The van dropped us off on the Borland Road at about 10:45am; Anthony, Monika, me and Sybil Goose made up the mandatory four. Roger insisted we had to have a high route party. He extolled the spectacular views we would encounter and said that it should only take about 5 hours. So, although it was drizzling, I was talked into doing the alternate ridge route to Green Lake. I should have been suspicious when Roger himself did not volunteer to join us! He was taking the 3 hour track to the Green Lake Hut with the rest of the group!
Initially, we strode confidently through the tall tussock grasses and alpine flowers, following what seemed to be a track. It was lovely. I even spotted a speargrass weevil. But soon the route was not so apparent even though the drizzle had stopped and the mist had risen enough to give us a great view of some tarns below, humps and ridges all around and mountains in the distance. We needed to make a decision about which way to continue. Anthony and Monika’s phone topomaps did not make it clear at this point so we hauled out the map and changed direction to eventually crisscross a stream for a while picking our way up and up as the wind intensified more and more. Lunch was devoured hunched below a small bank, trying to keep out of the increasing gale. And then, we continued up … above the grasses onto unstable rock and slippery scree …. Up and up until finally we reached the ridge at about 1400 metres. The other side was a steep drop-off to a large tarn, more like a lake in a valley way below. My pack cover was loose (but tied on), forming an extremely effective paraglider’s sail, and causing me to stagger along like a wobbly drunk. So I did not dare to venture too close to the edge. I stumbled up the ridge gaining another 50 or so metres in height while trying to enjoy the spectacular surrounds, until Anthony and Monika disappeared over the edge and I found them huddled just below it enjoying the sight of a slope of scree then tussock falling away beneath them; decorated with icy snow patches, white and yellow alpine flowers leading down to a small windswept tarn just above a steep drop off to Green Lake way down below, its waters prettily patterned with swirling tornado rings, and beyond a backdrop of mountains topped with grey and black clouds. In this relative shelter I clumsily removed my packcover so I could continue in a more stable fashion.
From the small tarn we could see the hut below … well it can’t be far now can it?
And then, Anthony discovered a fallen sign … Green Lake with an arrow … when reattached to the pole it pointed directly down to the hut. Should we change plans and head that way?
But, Roger’s directions sent us to the end of the lake so we continued along the high ridge parallel with the Lake; up and down many humps between 1300 and 1388 metres …. with the wind continuing to try to topple us and successfully whipping away Anthony’s bright orange packcover. Up and down we strode, on and on, until it was time to descend. By now my ankles and knees were tired and they objected strongly to the uneven bog, clumps of grasses, slippery tussock, hidden rough rocks and my brain too was exhausted with the constant decision making of where to put the feet without landing in a hole or twisting a leg …. In the end I resorted to sitting down and sliding where it looked like it wasn’t too steep for a controlled stop (and where I could not see any of the lethally sharp leafed Spaniard grass to spear my backside … no wonder it is also called Speargrass).
Finally, we reached the track …. But were shattered to find a sign saying it was another hour back to the hut. And, in the state my legs were in by this stage, even the track did not seem easy. Too many roots, rocks, trees to climb over; steep banks to climb down; slippery streams to get through. I lagged behind the others and was treated to a surprise appearance of a morepork who flew across the track immediately infront of me, landing on a branch close by. We gazed wide-eyed and unblinking at each other. Many photos later and a thankyou given, I gingerly staggered on.
Finally, just after 7pm, we came out into a clearing to see the hut - and then Roger rushing out to greet us with a huge grin on his face … apparently more relieved to see us than we were to see him as we had taken 8 ½ hours rather than his anticipated 5. There had been bets on when we would arrive but none were later than 5:45pm after which time the fun of betting had changed to the serious matter of planning our rescue!
The billy was on for us and after a greatly appreciated cup of tea then a nice hot dinner, the bunk felt very comfortable. But my mind worried as I fell asleep …. would my legs let me hike out on the 5 hour track the next day? ….ZZZZZZ…….