The seven adventurers were: Leader, Beth. Navigators, David and Roger. Expert bush bashers, John and Lynda. Conversationalist and chocolate provider, Campbell. Camp mum who had anything anyone needed and who it was just good to see out tramping again, Kären.
The party set off on at an easy pace along the river flats from Borland Lodge in fine weather but with dire weather predictions from Norway in our ears. Changing the original plans because of the wind and rain predicted later in the trip the party carried on past the planned campsite to a rock bivvy. Quite palatial really, with a fine head of beech trees growing from the rock roof, but everyone chose to camp in the trees just below. It was a fine night and miracle of miracles no one had a wet tent in the morning.
The aim next day was to camp above the bush line on the slopes of Mt.Titiroa. Lunch stop was in the shade of trees, by the river, opposite North Borland Hut. Little did the 7 know what lay ahead as they took their ease by the babbling brook. Deciding to follow the route outlined in Moir’s guide the group headed off to the true right of the stream flowing into the North Branch Borland River. The steep ascent through thick bush with no signs of previous trampers going that way left the whole group happy to reach the bush line and open country. Bits of skin were left on various branches but no major damage to any of the adventurers. A camp site with a water source, level, dry ground (there were some tarns around) and shelter from the strengthening wind proved hard to find but a small area providing enough space for the six tents was found. It was a wild night resulting in tales of pegs coming out, being slapped in the face by the tent and other stories to share around the breakfast site.
Now, what time is start time, is it 8 or is it 7 minutes past 8? This is a good question that the seven adventurers could never all quite get right every day. Heading up through tussock and then scree-like shale a pass between two high points, 1581m and 1521m was the next objective. Keeping to the original planned route wasn’t an option because of diverting to the tarns to camp. A section of loose, crumbly stone didn’t carry on for long and the party made its way along the flanks of the mountain amazed at the incredible rock formations that kept appearing. Was that a whale, a reclining lady or a seal in front of us? Running out of energy and looking for a sheltered spot for lunch – yes, the wind was still blowing strongly, the party had just made themselves comfortable when we heard human voices calling. Could it be, yes, it was the party of six going the other way. But wait, they were on the top of the ridge well above us. Having discarded that route as too gnarly it created some worry about how they would get on so their arrival back in Manapouri was eagerly awaited.
Carrying on amongst the amazing rock formations, it was scenery that none of the adventurers had seen anywhere before, a decision had to be made – summit Mt. Titiroa or carry on down out of the wind to find a sheltered camp site. One true adventurer was keen to make the ascent but there being no other takers the party stayed together and set about looking for a route off the tops. A campsite with shelter from the wind and water was needed and after much consideration point 915 was chosen, mentioned in Moir’s guide as a possible camp site. Again the party traversed across grass before heading down a ridge into the beech trees. Relief all round because these were well spaced trees and finding a route down to 915 didn’t require skin loss or bush bashing just careful navigation to stay on the ridge line. A reasonably protected camp site with a water source about 200 m away and enough flat ground for the 6 tents was found. This was the earliest night yet for hitting the sleeping bags, rain stopped conversation! Rain wasn’t an issue all night but once again the wind howled around causing some anxious moments for some campers.
Making our way down to the Garnock Burn through the beech trees was relatively straight forward before crossing the Burn, turning right and finding the start of the Snow White Clearing track leading to Hope Arm hut on Lake Manapouri. This was like a rest day for the seven because the hut was reached in time for lunch, leaving time for swimming, washing or whatever people wanted to do. Surprisingly, the hut was empty apart from our party and only Roger elected to camp that night. Plenty of time to amble along the track and meet our ferry man on the Waiau River the next morning. We stopped off for coffee, ice cream, a pie or whatever walking through Manapouri to the campground. An excellent adventure in quite amazing scenery. The weather was excellent, despite the Norwegian forecast, with only the wind being an issue. Can’t be bad when you tramp for five days in Fiordland and never put on your waterproof and never wake up to a wet tent. A big thank you to all the party who made it a special trip but especially to Roger who organised the whole Christmas trip.