So the Spring Tramping Season is just about here. Some amongst us have been acquiring up hearty dose of cabin fever, planning possible outdoor ventures, on my part the top portion of the South Island and Stewart Island are comparatively well represented, there’s still plenty to explore for the tramping.net.nz website.

Makes sense to venture into Arthurs Pass National Park, even if any long distance route in the cooler months might not allow much in the way of the circuit. There’s the two huge rivers, the Waimak and Taramakau, and a whole bundle of tributaries with awkward gaps in accommodation between them, and speaking of awkward there’s a certain awkwardness in the mountain passes at this time of year as well, early spring. The Poulter River leading to Minchin Pass offers the best prospect but it might be majorly weather dependent. The Edwards/Otehake fails to have a maintained track, maybe not the sensible option prior to the equinox, not serious amounts of daylight, and, err, it’s not far past mid-winter. The Mingha/Deception is a possibility but there’s a limitation with the lack of hut-style accommodation in lower section of the the Deception Valley and the DOC stated times between the Upper Deception Hut and the road is a big 8 to 9 hours on another not fully maintained track. The summertime, fabulous, option is not in the equation due to the issues getting up over the icy south facing slope of Whitcombe Pass.

I’ll be lugging two weeks food initially and the obvious, at least to me, place to start is actually not in the national park as strictly defined. The sensible option is to warm up with a few days scoot around what is termed the Cass/Lagoon Saddle Track, starting in Cass and trundling through the Craigieburn Forest Park. Then I’ll cross the Waimak and zip up the Poulter, hopefully to Minchin Bivvy, maybe getting to look over the saddle into the Taramakau. From there who knows, there’s a certain weather dependency, err, snow possibilities as well.

So far so good, I’m public transporting it, avoiding cars parked for excessive periods in lonely places, which means Nelson to Greymouth for the night, then the early morning Christchurch bus, dropping at Cass at 9 30am with almost a full day to stagger with the total load up to the Cass Saddle Hut.

The weather for the second day of spring is outstanding, not a cloud in the sky, more days of this type promised. The weather forecast for a while has been a week’s rain, but in a week’s time, continually postponed, in fact it’s been a remarkably dry winter, maybe 20 mm in the last month in Nelson, a long time since the complete dump, 46mm in a hurry, the Nelson streets temporarily turning into knee deep rivers.

In the New Zealand high country you just can’t predict what will happen with the weather, so you just learn to accept whatever eventuates.

Day 1 | An early start, that bus to Cass →