Lewis Pass to Lewis Pass, and back to Nelson | February 2017

The third tramping expedition of the 2016-17 summer had a grand ambition — the Lewis Pass to Arthurs Pass via some large western rivers that had not been previously explored.

The tramp started very well, at least for the first day.

Then it took some surprising turns, mainly due to the poor weather: low visibility on the alpine tops, high winds and further low cloud, continuous heavy rain for a few days, windfall sections of forest, washed out track, etc.

After that the itinerary went in a completely unexpected direction, at which point the weather gradually improved.

This is how it went . . .

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Day 1 | Lewis Tops campsite

I stopped at the second tarn I came across, too far down to the first, although it looked a good and sheltered campsite.

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Day 2 | Lucretia Hut

Low cloud was streaming past a wet tent at some velocity in the morning.

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Day 3 | Brass Monkey Bivvy

Up there it’s hard not to think this area should be a national park, but I guess the hunters would object, this area immediately west of the highway is reserved for recreational shooters. Helicopter shooting not allowed.

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Day 4 | Lake Christabel Hut

Not much time to contemplate the general landscape, I was using all that fitness I’ve gained over the summer to motor along, wary that one minute of looking around might be worth five minutes of scrambling when the light deteriorated.

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Day 5 | Lake Christabel Hut, second night

I sat in my sleeping bag to keep warm, reading the hut literature and having the occasional nap. Just like you are supposed to do on a rest day.

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Day 6 | Lake Christabel Hut, again! Third night

Hmmm, better to go to my fallback weather assessment: today will be exactly the same as yesterday. This has a remarkably successful predictive ability, except for the 25% when it is catastrophically wrong.

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Day 7 | Top Robinson Hut

I spent about four hours doing not much on the pass, so it was getting on when I started my descent, never my preferred direction due to generally poor agility and somewhat dodgy knees.

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Day 8 | Mid Robinson Hut

Sadly after eight days everything, particularly anything to do with my feet, was starting to seriously pong.

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Day 9 | Cannibal Gorge Hut

On the negative, well, I’d smash my way through a confusing jumble of mature fallen trees, pushing through dense bracken, etc. This was not easy travel.

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Day 10 | Christopher Hut, St James Walkway

It’s been a crazy itinerary for the summer. Nothing much like I had planned back in September.

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Day 11 | Caroline Creek campsite

For once I was hoping to rain so that I had an excuse for a rest day.

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Day 12 | Blue Lake Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

If yesterday had me starting to be reacquainted with civilisation, well, today the human numbers went way up.

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Day 13 | Sabine Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

When you meet strangers and have a Little Adventure, like crossing Waiau Pass, you can have a bit to talk about.

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Day 14 | Bushline Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

It’s just special. This is my world.

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Day 15 | Red Hill Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

I had everything I needed, but not all I wanted. Kinda like life.

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Day 16 | Porters Creek Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Maybe I started with grand ambition, but that didn’t last long. I sat at the river crossing, the site of the old Maitland Hut for an hour.

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Day 17 | Hunters Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

What else would I be doing?

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Day 18 | Mid Wairoa Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

The track has its moments, eight creek crossings, some gnarly rocky areas to traverse with a few decent drop-offs, but it seems in better nick than it was last time, or I might just have become used to peril.

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Day 19 | Tarn Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

I watch the local weka stand in the water attempting to peck at the tadpoles, which tend to move just beyond pecking radius.

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Day 20 | Old Man Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Around 1600 m climbing and descent for the day. Almost 21 km cracked out.

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Day 21 | camping at Starveall Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

I kind of think I might never come back, so I should take the time to experience the place rather than run on through to the next destination to tick off on my itinerary.

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Day 22 | Rocks Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Not much to say about the day, I had that destination on my mind for once, and smashed it out.

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Day 23 | Nelson, yay!

Gloom on the final morning over the Pelorus River valley.

Somehow my pack felt heavy on my shoulders, despite the almost complete lack of food within.