Barker Hut is Awesome!!

The forecast lately has been quite wild with some good southerly storms making their way up the country. For the first weekend of the school holidays we decided a mission was in order and luckily our friends Matt and La were keen to tag along.

We spent most of Thursday night at my brothers getting absolutely nowhere with planning what to do and where to go. Everyone wanted to do something different and the weather didn't look good for our original plan of a mission in to Barker hut (hopefully with skis).

Chris and I are still hooked on the idea of ski tramping, although since breaking my very light weight skis last year he has been a little less ambitious with his ideas. By the end of Friday the weather had changed again, enough to convince us that Barker hut was a go. So we whisked home from school, organised our gear and jumped in the car to collect Matt and Lara.

We were taken back to China for a brief period as we stopped at Church corner to sample the menu at Yummy's Chinese Takeaways. As we drove out of town it started spitting and by Porters Pass it was raining quite heavily. The idea of walking for several hours up the cold Waimak in the dark did become less appealing and we started fantasising about baches in Arthurs Pass - we are ageing!!!

Luckily the rain stopped and a bit of snow sliding in the car at high speed to the road end at Klondyke Corner had us revved up and ready to go. Headlamps on and packs loaded with skis, food, glacier gear, avalanche stuff... and we were ready to go. Fortunately Chris's pack seemed to have developed some tardis like qualities and an enormous amount of stuff seemed to disappear in there.

As we set out up the Waimak the snow and rocks sparkled with ice crystals and the pale shapes of the snow clad mountains wafted above us - it really was beautiful. We planned only to walk as far as Anti Crow Hut and given it was already 10pm this was fine by me.

The river was freezing and reasonably high to cross, so when we hopped out of the last crossing onto Turkey Flat our tights froze and started sparkling as well. We wound our way across the flats, then a brief spell in the bush popped us out at Anti Crow Hut. We woke a couple of hunters who were cosily ensconced in the hut, but politely got up and moved away their belongings out the way for us.

We slept well and woke to the sound of rustling at about 6.30. Chris was keen to get up and get going, because we had a fair way to walk and we wanted to get up to Barker with the chance of skiing on the glacier before dark. Porridge, coffee and we were off, crunching across the frosty grasses. La decided a bach weekend might be needed after all.

Heading out in the morning from Anticrow
Crossing the river was absolutely freezing and by the 8th crossing we were beyond howling or yelling, our feet were painful and we trudged in silence. Slowly our feet began to thaw and we were able to take in the dawn surroundings. It was a bluebird day, with pink light just touching the highest points on the snowy peaks.

At Carrington hut we stopped for a quick coffee brew on the porch, which required some arm twisting from Chris who was itching to get up the mountain. The sun was out and we basked in its gentle rays. On up the White River we were warming up and Matt even striped down to his merino singlet. We continued up river, now boulder hopping and climbing over avalanche debris.

Starting to soak in the rays shortly after leaving Carrington hut
Continuing on up the White in the sun

Skirting some avalanche debris in the White River
Marmaduke Dixon Glacier high above us
At last we could see the little red blob that is Barker Hut sitting high up amongst a sea of white. The Marmaduke Dixon Glacier poked its green tongue down at us and some friendly keas cawed from the valley. The snow was soft and fluffy now and Chris and I were happy to continue up the steeper section to the hut in running shoes.
Matt and Lara on the final climb to the hut
Barker Hut really is a great spot, perched on a cliff overlooking the White Valley with the White Glacier that flows from Mt Murchison (the highest mountain in the park) tucked in behind. The hut has a wee balcony and is well insulated. We sat inside and brewed up some noodles and soup.

Barker hut in all its red glory
Then it was time to get moving as the day was slipping by. We organised our gear for heading up the glacier and put on ski boots and harnesses. Out the door and we got our first ski run down into the basin which leads to the glacier. Having carried the gear this far it was awesome to get to use it!
The gentle climb from the hut, just visible perched on the small knob center right
Skinning uphill, Lara and Matt can be seen as tiny dots center right
We skinned uphill, through nice powder that was just a little wind affected in patches. The mountain views around us were magnificent. Matt and La were on foot, and plodded a neat trail through the snow towards us. We reached a point where the basin turns gently right and continued up a broad ridge. From there we dropped steeply down a gully and onto the White glacier proper. Not that you would know as it was white all around.

Looking at the amazing alpenglow from Kahutea Col
As we skinned on up towards Kahutea Col at the top of the White glaicer the mountains around us turned peachy pink in the alpenglow of the sunset. It was truly beautiful and we were very happy to have made it this high in one day to enjoy the sunset. From the col the summit of Mt Murchison is one tantalising steep rock step away - but there was no time for that! As the sun set and it began to get dark Matt and La popped over the Col.
Ski transition. The summit of Mt Murchison is just behind.
We took off our skins, clipped in our boots and attached our lights to our helmets. Matt and La started down, but were keen for us to wait for them one the descent (fair enough). The powder was perfect at the top and those hard earned (albeit rather cautious turns) made everything worth it. My legs felt like jelly after about three turns, but we took our time and waited every so often for Matt and La.

Now it was completely dark and we were skiing by our lights. Watching Chris's light come towards me with the occasionally swoosh of powder was quite surreal. Once back down in the basin we cruised ahead of Matt and La and reached Barker hut just on 6.30. The hut was cosy and we quickly brewed up hot drinks and dinner. Then we lay on the bunks and listened with rather a lot of amusement to Matt reading chapters of Bear Gryll's "True Grit". The story of a Norwegian soldier's harrowing escape to Sweden was truly unbelieveable.

Cosy times at Barker hut

We fell asleep to the sound of the wind hammering outside as the Norwester began to pick up. In the morning a true blizzard was upon us. Just walking to the toilet was a mission, with blasting snow driving into your eyes. Chris decided he needed to do one little ski run before we left, so he headed up the hill behind the hut. His descent through heavy wind blown snow with almost zero visibility convinced him it was time to head down the mountain, and I sadly decided against skiing down the valley from the hut because I wasn't confident in the crappy snow with such poor visibility.

Heading out of the storm
Rock shelter
The two oranges
As we got lower the weather cleared a bit and we could see down valley again. About half way down we came across a huge fresh avalanche debris. The avalanche had come from high up the mountain and funnelled down a narrow gully, piling up high in the gorge. It was tens of metres high and we scrabbled over one at a time and fairly quickly!
Then the sun popped out again!
Further down the White River
Back into grasslands
Back at Carrington the temperatures were warmer and the river crossings seemed much more pleasant. We stopped for a quick brew up at the hut and then it was a long amble back out down the Waimak, admiring the stormy peaks behind. By dark we reached the Anticrow hut again, then completed the last hour out to Klondyke. A delicious basket of wedges and fish at the deserted Bealey Pub finished our awesome weekend ski tramp to Barker Hut! Highly recommended +++++

Last light as we head towards Klondyke Corner

Comments

Cris said…
Very cool adventure silly billies
Kate Pedley said…
Awesome! Looks a beautiful adventure :)
Tim said…
Awesome. Sounds better than my weekend in the Aussie outback.
NaC said…
Ah man, you really have such great adventures! Keep up the good work. Casp.

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