Friday, April 6, 2018

Temples and Dumbells - tramping near Lake Ohau

I had thought about booking a nice bed in a lodge after my 4 days in the back blocks, but it was Easter Saturday, and even the hostels were booked out. Instead I camped by Lake Ohau, and had a lovely sleep courtesy of my new air mattress bought especially for car camping. After using narrow lightweight camping mattresses, the old fashioned big fat lilo feels like luxury.

In fact, the next day was so gloriously warm and sunny, I spent the day lazing in the sun by the lake and reading a book. All tramping and no down time isn't good either…..

The next day dawned overcast and windy, and when I arrived at the carpark at the end of the road I was bombarded with a strong headwind and rain, so I decided to can a plan to tramp for four days up the Hopkins and Huxley Rivers (at the head of Lake Ohau) and instead hike up a tributary of the Hopkins called South Temple River. This river walk was mostly within a beech forest, and the valley was quite narrow, so mostly I would be protected from the punishing wind and occasional rain squalls.

The walk followed the true left of the river all the way. The beech forest was green and mossy, it rained on and off, and there were occasional forays out of the forest across scree slopes and small creek crossings. The sheer power of nature was well apparent in the numerous slides along the track.

Opposite the hut was the only river crossing, so off came the boots and a mid calf wade across in the Crocs was all that was required to reach my hut for the night. It was only a 3 hour walk in, but the weather was worsening, so I instead collected firewood, lit the hut stove, and settled in for an afternoon and evening of reading my book.

The next morning the river had risen a bit, but the weather was clearing, so I headed up valley for an hour or so until the path higher up required a river crossing. I didn't feel like continuing further, particularly as the route wasn't that pretty and dark clouds were still hovering around the higher peaks.

I returned to the hut, had an early lunch, then recrossed the river (now just above my knees) and walked back out to the carpark. It was a leisurely outing and not very taxing, but a bit too many sandflies loitering around the Temple campsite saw me return to that nice campsite by Lake Ohau, and another luxurious sleep on my lilo.

Day 3 dawned clear, but strong wind was forecast, and I had a plan to do a bit of climbing. The last couple of days had been a bit too cruisy and I was keen to gain some altitude. Only this time I got a bit more adventure than I expected. Lucky for me I was fully prepared...

I parked by the ski huts near the lake, and headed up the route which is part of the Te Araroa. This intersects with the Alps to Ocean bicycle trail before turning off onto the Freehold Creek trail and climbing through beech forest to the bushline.

I had started a little late, and the planned route to Dumbell Lake was advertised to take at least 6 hours. So I was preparing for the possibility of not quite making it to my destination before nightfall. And once above the treeline, the wind was brutal. It was strong and gusty, and cold, and my route involved clambering over rocks and sidling across scree slopes.

The track was well marked with poles and cairns whilst climbing the tussock slopes. But the higher ground was merely rocky boulders and scree, and the route required sidling high on these slopes to cross two saddles to get to the Lake. With the wind blowing me around quite a bit it was hard to make up much time and the day was getting late.

Rounding yet another bluff I was hit by one more blast of icy wind and knocked backwards. I made the decision to call it a day and find shelter in the lee of one of the rock bluffs, as I knew the wind would abate overnight. I changed into all my warm clothes (thermals, down jacket and down pants), covered these with my windproof shell pants and jacket, then climbed into my bivy bag complete with sleeping bag and thermal liner, made myself dinner, and was all set by the time it got dark an hour later. I was toasty warm up high, with awesome views across Lake Ohau. I watched the moon rise, I was awed by the Milky Way, and I even managed to get quite a few hours' sleep despite the narrow rocky spot I was perched on.

I woke to watch the colour come in to the sky, and packed up once it was light enough. The wind had dropped overnight and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The final scree sidle across to the next saddle, and then another traverse across a rocky slope took less than an hour, and there was Dumbell Lake below me. I didn't descend to the Lake, and was glad I hadn't kept going the night before, as the camping by the Lake would have been much less protected than my rocky eyrie.

I retraced my route, though this time skirting some of the more difficult terrain, and found myself back at the treeline at Freehold Creek within 4 hours. At which time I stopped for coffee and breakfast.

Then the final meander down the beech lined trail, and across the tussock plain to Lake Ohau and my car.

Back to Wanaka to see my eye surgeon….

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