Top Hut, South Ashburton River

27 -28 August 2016

 It was a wet week in Christchurch leading up to the weekend and a very much wetter week on the West Coast. So Bill the Trip Leader, swapped the planned trip into the West Coast Cone Creek Hut to the East Coast.

 Friday night was wet in Christchurch and it was still very wet on Saturday morning. However Bill had done his homework and assured us the weather would be fine in the Hakatere region. And so it was. In fact as we neared the mountains the weather just got better and better. As it turned out we could have left the parkas at home, swapped for sun hats!

First leg of the trip was up the Cameron River to turn off to the south over a low saddle into the South Ashburton River. The air was crisp, the sky blue and the snow superb. There was plenty of snow on the surrounding ridges and on the jagged Winterslow Range to the West. The saddle had little snow on the north side but about 300mm of snow on the south side. Very soft, no chance of sliding on ice.

At the bottom of the saddle a tin musterers hut as pictured on the front page. After a rest and an explore of the facilities we headed up stream on a 4wd farm track to the destination for the night, another tin hut, Top Hut. Built in 1959, still in pretty good condition, but the silver paper insulation was well eroded and with the snowy peaks all around we knew it would be a very cold night. After afternoon tea at the hut, Bill headed off to explore the headwaters and the rest of us wandered a km or so upstream to a vantage point and just sat and admired the view and enjoyed the mountain silence.

Around tea time we got a small fire going with a little bit of firewood left in the hut, but there is no firewood within 10km of the hut. So we were in bed early and soon asleep, only to be woken by a heavy possum bouncing on the roof, sliding, thumping and banging. (Tourists would have been petrified!)

A crisp frost in the morning and we were up and away to cross another saddle in the Wild Mans Brother Range back to the Cameron River. This time the snow was deeper and the climb longer. I had the disadvantage of being the heaviest in the party and continually broke through the top harder crust up to my knees.

On the north side of the saddle the sun was warm for morning tea and admiring the view. After that it was longish drop off the saddle, lunch in the Cameron and a slog back to the cars. Another great trip Bill – thanks.

Leader Bill T and group Vesna, Sergey, Claire and Dennis.