17 January 2014

Waimakariri - Source to Sea

I don't recall whose idea it was (probably Jim Wilson's) but it arose because the folk who purchased Judkin's Coast to Coast wouldn't allow free entry for over seventies - they were out to get back some of the $$$ they'd paid to dear Robin and had no respect for the aged. So the idea was borne - lets show them we can still do it or something like it - the Waimakariri from source to sea. The idea was to get to the Waimak Col from the West Coast and then tramp down the river to Klondyke Corner and thence down the river to the sea. We'd spent so much of our youth in the headwaters of this river - including rafting down the gorge in about 1957 and between us at least seven times as part of the Coast to Coast. And between us we could lay claim to ascents of about 40 Waimak peaks - many of them multiple ascents. After this we would claim :"The Waimakariri is my river" on any Marae in the country.

The Waimakariri Col
Girding the Loins
Our planned first day in mid-December was not auspicious.  When we arrived at the Rolleston River it was up and we seriously thought we'd have trouble with the crossings and bluffs. So we retreated back to Arthur's Pass. Next day the river had dropped by about 300mm and it was all go. We made quite good time in the lower river but when we started to ascend the upper valley things slowed down. The guide book suggested 6+ hrs to the col - we took 12! Our descent to the Waimak Falls Hut (one of the best situated in the Alps) was easy.



Our greatest fear, a full hut, was realised but the occupants kindly gave us the hut mattresses and we slept blissfully outside on a mild night.  About the hut the alpine flowers were magnificent. When we told the occupants about our record for slowness up the Rolleston they very kindly said that we were at least doing something in our old age, 76 (me),76 (Jim Wilson) and 78 (Mike White)!




Waimak Col and Falls Hut




The descent to the White River was enjoyable but the slog down to Klondyke Corner from the White Junction took us six (more brews) instead of the three hours we could have done it in - in our youth. Somehow the next day turned into a rest day but the following day we gathered at Mt White bridge to start the kayaking.


Flowers Were Everywhere

Many Were the Brews


I soon found that my rudder didn't work because the stem was broken and the others found that their's were marginally useless.  The trick is to read the water a bit further ahead.  Anyway, after a few minor scrapes with bluffs and fairly vigorous eddies we emerged at the Waimak Gorge bridge very cold and shaky some 10 hours later - not quite C to C time. But then we stopped for lunch and afternoon tea. We slept well in our Macpac tent - despite the frequent elderly excursions into the night.

Mike, Jim, Hannah (mascot) and BLS at the End

Over the next one and a half days we made out way down to Brooklands which we considered close enough to the sea - earlier ideas of kayaking out to sea and down to Sumner evaporated as we neared the coast.  Warren and Hannah picked us up. At the start of the trip I'd been recovering from a bad cold and cough - the cough returned in full flight and I'm still getting over the after effects at the end of January.