Cyclone Gita - White Out - FOOSH!!

Published: June 10th 2018
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Moss PassMoss PassMoss Pass

Life is good right!
Our last hiking adventure to South Island, New Zealand in February-March 2018 was fantastic! Period!. We had some great hiking in the Mount Richmond Alpine Park which we accessed via Nelson, we also had some wild weather from the get go when we flew from Sydney to Christchurch and right into the CYCLONE GITA that affected many parts of the South Island (including some townships being cut off by landslide damage and extensive road closures). All internal NZ flights into and out of Christchurch were cancelled so we had to scramble to find a hotel room in Christchurch and it was crazy as so many visitors were in same predicament as us.....we tried booking rooms using online services but when we called the actual hotel to make sure we had a physical room, it was often a case of we did not as it was actually being allocated to someone else at same time the booking app was telling we had it. TIP: if this happens revert to old school approach and physically telephone the actual hotel rather than booking online. After 2 hours we secured a cabin at a caravan park near the airport and we were relieved as our worst case scenario was to pitch our tent in a cyclonic rain and wind at the same caravan park (BTW there were people doing that!!!!).

So after a bit of an interesting start to the trip we got to fly to Nelson a day later than planned. We hit the hiking trails with a 5 1/2 hour hike from Nelson township to Rocks Hut; followed the next day with big 8 1/2 hour hike from Rocks Hut to Browning Hut then final destination of Starvell Hut - we had lots of river crossings plus a massive ascent to Starvell Hut. The hut was full so we camped out in our tent and awoke to beautiful sunny day. We opted for an easy day with late brunch and a short hike over to next hut, Slaty Hut and relaxed for the afternoon. The next day was a big one given very windy and cold conditions, we hiked 8 hours over Mount Rintout (scene where I tumbled in sharp scree in 2016) to the Mount Rintout Hut, we didn't see anyone in either direction. This time instead of following the Te Araroa trail, we diverted to the Lower Goiter River, it
Slaty Hut to Mt RintoutSlaty Hut to Mt RintoutSlaty Hut to Mt Rintout

Beautiful sunrise start for big hike over Mt Rintout 8+hours - so much fun despite tough gusty winds
included a massive descent from 1250m to 350m - very steep and very long stretch. When we hit the actual river it was so beautiful to wade with our sore toes in the cool clear river. Next day we hiked to Mid Goiter Hut and met two Department of Conservation rangers, Ray and Liam, who were checking the track for fallen trees / wind fell from the recent cyclone. After Mid Goiter hut we headed to Lake Chalice for our overnight stay. It was very beautiful trail but lots of big fallen tree trunks to climb and scramble over. The next morning had heavy rain and clouds set in so we opted to follow the access road to Lake Chalice for 4 1/2 hours towards our planned destination of the Mount Fell Hut but then like angels appearing, Ray and Liam pulled up in their big truck and drove us to start of the hike to Mount Fell Hut - they saved us approx 3 hours hiking up the access road so we were so happy!!!. We started our hike on the trail towards Mt Fell or so we thought.......BUT as we hit the Mount Richmond summit (~1760m), the clouds,
Lake ChaliceLake ChaliceLake Chalice

One of the many beautiful waterfalls on route to the Lake Chalice Hut
rain and wind came in very quickly and we had no visibility and we couldn't even see the snow poles - this was our first WHITE OUT!. We were having difficulty even standing up in the strong winds whilst navigating big boulder slippery scree and couldn't make out the trail to start the descending down to the Mt Fell hut so we made decision to turn back. This was a good decision as we were able to scramble back down to the forest line and then get out of the rain and wind and made our way to the small Mt Richmond hut where we got out of our soaking wet gear, Dave made a fire and we had some dinner. We also had a stroke of good luck that we had one bar of mobile phone coverage to a) check weather which confirmed that rain was going to be set in for few days and b) we made contact with Dave from Marlborough / Blenheim 4WD Shuttle service. We met Dave in 2016 when we did the Te Araroa trails. Dave was out hunting at the time we called and he said that he could hardly hear us but
Lower Goiter River to Lake ChaliceLower Goiter River to Lake ChaliceLower Goiter River to Lake Chalice

One of the many beautiful waterfalls on route to the Lake Chalice Hut
we arranged with him to collect us from the nearest access road to Mount Richmond. We had to get off the trail as we did not have enough supplies to wait out rain and try to cross Mt Richmond back towards to Nelson. Another TIP: it is wasp season between December to April so if you're allergic to bee/wasp stings be sure to bring a Epipen. I got 2 wasp stings but thankfully i'm not allergic but they were big suckers.

We got up early after a really good nights sleep post white out adventure and we were out on the trail very early and made out way back to access road - it was 8.5+ hours before we hit the paved access road but unfortunately absolutely there was NO mobile coverage and nothing for 60km so we waited for Dave to meet us. A lovely man from Chorus Broadband was out surveying the area and he gave us a lift towards civilisation and we then saw Dave's 4WD!!!. Dave and his wife Lynn drove us back to Nelson. We were so appreciative of their wonderful service!!!. Back in Nelson and after beautiful hot showers, yummy meal, we focused
DOC Rangers - Ray & LiamDOC Rangers - Ray & LiamDOC Rangers - Ray & Liam

The DOC Rangers, Ray and Liam, gave us a lift to start of Mt Richmond carpark after we had 4.5+ hour road walk due to heavy rain / landslides. These guys were the best!!! Thank you
on what we were going to do next as our planned hiking to Arthurs Pass was in doubt due to the unsettled weather especially lots of rain. Side note: Nelson is just so lovely - lots of restaurants and cafes. During our visit we went to Fords restaurant and Cod & Lobster Brasserie plus pizzeria at the movie theatre. Given the unsettled weather we opted to skip the Arthurs Pass planned hikes and stay in Nelson region and revisit some of the trails we did in 2016 but with some slight variations.

We arranged a shuttle drop from Nelson to Saint Arnaud (a beautiful village that sits on the edge of beautiful Lake Rotoiti, excellent access point to hiking and fishing and skiing in winter ) and hiked to Speargrass Hut.

Next day we hiked over to Sabine Hut which was lovely trail but lots of windfell so bit of scrambling in sections to get through fallen trees / debris. It was a beautiful big hut overlooking the lake but there were lots of our sandfly friends there!!!!. Next day we hiked form Sabine Hut to Blue Lake - we'd been up to Blue Lake in Christmas 2015 and it is the location of the purest water on earth. The hut was packed and it we spent cosy evening around a fire, chatting to fellow hikers. We had a big sleep in and yummy brunch and took an out and back hike up to Moss Pass (~3 hours @ 1550M) before heading back down to West Sabine Hut to stay. It was Census night in NZ so there was a warden who had been flown in by helicopter with census forms for us all to fill out - both local NZ and overseas visitors.

We had a big day of hiking including a very steep ascent towards Travers Saddle and the actual crossing of the Travers Saddle in some windy conditions but we made it and arrived in one piece to the Upper Travers Saddle hut where we had bite of lunch before heading down towards the John Tait Hut. On our leisurely hike to this hut, I (Robbo) was waiting for Dave and my left boot slipped on a wet tree root and I fell approximately from 60cm height but landed flush on my left wrist and broke it - technically diagnosed as a FOOSH injury
Cheers to that!!!Cheers to that!!!Cheers to that!!!

Celebrating getting back from our White Out adventures on top of Mt Richmond
(Fall On Out-Stretched Hand); my wrist fracture did not tickle but i just strapped it up and elevated in a make shift sling...we made it to the John Tait hut and stayed overnight before our final hike of 8 hours / 25+km back to Saint Arnaud but thankfully the trail was not too technical - pretty straightforward even with one pole for me. Dave was so sweet looking after me, making dinners etc. We got up early and headed safely into Saint Arnaud and we stayed at our favourite hotel, Saint Arnaud Alpine Lodge and after nice hot shower we had delicious dinner of lamb shank and few champagnes (for medicinal purposes). We met these wonderful visitors from Maine USA including Phyllis who was a retired nurse. She looked at my wrist and got me set up with my sling and ibuprofen and said "I see you in a cast tomorrow".

We arranged a private shuttle service to Nelson so I could see a doctor and have X-Rays. Having been born in NZ they quickly set up a medical # for me and I was in for X-Rays and treatment to put my wrist in better position with a cast in the Emergency Hospital, all for the small fee of $35. The Medical Centre and Hospital staff were so wonderful. We had two nights in Nelson before flying to Christchurch for one night in advance of flying home to Sydney. We loved our trip even with the misadventures but we're also very happy to be going home to see HB (Handsome Bob - our Havanese Puppy) and sleep in our comfy bed!. Signing off for now with our next trip booked to complete the Pyrenean Haute Route - the high passes along the Pyrenees ranges, that will intersect between both Spain and France from July to September 2018. So we're fully committed to our motto to "making memories" and hiking in the wilderness is one way we love to do that!

Additional photos below
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Fractured left distal radius
Nelson Base Public HospitalNelson Base Public Hospital
Nelson Base Public Hospital

Happy patient on happy drugs

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