In the middle of September last year I travelled once again to the South Island of New Zealand at midnight. In the morning I hurried over to the bus terminal in the center of town with a taxi loaded with my skis and bags, the destination was Geraldine. After a 2 hour bus journey, I had a long walk up the road to a cute backpacker hostel called Rawhiti, which was empty when I arrived, the retirement age owners greeted me outside and found me a room. They informed me that they were about to sell the place, partly a casualty of COVID and so I wandered alone around the beautiful old building filled with a sense of nostalgia, looking at the fading photos and pamphlets on the walls. The owner informed me that his cat had peed in the shower and apologized, but I didn't notice!
Adam arrived in his big ute outside the supermarket late that evening in the pouring rain to prepare for another adventure in the Southern Alps, this time to the Arrowsmiths Range. After food shopping, we returned to the hostel. Adam wanted to sleep in his car, but it was still raining hard as we sorted our gear on the floor, and I convinced him to spend the night inside the empty hostel.
In the morning we drove North and as we entered the gravel roads we were excited to be greeted by fresh snow covering the stunning landscape. Our objective for the day was Cameron Hut, and this turned into a bit of an epic with around 15-30 cm of fresh snow on the ground, hiding river stones, mud puddles, and tussocks. It was burdening bushes ready to be unleashed on the hapless traveller with sticks strapped to their back, we arrived at the little green hut well after dark!
Initially we had hoped to climb Mt Arrowsmith, but being completely pooped from the day before, we made a late start soon after sunrise. A wrong turn at the moraine wall and we had to backtrack to the center of the valley for an alternate approach to the tongue of the glacier. By this stage it was obvious that the East facing upper slopes covered with fresh snow were about to be baked, a potentially dangerous situation where avalanches are concerned, and our planned objective was taken off the agenda.
An alternative idea was quickly formed and we headed up the Cameron glacier with a rope between us towards the South West facing headwall. This is indeed an impressive valley, the walls above are very steep, with some hanging seracs. We dug a couple of snow stability assessment pits along the way and were happy with the situation before bootpacking the final steep slope for were what were probably the best powder turns of the season for me!
We zipped back down to the hut and proceeded to exit the valley in less than half the time it took us to enter, the snow had entirely melted out in the lower sections in the sunshine. It was my first trip with Adam, we had a great time, and he took some beautiful photos along the way!
I made a little video from the trip: