Arthurs Pass to Hamilton Hut – 17km (2188km total)
Today started out great and in the middle was not so great. We woke up this morning at a civilized hour and went to breakfast when the cafe opened at 8am. We then needed to try and get a hitch back to the trail head. There was four of us and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to get a hitch with that many people. But within 5 minutes a little car pulled over and was happy to give us all a lift. Two bags managed to fit into his boot and the other two bags we nursed on our laps. Within ten minutes we were back at the trail head and walking again.
The walk for the morning was an ascent up to 1200m and it had snowed again over night. So we could see snow up on the mountain tops. This also meant that as we climbed it got colder. Once we had done the majority of the climbing there was a hut at the top of the pass, which we stopped at for a break. 3 other hikers came along and we managed to fit all 7 of us and our bags into a small A framed hut for a break.
The break didn’t last too long, as we soon were cold just sitting around so started hiking again. We had probably, been hiking for about 10 minutes when I heard Y curse behind me. I looked around to see what was wrong and he showed me his leg covered in mud up to his calf. What can you do that is the TA, mud central. I walked on following the others and had probably gone about another 100m when I thought I heard a ‘help’ I looked behind me and Y wasn’t there. Then I heard it again. I stopped and said to J who was just ahead of me, ‘did you hear that?’ It was faint, but because Y wasn’t directly behind me and he had been only meters behind me. I said to the others I was going back. About 40m back I saw Y lying about 20m down on the river bed floor. I grabbed my PLB off of my pack and started butt scooting down the embankment. When I got on the bottom, I quickly checked on Y who was still conscious and ok-ish and then climbed out to the middle of the river bed to set me PLB on a rock and activate it. I then went back to Y. He had a giant gash in his leg, about an inch deep and 20-30 cm long. However, it wasn’t really bleeding, so I left it not wanting to cause more pain, when it wasn’t bleeding. He could move all his limbs. But he already had a good size bump above his eye, which will probably turn into a black eye and my guess is a severely bruised tailbone.
He didn’t want to move and I was happy for him to stay there. So I got his pack off of him and covered his legs with his towel and got his sleeping bag out, to cover him, as he was starting to shake from shock. We then sat there for an hour, while the others sat up on the trail and I talked to Y about the dumbest things just to keep him talking and his mind off of what was going on.
The part of the trail where Y had fallen wasn’t a dangerous part. It was thin and the drop away below was steepish but we had done far worse parts of the trail. Y said the ground under his pole on the river side had given way, which caused him to stumble that way and there was little to catch himself on so momentum took control and he fell 20m down into the river bed.
The search and rescue helicopter only took half an hour to get to us, but another half an hour to find us. Because we were in a gully, the signal was bouncing off the ravine walls and sending them the other side of the mountain. Eventually, they flew back over to the side we were on and I had laid out my pink jacket as a signal and moved out in to the middle to wave at them.
Once they found us, they pretty quickly lowered a medic down to us. Who bandaged Y’s leg assessed that he could move enough that they could harness him out and up to the chopper and not have to put him on a stretcher which would have been harder.
They winched Y and his pack up and took him to Christchurch. Then I needed to make my way back up to the trail. As I started the climb back up, I realised how loose the ground was in that section. I kept going to grab rocks to pull myself up on, but they would just come out of the ground and tumble down into the river. So I slowly had to make my way up trying to avoid the rocks and use tree roots as leverage.
Once back on the trail, my biggest concern was my parents and friends who were emergency contacts on my beacon. The search and rescue said they would be contacted and told that it wasn’t me who fell, but I was still concerned that they would be worried about me particularly when they couldn’t contact me. However, I didn’t want to be separated from the others, so I hiked on and hoped that search and rescue would be able to reassure then that it wasn’t activated for me.
The rest of the afternoon was lovely and easy. Down into a valley, the sun came out and the mountains were capped with snow. When we got to the hut a girl said hi to us and introduced herself as a hut warden. The first thing out of my mouth was ‘do you have a sat phone?’ She didn’t but she did have a radio to contact the DOC office in Arthur’s Pass. I gave her the e-mail address of my parents and friend and asked if she could get the people at the DOC office to email my family to let them know I was ok and would contact them in a couple of days once I had reception again.
The hut is full tonight and we sat around chatting, eating and reading.
Tonight I am thankful for NZ search and rescue.