Mt Barron

 16-17 March 2012

 Mike R. (leader), Claire, Bill, Wendy, Steiner, Agnete, Bronwyn We began on the roadside near Otira where the track sign says ‘Mt Barron 3 hours’. Not a track for those who like to warm up slowly –it goes straight up the ridge.Wendy entertained us with Irish jokes in honour of it being St Patrick’s Day, while Bill improved the track with his secateurs. This was obviously not a track that is used much and after an hour of scrambling and pulling ourselves straight up the rugged ridge, we had doubts about the ‘3-hour’ summit! Once above the bush line we stopped for lunch. We’d gained a lot of height but the road was rather frustratingly still in view.

 Setting off again, we crossed some obvious fault lines and headed up and around the shoulder of the hill until we were looking down on a chain of little tarns. We descended and set up our tents down there by about 2.30pm and after a snack were ready to head off to the summit. Great sharp-edged rock slabs the size of tables gave way to smaller rocks. It was dramatic and almost desolate landscape, although if you looked closely you could see tiny hardy plants growing up amongst the stones. Bill made it to the top of Mt Barron but the rest of us turned back about 200 metres away as the cloud was descending rapidly. Then it was all about ‘rock-running’ rather than scree-running down, as the stones were many different sizes and sometimes it was more like surfing a mini avalanche. The campsite beside the tarns was sheltered from the wind and was well-furnished with rocks for sitting on. We had a surprise guest in the form of a monstrous plump and hairy spider which we admired in Claire’s cup, but we only saw one lonely kea flying over.

Next morning we awoke to dense cloud. Every bit of tussock and rocky outcrop looked much like another in the murk. This prompted some discussion as to exactly which way we should head out. Mike was pretty confident though, and every now and then there would appear a little clearer ‘window’ in the cloud. We got it right – suddenly the track at the edge of the bush line appeared, straight ahead. Descending the steep track required almost as much energy as climbing up with the now wet, slippery vegetation and mud. Despite the soft drizzle we were stripping off layers to keep cool. Mike’s relatives who run Otira Backpackers had not only looked after the vehicles for us, but kindly lent us their garage for changing out of our wet clothes. Then it was off to the café at Arthur’s Pass for a late lunch and hot drinks. Thanks, Mike, for a great weekend adventure!

 Bronwyn