12 March 2018

Reunion of Octogenarian Mountaineers in the Southern Alps - Torlesse / Arthur's Pass / Waimakariri

After Dave died we decided to have a memorial get together in some of the old haunts. I arrived in Christchurch on the afternoon of the 1st March to be met by Jim Wilson in Babs and taken out to Monks Spur where Ann (known as Madame Marmalade) fed us and we mourned the earthquaked wreck of Shag Rock at the mouth of the estuary below, now known as the 'Shag Pile' - and watched the flocks of godwits below doing circuits of the estuary in preparation for their epic flight north.

Next morning we caught up with Mike White at Darfield where I sussed out the Selwyn Gallery for a possible exhibition next year - get in line with the rest seemed to be the advice. Mealtime was at Darfield too, although we had difficulty finding the right place for our desired fried wedges after standing in a queue for too long in the wrong shop.

We picked up the key to the Kowai River paddock gate from the Brookfield Station owner but soon found ourselves floundering in a ford just through the gate. After an hour of wheel spinning, pushing shoving and pulling in the cold calf deep water, then levering and probing with logs and branches, Mike finally found a length of sash cord and managed to make the difference to our efforts and get Babs out with a backwards tow - even if we did manage to snap the rope. A researcher from Canterbury University even waded in to help. Along the way to the Hayward Memorial hut we collected a bag of mushrooms and feasted on these at dinner, accompanied by a bottle of Torlesse Pinot Noir.

Torlesse wine - of course

The plan the next day was to traverse Red Peak, Back Peak and descend via Mt Torlesse. All went well until we had penetrated the scrub and reached the upper limits of the vegetation and our drive. Here we decided that to proceed (at our age - all 80+s) would be to risk another night out - we'd had enough of these over our years! And so we descended to the hut where we had a comfortable night again. We were unanimous in blaming the difficult route, the impenetrable scrub and ferocious bluffs for our defeat. Nothing to do with our age of course.
Mike , Jim and BLS

Red Peak (over the hut) from the Loo - we can say we climbed the Pyramid

On the way down valley the next morning we stopped for the obligatory riverstone hearth boiling of the billy and managed it without any disputes about whose fire it was. Once again we collected a generous bag of mushrooms for Jim and I at the Pass. At the notorious car-engulfing stream Mike departed for home to resume care of his visiting English relatives. Jim and I felt for him and the complexities of his life! At the Rough Creek Shambles (RCS) hut we partook of a hot outdoor bath and the local robin came inside and hopped about looking for a feed, even pecking at my feet as I was eating!

The Boiling of the Billy

Once again
on riverstone hearth
flood whitened
finger bones of trees
feed hot flames
about my black-skinned billy
rolling to a boil
in the smoke-blue air
of an empty valley.


The Traditional Brew - Jim and Mike

The morning of the 5th March had dubious weather but we managed to get over very foggy Arthur's Pass and down to Aitkens where it started to rain heavily. The mist and the fact that neither of us had been to Pfiefer Bivi before, made us choose to go back to the Canterbury side. Lets try the Crow Hut we thought. The mushrooms at Klondyke Corner were spectacular. Among the beech forest we counted groups of 50 and 60 Amanita muscaria. Valuing our lives we didn't collect any for eating. However we continued up the Waimak towards the Crow River. Along the way Jim wondered if he'd picked up any matches at the hut, the RCS. Don't worry I suggested - I had my emergency kit and it had a good supply of matches.

We spied the comfy little Anti-Crow Hut across the river and thought it might make a better place to stop - less likelihood of tourists too. So we crossed the Waimak to the hut where we decided that a brew was in order. Yes Jim hadn't brought any matches and yes I'd brought mine, but none of them would work. Terrible! No brew and, more importantly, no way to cook our food. And no tourist trampers to cadge a match from. So we packed up and headed back down the two hours to Klondyke. And so back to the RCS for another night of good food and after dinner goodies stretched out before the warm fireplace.

Mr Robin - inside

Amanita muscaria - a small group!

Jim and Ann's secret brewing spot

Toxicologist's Dream


More Fungi

And Yet More Fungi

Tuesday was our day for returning so after a poetry reading to recollect the 'good old days' we tidied up RCS and departed eastwards. At the Waimak bridge we walked upstream on O'Malley's Track to a special fireplace established by Jim and Ann for yet another brew. This was not so easy. Along the way there were hundreds more mushrooms - some of the magical variety and many others besides - most of which required the special attention of my camera.

Finally we called on Mike and Lyn at Mandeville where we re-lived the events of the past six days and Mike gifted us some of his harvested honey. Then on to Monk's Spur and the next day to my cancelled flight (lightning strike) back to Hamilton. Good old AirNZ managed to get me home to Catherine (Princess Plum) less than a couple of hours late.

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