Brewster and Welcome Flats

Published: February 15th 2011
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Feb. 10, 2011 - Brewster Hut
After Stewart Island, we took a few well deserved rest days. Setting out from Invercargill, we went northwest through Dunedin. There, we toured the Speight's Brewery, the makers of the most popular beer in the South Island. This was a fabulous experience (the free sampling at the end of the tour was especially enjoyable!). It's a entertaining and enlightening tour.
From there we spent an evening in Queenstown, and then headed to Wanaka to plan our next set of adventures. Along the way, we stopped at a winery and sampled some wines. This is something I could get used to. Never been to a vineyard before, and I enjoyed that. I bought us a bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner.
The hostel we stayed at had a staff birthday, and was a big party all night long. It was a rather enjoyable time, if I do say so myself. Hanging out with some cool people from places all over the world, talking travel stories and drinking alcohol. Good times.
Given the recent rains, river levels were supposedly uncrossable along our planned tramp. So we decided to climb up to Brewster Hut for a couple nights instead. The tramp is a straight climb up of about 3000 ft. We make excellent time. The hut sits atop a flat area on a ridge, a short tramp from a glacier (appropriately named Brewster Glacier).
Up here the views are fantastic. All around us are rough and jagged peaks, and long green vales can be seen. We had an amazing sunset up here, probably my favorite since Mt. Cook.
This twelve person hut was a packed house. We met a few Americans from Ohio, of all places. Being Ohio natives ourselves, Andrew and I are always glad to meet people from there when traveling abroad. Many of the people staying here are planning on climbing the glacier and reaching the peak of Mt. Brewster.

Feb. 11, 2011 - Mt. Armstrong... almost
Today began early. Very early. It began very very early. The hut was active at 5 o'clock in the morning, as people were busy preparing to begin their climb. Chad decides to go with them, as he missed getting to the top of Brewster last time out. I was content to drift back to sleep.
Andrew and I got up and going a couple hours later, intending to hike up and meet Chad on his way down. I was interested in seeing the glacier up close. There was no trail, or marked way up. You have to find your own way to the glacier. Andrew and I could not accomplish this.
We hike up the steep hillside behind the hut. Instead of staying lower and left, we spot a rock carin higher to the right. Thinking it was there for a good reason, we go to it. This leads to another and another after that. All the while we were ascending, I notice the area we want to get to getting farther and farther away. Before long, we realize that we've come up much higher then we meant to, and are now hell and gone from the glacier.
Turns out we were following carins that lead to the top of Mt. Armstrong. We realize this about 100 meters from the top. Given how far away we were from Brewster Glacier, we decide not to bother with getting to it. We head back to the hut. Meeting up with Chad would not happen. While my tramping stills are growing strong, it seems that my mountaineering abilities still need some work.
Despite all this, it was in no way a wasted day or hike. The views open to us as we climbed up Armstrong, especially of the glacier were breathtaking and well worth the tramp. At one point we could even see the ocean, far away in the distance. All in all, it was a great day.
Looks like tonight the hut will be even fuller then last night. Chad arrived back at the hut a little while ago, having reached the summit. We've just had dinner and now it's time to read for a bit and get some sleep. Today started very early!

Feb. 14, 2011 - Welcome Flats
Happy birthday Yiayia!
We head up the West Coast on Feb. 13, hoping the rain would stay away. Heavy rainfall had been in the forecast, which could quickly render some rivers uncrossable. Alas, the rain came. All day, the sky poured steadily and without break. We decided to get a room at a hostel, and hope for better weather tomorrow. This turned out to be a good idea.
We rose early, hoping to hit the trail as soon we could. The track we were taking was posted as a seven hour walk. Our destination was Welcome Flats. This hut is famous for its naturally occurring hot pools.
The tramp in began with gloomy skies, and I wondered if we'd indeed seen the last of the previous day's rain. River water levels were higher, and fast flowing, but still fordable. Before long into the day the weather began to clear and the sun came out.
Today's tramp consisted of gentle valley walking, up an easy grade. There were several water crossings, small streams and overflow from the rain, and even some mud. Along the way we would see many spectacular waterfalls. All of the major streams were bridged. We crossed two of the longest (and highest) wire bridges I've ever been on. The views were amazing, suspended high above raging waters below.
We arrived to one of the nicest huts I've been to. The tramp in had only taken five and a half hours. After a late lunch, we immediately have a dip in the hot pools. It was awesome, probably the first bath I've had in some time. In fact, now that I think of it, that was the first time I've ever been in any hot springs. Every muscle in my body was thankful. This was well worth the tramp up.
The hut filled up quickly in the evening. Unfortunately it was mostly with a bunch of loud and obnoxious people, of the sociopath variety. These people apparently have no consideration for other people. They were very loud and party late into the night. Or was it early into the morning? In any case, I was glad to get an early start and leave the next day. We'll head back to Wanaka to resupply and plan the next tramp.

Additional photos below
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