There was a bit of theme on this impromptu, poorly researched but awesome and remote 3 day weekend-but-not-really-a-weekend.
With end of term assignments stacking up, I wanted to be free of uni early so I stayed up till 4 in the early hours of Sunday morning to finish an assignment (just standard uni stuff, right?). After a quick browse through Topo maps and the Remote Huts website I liked the idea of heading to Pinnacle Biv to explore the tops above Lake Kaniere and Hokitika. Future me would later discover that 4 am is not a good time to submit assignments nor plan a trip in a particularly rugged part of the country. Anyway, a plan was set and we were ready for an adventure.
A few hours later, Shaun picked me up and we made our way to pick up Hovey from Otira. Ever the intrepid adventurer, Hovey was already leading a trip to Carroll Hut this weekend, but agreed to boost out early and meet us.
On the road, after passing through Hokitika, we gave the Remote Huts website a bit more of a thorough read. Turns out I had underestimated how long it would take to reach Pinnacle Biv on Sunday afternoon, with the website suggesting 7-9 hours to reach it from the road end. It was past 1pm already. Oops. We made the call to just try and get to Boo Boo Hut instead. Yep, that’s the name of the hut. Unique name, not gonna lie.
The walk in was muddy, overgrown and steep – awesome! The gorge in the Kokatahi valley was impressive, as were “all the flowy bits” in the river, as Hovey eloquently put it. Naturally, Shaun brought his ice axe, an essential decorative item for his pack that is rarely actually needed. This led to him getting stuck in vines, under branches and in bush lawyer. Shaun has a general habit of getting stuck, which became evident on this trip.
We made it to Boo Boo hut in good time, and the three of us squeezed in perfectly with 1 other, who had done our trip in reverse. After a hearty meal, we had an early night and set our alarms for an early start. Seeing “Alarm is set for 12 hours from now” was a welcome sight after the sleep deprivation I had endured!
The Monday morning wake-up was efficient and we set off from Boo Boo hut before sunrise. The track up to Pinnacle Biv was recently cut by Permolat volunteers – awesome stuff! It definitely made our lives easier, and we got up to the tops for an incredible sunrise on a bluebird day. At one point a kea circled around us and landed nearby. I managed to befriend it with some kea-like calls, so got pretty close for a pic. Keas are awesome.
We got to Pinnacle Biv in time for breakfast. Words can’t describe how pretty this place is – with expansive views of the sea, Lake Kaniere, mountains as far as the eye can see, and a classic 2-bunk biv perched next to a frozen tarn. It was next to this tarn, with its geometric ice patterns, that we had breakfast.
There were some tadpoles chilling out in the tarn, enjoying the serenity under their roof of ice. Hovey reckoned they needed to break free from their icy tomb and attacked the ice with a spork. Not all of us were convinced these were ordinary tadpoles, however. Shaun seemed certain that these were, in fact, tiny river mice. Sure sure, whatever you say. Unfortunately, there aren’t any photos of the tiny river mice. That’s ok, because we all know what tadpoles look like (expect maybe Shaun).
After enjoying the sights and sounds of throwing ice over frozen water, we pushed on up the ridge to Genoa Peak, where the view expands to include the Toaroha river and some even more badass looking snowy mountains. Up here, we found another, even bigger tarn with thicker ice. Hovey practiced dolphin sliding and Shaun discovered ice hockey. Things were all fine until Shaun, who moments earlier could be heard saying “Yo the ice is so much thicker over here, come see”, ran out of luck and found a bit of ice that wasn’t so thick. There was screaming. There was laughing (well, not by Shaun). Eventually he managed to smash his way free and made it to shore. That didn’t stop him from getting back on the ice, minutes later, attacking the ice with his ice axe. Yep, you read that right. Smashing the ice, while standing on the ice. Ok Shaun.
We set off again, but another tarn 50 metres away provided more distractions. This time, the ice sloped upwards at the edges, effectively trapping Shaun on the ice as his fruitless attempts to walk to the edge were unsuccessful. For the first time in living memory, Shaun used his ice axe as an actual ice tool, and he managed to reach dry land eventually.
As fun as the ice was, we had spent waaay too much time messing around and decided to get on with the tramp. The ridgeline over to Mt Reeves was gnarly in places, but worth the challenge. You see, near the summit of Reeves are a bunch of reasonably sized boulders. Hovey and I were stoked to get some climbing in. For some context, the climbing club has a photo comp going on, and we reckoned we had an opportunity to get some awesome shots. So we did some alpine bouldering! Some of the photos were great – but here’s a tip. Don’t give Hovey the camera unless you’re happy to go through 100 near-identical photos later. My camera later ran out of storage. Cheers Hovey. But seriously, I can understand why – the views up there are incredible. From the top of Reeves, we could see the spectacular Bracken snowfield and, poking up from beyond, Mt Cook. How good!?!?!
We slid/stumbled down to Adventure Ridge Biv for a quick photo op with the hut, because let’s be honest, that’s an awesome name. Unless you agree with Shaun: “Um, actually it’s a Bivyak”. With the sun setting, we decided we should just boost on to Cedar Flats and the nearby hot pools. Practically running down the track, we got there after dark to see Ruth, Shawn and Luke S, who by coincidence were also staying the night at the hut. Small world I guess? We headed straight to the hot pools, packs still on, and cooked dinner from the warm comfort of the pools. Needless to say, it was a perfect finish to the day, especially when Shaun whipped out a box of favourites and some whisky. I think we stayed in the hot pools for about 3 hours. No regrets.
We crept into the hut at about 11pm and had another solid night’s sleep. It was a lazy start the following morning, and there was a decent frost on the ground outside. Unfortunately, Shaun managed to leave a sock outside overnight, which had frozen solid. That was a fun birthday present. Oh yeah, happy birthday Shaun! It was a fairly relaxing and uneventful walk out from Cedar Flats. There were sadly no whio to report, just some paradise shellducks pretending to be blue ducks.
Now that Shaun was old enough to be deemed responsible to drink and drive, we stopped for a beer and fish and chips in Hokitika to round off a decent little adventure in the hills. Cheers Shaun and Hovey – I think we all know we’ll be back to this corner of the country.
31/05/2020 – 02/06/2020