The most inconvenient thing about three day weekends is they don't always line up with perfect weather conditions for doing a traverse of the St James and Hanmer Ranges. We had spent days planning out our path from Mt St Patrick to Mt Captain, Miromiro, Mt Scaife and out the Edwards River. Lightweight gear had been sourced so we could travel fast across the tops and food was rationed to the bare minimum. The forecast looked clear but there were some worrying words like "gale" in the description of winds over the weekend. Hoping for the best regardless, we met up at the family holiday house in Hanmer Springs and scrounged some extra food for Sam who had left all of his sandwiches in Christchurch. Happy we had enough basic food and shelter to last an overnighter somewhere near the tops, the three of us rocked over Jacks Pass and were deposited at the St James Homestead for the walk in.
It would sound much more impressive if I didn't mention the ski field road that winds it's way up to 1400m from here but for those of you looking for a nice day walk away from Hanmer in the summer months - this is a really beautiful option. The road is relatively flat for the first three kilometres before climbing steeply to the bottom of the Amuri Ski field. I always find ski fields a bit creepy outside of winter when they feel like the set of a bad horror film with all their abandoned buildings and unused tows littering the side of the mountain. Once I put the Blair Witch Project out of my head for the time, we had a perfect lunch spot sitting on the deck of the club house looking out towards another familiar peak - Mt Maukuratawhai in the east. It was unfortunately about this time that the wind started to interfere with our perfectly planned expedition. I was already wearing my hard shell to keep the sub zero wind chill out and gloves to stop my hands from going numb when we started up towards what was supposed to be our first of several summits for the day.
As we started wading through the tall grass heading up to point 1774m I promptly fell up to my armpits in a cleverly concealed hole full of mud. Too far down to be pulled out by either of the guys (not that my husband even tried), I had to flail around like a seal and use the tussock to claw my way skyward again. Once out again and moving, it was a slow grind up to the top of the ridge where the aforementioned gales were well and truly forcing their way over the range. We crouched behind some rocks to refuel while Sam scoped out the surrounding hills for something to shoot - no luck there. It was pretty obvious we weren't going to make it much further as I could barely take two steps in a straight line and everyone's faces were going numb. We toyed with the idea of dropping down into the styx valley but that looked about as much fun as pulling your fingernails off. Rather begrudgingly we decided to do the sensible thing and retrace our steps all the way back to The Five Stags for the Crusaders and a beer. Having had a good look at Captain now, we may have to come up with a new plan of attack such as finding a key to the gate at the bottom of the access road....
In New Zealand we don't go hiking, walking or frolicking in the wilderness - we tramp.