We set out Friday evening, crossing Arthurs Pass as the sun set, our destination, Mount Alexander. I’d first set eyes on the mountain from nearby Mount Pfeiffer the previous August and had been trying to climb it ever since. Finally the chance arose, perfect weather on the West Coast and myself, Sam, Kate and Chris set off to climb Alexander and experience the legendary bathtub of Camp Creek Hut (And how we did!). We opted to walk in to the Hut Friday night so we’d have plenty of time on Saturday to climb the mountain and get the bathtub going that night before walking out on Sunday.
Now we arrived in the area where we knew the turnoff to the DOC car park and the beginning of the track to Camp Creek hut had to be. However while looking at Topo Maps and pic from previous trips I spent rather too much time looking at the more interesting bits of the mountain (the top) and not enough time looking at more mundane details such as where the car park was … Sure Sam had been there once hadn’t he? A few years ago? Be grand I said…
So there we were. I’d driven Donkey (my car) into a field and was staring at what looked suspiciously like… a field. “The road that leads to the car park passes through a field, I’m sure it looked like this one” says Sam. We get out and cross the field in hope that the car park is on the other side of the field, merely out of the range of Donkey’s headlights. While I examined the ground with declining optimism that I’d even be able to get Donkey across, Sam returned announcing that there was no sign of car park or track across this field. Relieved I wouldn’t have to steer Donkey through the mire we retreated to the road and continued onwards.
“It’s a rough track on the right just after we cross a bridge” Sam reassured us, as we drove on past what seemed like dark field after dark. I really should have taken a better look at the map methinks. Then! We came to a gate on the right just after a bridge? Was this it? It was well after dark and starting to rain softly but our moral was lifted at this sight. Through the gate we went and along the track, hope rising until… the track turned left and began to parallel the road. Passing paddocks while Donkey’s underside was dealt blow after blow we eventually arrived at a dead end… at another… FIELD! I wheeled donkey around, Chris jumped out to explore a side track, morale was low but we weren’t to be beat, we were half the dam CUTC Committee!!!
We got back to the road. Had we gone past it? Should we go on or retrace our steps? This seemed a lot further than it had looked on the map. We turned to continue up the road and low and behold less than a kilometre later we crossed CAMP CREEK! On our right the magnificent gate furnished with DOC sign. Our spirits soared as we drove up the track to the car park. Getting out into the night and the rain did nothing to dampen our resolve. We set off up the track into the night.
The track itself is in great condition, thanks DOC and we made great time on our way up. Suffering only a few minor setbacks trying to find the track again were it joined or left the creek bed we passed through the beautiful night time West Coast bush. We finally arrived at the hut around one in the morning a bit under three hours after we started. And what a hut it is, originally built as a research station with hot running water and a range, Camp Creek Hut is truly fantastic.
The next morning , as we were getting ready to set out, a couple of fellow tramps arrived at the hut. They’d been up all night apparently, had decided to embark on a last minute trip and seemed slightly disappointed to find the hut occupied! After breakfast we set out up the ridge track that would lead us to the tops. The day was gloomy and we feared any view from the top would be shrouded in clouds but we continued regardless.
Arriving at the tops we had lunch surrounded by the gloom on top of one of the boulders that cover the tops of the Kaimata Range.
I’ve yet to see another formation like this in New Zealand ; large boulders strewn across the otherwise rounded, grassy slopes of the tops.
And there, closer to the rest, was the main peak of Mount Alexander, its step sides rising out of the sea of cloud like some great fortress.
Myself and Chris sat ourselves down on one of the larger boulders waiting for Sam and Kate to emerge from the cloud. Enjoying some snacks we tried to peer though the cloud at the ridge connecting the minor peak to the main. We’d been told it was a razor ridge, narrow with step drops to either side. It was nearly impossible for us to tell with the cloud in the way. Soon, Kate and Sam joined us and we set out across the ridge.
To be honest it really isn’t that bad. I mean yes there were a couple of big drops (we think, couldn’t really see). But for the most part the ridge is pretty wide with plenty of room to manoeuvre so long as you’re happy boulder hoping (methinks it would be a different story with a bit of ice).
So, unshaken, we crossed the ridge and began the long scramble to the summit. This whole section is one of the most enjoyable bits of tramping I’ve ever done.
Finally, having left the cloud behind us, we emerged onto the summit. Once again we feasted on the view of the mountain islands rising out of the sea of cloud all around us and the feel of the sun on our backs.
I’m not sure how long we spent up there, but it must have been two to three hours, all the while wondering how the Coast to Coast competitors were getting on in the valley far below us. Reluctantly we left and descended into the cloud. However just before we re-entered the cloud, Chris foolishly insulted my honour. “So whatthefuck kind of accent is that anyway?” the dam JAFFA uttered!! I demanded my honour be satisfied and challenged Chris to MORTAL KOMBAT!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAwWPadFsOA
The battle was long and fierce but eventually I prevailed and I smote his ruin upon the mountainside. My honour restored we headed back to Camp Creek Hut, stopping at a Tarn en route, passing some Rock Wrens and temporarily losing both Chris and Sam.
A couple of hours later we returned to the hut to find our fellow tramps had got the range going and there was a continuous supply of hot water for tea. Sam then set about the weekend’s next big task. Getting the bathtub going!
While Sam started the fire to warm up the tub, Kate started dinner and me and Chris gave a hand to the two of them. In the process of starting the tub fire we believe Sam may have inhaled a not insignificant amount of smoke, possibly shortening his life significantly, but all for a noble cause: a warm bathtub in the bush, what a champ! And thus shortly after dinner the tub was ready to go. Chris was first in, myself shortly afterwards and while we debated what was the best way to have two people in the tub Sam reappeared, a glint in his eye. “Do you think so?” Chris said. “Just about I reckon” says I. The result!
Mission accomplished (the mountain was really just an excuse to be honest) myself and Chris retreated to the Hut , leaving the bathtub to Kate and Sam. I sat up that night in front of the range, book in one hand, tea in the other, possibly amongst the most content I’ve ever been.
The next morning we arose, said bye to our fellow tramps and walked out in a relaxed two hours with daylight on our side. We left the West Coast behind , stopping at Arthurs Pass for pies and an obligatory ice-cream. This was truly a fantastic weekend and Mount Alexander is definitely up there with the best mountains I’ve climbed in New Zealand, thanks to all involved.