St James Walkway - Labour Weekend 26-29 October 2019

Six intrepid trampers set off from the Boyle River village at Labour Weekend into a somewhat unknown weather forecast, the St James Walkway being on the Divide can experience either or both east and west coast weather patterns. We had it all – rain, sun, overcast, and a mix of snow flurries and a tee-shirt sunny lunch stop within the space of an hour on the last day. But at least it was never cold.

Picture 1

Figure 1 Beside the Boyle River, approaching Boyle Hut. Photo courtesy of Kerry Moore.

On the whole we were lucky – arriving at the Anne Hut on the second day an hour before a torrential storm with high winds – yes, we agreed with the written comment on the outside wall “the windiest hut in NZ” – they could have added ‘and the most nerve-wracking toilet visit’. I had visions of being a latter-day ‘Dorothy’, and wondered on which Kansas mountain-top I might land.

Picture 2

Figure 2. Patchy weather, Lower Henry River. Photo courtesy of Kerry Moore

With the benefit of not being a ‘great walk’, hence less crowds and huts that are made for trampers and not tourists, the St James is a beautiful alpine trek where it is delightful to “just be”. The track is well maintained and varied from beech forest to alpine meadow to rivers that take some concentration, but are not threatening. It can be made challenging or comfortable depending on the length of time and stops made.

We did it in four days which meant one 23km day, and went from south to north which included more uphill – so was somewhat more challenging for some of us who are not used to a heavy pack and also have inadequate boots.

Picture 3

Figure 3. Our group outside Ada Hut. Photo courtesy of Wendy McCaughan

The highlights were getting up close and personal to some of the wild horses, who are curious, but obviously still wild – to the snow covered tops that were just beautiful in the evening sun, to NO sandflies, to empty huts bar one, to good conversations and shared experiences, to making new friends – and the sheer physical beauty and peace of the backcountry.

It was a great few days – a very enjoyable, fun and compatible group who worked well together, provided some great shared meals (including one of the heaviest on record I am sure). It was my first tramp in quite a while – and has left me enthusiastic for more! Thanks Team!
Participants were: Kerry Moore, John Robinson, Sacha Baldwin, Wendy McCaughan, Ilaria Carbellotti and Deb Rhode (leader) PDR.