Monday, January 05, 2015

New Years Day Hike

Originally we were going to hike for 6 days in Nelson Lakes National Park on the Travers-Sabine track with a side trip to Blue Lake. But we changed the plan and just Sara and I headed south from the Sounds to Mt Aspiring National Park to do the Young River-Gillespie Pass Track

Hiking up the Young River Valley on the first day was long. Because we didn't want to cross the Makaroa River, we had to start 2 hours farther away at the Blue Pools trailhead where there was a swing bridge. This made the first day of hiking a long one. By the time we got to Young Forks (confluence of the north and south forks of the Young River), we were exhausted and decided to camp for the night. Even though a cold front was expected to pass overnight, we planned on hiking the last 3 hours to Young Hut in the morning, then wait out the rest of the storm there, before heading over the pass the following day.

The rain came over night, heavy at times, but nothing too bad. The Young River was muddy and twice as wide as it was yesterday, full of water, bank to bank. Assuming the cold front already passed, at first light, around 5:30am, we got up and packed up camp and started our way to Young Hut. We didn't' even bother with breakfast and just hit the trail to do the last 3 hours and then eat at Young Hut.

An hour into the hike, the actual front finally hit us (it was late). Lightning and thunder cracking overhead, with random hard downpours of rain. This wasn't so bad until a grey wall of wind and rain swooped down the vertical cliffs of the deep glacier carved valley. The trees bucked back and forth, snapping branches. At a point we thought it was going to cause a windfall (cluster of fallen trees).

We would wait until the lightning, wind and rain eased a bit before crossing a swing bridge, creek or meadow. But luckily before we knew it, we saw the hut.

We met a lot of great people in the hut as we waited out the storm for the rest of the day. Waiting was worth it, because the next morning, we had calm winds and blue skies. The hike to the headwaters and over the steep pass was amazing. we had a long lunch at the top and soaked in the views.

The hike down the pass and into the Siberia Valley was long. It seemed like it went on forever. But once we made it to the valley floor, it was all worth it.

The next day we were able to take the back flight out of the Siberia Valley and bypass some river crossings. Helicopters fly into the Siberia Valley and drop people off so they can walk back out. The helicopters would then fly back out empty, so the sell the seats for cheap to hikers wanting to fly out.

Blue Pools

Turn off for the pass

Climbing Gillespie Pass

Gillespie Pass

Over on the Siberia Valley side of the pass
Sara looking at what we just went over

Siberia Valley

Siberia Valley Hut, home for the night

waiting for the chopper

get to the chopper!

riding high!

over the Wilkin River

(post note)
One of the guys in the Young Hut where we were waiting out the storm with, Scott "Brock" Oliver, was killed three days later in the upper Wilkin River Valley. He was hiking with his girlfriend, Rachel, her 80 year father and brother. From the short time we've known him, Brock was a cheerful and funny guy -  and had the coolest backcountry expresso maker!

It is reported, after we flew out, Brock and his group hiked up the Wilkin River Valley to Jumboland Flats, from there they did a day hike to some lakes and on the way back, Brock went ahead from his group to scout out the trail in the Wilkin Gorge section and went missing. His body was found 3 weeks later and 13 miles down river from where his disappeared.

NZ Herald: Tributes for lost tramper Scott Oliver

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