Arthur's Pass to Erewhon Station, Southern Alps, NZ

Peggy and I just did a 90 mile trip (60 walking, 30 floating) in about five days using the long boat and dry suits. It was a good adventure and much gnarlier than our Torres del Paine circuit last month

We hiked up the Waimakariri River in Arthur’s Pass National Park, over Jordan Saddle, then rafted the 80 feet/mile Avoca (500-750 cfs) and Harper Rivers (1500 cfs) to near the Wilberforce River. The Harper disappears into a nasty canal that you must avoid. Get out when the Harper passes beneath some power lines. To here, near Lake Coleridge, would make a good weekend trip from Christchurch, but we went onward for more.

The WIlberforce we floated about five miles to Mt Algidus Station. The Wilberforce is too wide a valley for a good float from its headwaters. There’s nary a channel with enough water to float in the Mathias, which we crossed on a 23 mile walking day from Algidus to Evans Hut on Cattle Stream along the Rakaia. This hut is used by those making both South Island traverses and the Arthur’s Pass to Mt Cook Traverse, either of which could be done as full-on packrafting trip, as well.

The Rakaia was rocking in full spring flood after two days sun and two days rain. It looked like the Delta River at Black Rapids in the Alaska Range, but colored milky-white blue. I took the gear across first, then Peggy, riding over five foot waves on the return. It would make for a good exciting float after traversing over from Hokitika on the West Coast by way of Whitcombe River and Pass.

Butler Saddle was steep and brushy at the bottom and steep scree at the top. A 3000 foot, four hour climb in the rain, in part on thar (wild Himalayan mountain goats) trails, it’s the best day of adventure we have had since the western Brooks Range grizzlies in June. We plunge stepped and glissaded down the other side in two hours.

Like the Avoca the Lawrence River was about 80 feet/mile and maybe 750 cfs at the put in. There’s a dangerous canyon, short but choked with boulders that are runnable, but a twenty foot sheep fence drags the river at the canyon’s end and would be a likely lethal trap for a swimmer. Below it’s all good braided waters with no obstacles, again just like the Avoca (i.e PR 3)

The Clyde River we ran at about 5000 cfs and 50 feet/mile. We made 5 miles in 35 minutes: a wild ride that with two in our long boat! Out of time (we’d been sick for three days in a motel, cutting into our time), we hitchhiked out from Erewhon Station.

This’ll likely be our only Alaska-style packrafting trip that mixes watersheds (we used the boat in three) as our daughter comes tomorrow and she will likely shy away from this style of trip.

Likely report on some hike up and float down west coast rivers, I hope, but even if this is all I do, it was probably one of the best packraft trips of the year for me, up there with the Grand Canyon and Wyoming trips.

Just what I was looking for.

Roman - sounds awesome.

Did anyone mention didymo risk when moving between catchments ?

Would love to see some pics when available.

yes, we had to stay out of several areas due to didymo. I was surprised how localized it was in some watersheds and how pervasive in others. We never rafted in any waters where it was present, but the Rakaia seemed to have it in every non-glacial tributary.

…I’ll be posting some video soon.

video, if interested:

and Part II (more interesting)

Cute sheep!

AND …exciting looking trips - makes me want to leave work and go across the Tasman NOW!