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The allure of Tararua storms

  • July 16th, 2009

I can understand why our friend Seddon Bennington carried on into a storm. The Kime Hut plateau would be a glorious and  eerie experience the morning after a midwinter blizzard. Even the huts become paradisical when you reach them in a blizzard.

And I can understand how it might dawn too late even on an experienced tramper that a blizzard on those tops is beyond all previous experience. In fine weather the hut is a pleasant ramble from the bush edge.

As a first year student I had a taste, in a VUW Tramping Club southern crossing party led by an excellent trip leader, an older student who has since made his career in outdoor experience work. I’d encouraged a Malaysian friend to come along, his first experience of the NZ bush.

Nearly four hours after leaving the hut (Vosseller I seem to recall) around 10 of us were standing scared and shivering in the lee of a knob above a steep snow covered drop-off, trying to regain confidence in our leader. The wind screamed past, ice particles tenderised exposed skin and our parka hoods rattled and battered at our faces with so much noise we could scarcely hear each other. Some in the party were whimpering involuntarily just crouched with their backs to the wind.

To the credit of my Malaysian friend he stayed mute in his misery while the decisions were made.

The problem was that we’d just recognised the chocolate wrapping in the snow at our feet as the debris of our first rest-stop an hour or so after leaving the hut.

Plainly we’d come in an unplanned circle around the upper slopes of Hector, instead of  getting to the shelter of the bush on the other side.

Though he was not sure, no one knew any better than our leader where we were, so in the end we followed him again. We had to crawl in places, grabbing at the ice to stop being blown off.

Second time lucky. The hut was too damp and cold to heat up with its open fire, but still a paradise down in the trees out of the wind.

RIP Seddon.


  • Jeremy Laurenson
  • July 17th, 2009
  • 2:26 pm

Nice piece Stephen.


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