The Cass - Lagoon Saddle tramp

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The Cass - Lagoon Saddle tramp
Created On: Apr 1, 2011
Last Edited On: Apr 2, 2011

What to do after heavy rain?

I had picked Arthur's Pass National Park for my first tramping (that's the local word for hiking) experience in New Zealand. On the bus from Christchurch, the heavens opened. That wasn't too promising, but I hadn't exactly expected New Zealand to be dry.
Waimakariri River valleySnow, and clouds hiding the summits

As we got closer to Arthur's Pass, I saw snow on the slopes, and the summits were all in clouds. With that, my first plan, which was to climb Avalanche Peak, one of the high summits, went out the window. The snow might make it more dangerous than I bargained for, and the clouds would take away the views from the summit. So, I walked in the DOC office at Arthur's pass to inquire about my back up plan, a two day tramp over Goat Pass. In response, the rangers got a concerned look on their faces ...

The Goat Pass route follows the Deception and Mingha rivers up and down Goat Pass. There is no real trail, you just go along the bank of the river, and cross it when you cannot continue on whatever side you are, or wade through it if both banks are impassable. I had thought I could do the crossings by taking my boots off and on whenever I had to go in the river, but I learned that even in normal conditions, there were 30 crossings or so, and it would simply take too much time to do that! I already decided I would prefer something else, somewhat dryer, but there was more.
Remember those concerned looks? The problem was that conditions were definitely not normal. The water level of the rivers would be much higher due to the rain, and getting wet would be the least of my problems: I should worry about the risk of drowning instead!

So, I asked, where can I go instead? Not too high, coz' I like to see something, and not too wet? Fortunately, there was just the tramp for that, the two-day Cass-Lagoon route. A few river crossings, but not likely to be a problem. And so I sorted through my gear, packed my bag for two days and went out.
The Harper RiverThe upper Harper river is still easy to cross

As it turned out, just one of the river crossings was serious. Being inexperienced in these matters, I looked around for quite a while for the best spot to cross. At one point, I went in to test the waters, but retreated because it got deep quickly and the current was too strong. I found a better spot a little bit downstream, where I made it across safely. I also found out that if you take off your boots and socks, the exposed flesh works like a magnet for sand flies ...
Hamilton Hut, with the mountains of the Craigieburn range in the backgroundHamilton Hut, where I spent the night

After that, it was plain sailing. I had done my first tramp, and got my first real experience with river crossings in New Zealand - without drowning.

External Links

The Cass Lagoon Saddle route
Goat Pass route





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The Cass - Lagoon Saddle tramp

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