccy for the following day’s assault. The plan was a quick wander to the base of Margaret Burn to check out the route, then back for half a day up the Dredge Burn. That name conjured images of dreariness and drudgery, matching the drizzly conditions.
Crossing the Dart to the true right bank, on the dodgy swing bridge, left some of us with hearts in our mouths. It’s old and has holes in the wire netting, some of which have been patched… At the far side there’s an aluminium ladder attached by wire – six metres down to the bank.
Moir’s told us “…at present, good deer trails allow for fast, easy travel to a natural rock bridge that spans the Margaret Burn just upstream from the confluence.” Sweaty thrash is a more apt description of the progress we made through the bush. When we commented on the rough travel, Sam gloomily commented “isn’t this what you Tararuas do for fun?”
Like most side-streams in Otago’s schist country, the Margaret Burn is heavily gorged, so we had to find the rock bridge. The boulders, at the confluence of the Dart, pictured in Moir’s, could be described as a rock bridge, but Franz suspected there was something more. While the rest of us negotiated the boulders, he scampered up hill. By the time we’d reached the far side, Franz was coming downhill to meet us with a grin on his face.
He led us 50 metres up to the real rock bridge. One minute we were walking across a forested slope, then the ground morphed into a large mossy boulder with a beech tree growing atop. It didn’t feel like we were crossing anything but then we were back across the Margaret Burn. Somehow, this large boulder had fallen into the narrowest part of the gorge, wedging there and forming a stunning natural bridge.
We failed a second time to find the “good deer trails” and endured another hour of bashing back to the swing bridge. I was surprised but pleased when Franz suggested in his conciliatory, opinion-gathering way that we could go back to the hut for morning tea rather than do a Dredge Burn bash.
The next day was fine and we made it to Seal Col and back. We were unable to find the promised easy travel on our third or fourth trips between the Swing Bridge and the Margaret Burn, despite trying a different line each time. It took at least an hour each way – the longest trip being the last, after our 11 hour day on the Barrier Range. The swing bridge was even scarier with ice axe attached to pack – while ducking under wires to position yourself on the ladder.
Stay tuned for the next instalment in the 2020 Annual.
- Party members
- Franz Hubmann (leader), Nina Sawicki, Richard Sykes, Sam White, Sarah White (Scribe)