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April 2014 Issue
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Icebergs in summer

The View from Siberia Hut takes in the valley and Mt Dreadful
2-3 days. (6-8hr return, from Siberia Hut)
Siberia Hut, 20 bunks
By jet boat from Kerin Forks, or along the track from SH6, south of Makarora

Crucible Lake, Mt Aspiring National Park

As the seemingly dry Wilkin River sped by beneath the jet boat, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast to the last time I headed to Siberia Hut.

It was 2009 and the Wilkin was in flood. Heavy rain persisted all the way to Siberia Hut where we watched Siberia Stream steadily rise against the measure of a large rock. We were planning a side-trip to Crucible Lake on our multi-day trip over Gillespie Pass, but after two nights in the hut, the stream was still too high to cross so we continued on over Gillespie Pass vowing to return to visit the icy Crucible Lake another time.

Seeing other people’s photographs of ice floating in the lake only served to stoke the fire, so it was with greater confidence that I would achieve my objective when I set out last summer in much better weather.

The 30-minute jet boat ride delivered me to Kerin Forks, saving 20km of walking. With another group attempting Gillespie Pass, I began the 2.5hr tramp into Siberia Hut where I would base myself until I achieved my goal of visiting Crucible Lake.

The zigzag up the spur above Kerin Forks was just as relentless as I remembered, but necessary to bypass the gorge far below. The gentle gradient into Siberia Valley was a real pleasure, travelling through cool beech forest in the heat of the day. When the wide grassy flats of Siberia Valley were reached, an airstrip used in the long-gone venison recovery days, came into view. The track followed the true left of Siberia Stream for 20 minutes to a bend where Siberia Hut is located. It’s nicely elevated with the dining area window looking directly up the valley to Mt Dreadful.

This hut has 20 bunks and opened in 2011 following the loss of the previous hut to fire. A dip in a pool under a nearby waterfall finished the day off nicely. What a difference the good weather made.

The following morning I joined volunteer hut warden Maryann and her friend Sally who were also heading up to Crucible Lake for the day. It was a pleasant walk along the valley floor, crossing Gillespie Stream shortly after the turn-off to Gillespie Pass, then crossing Siberia Stream just after it is joined by Crucible Stream. There was hardly a cloud in the sky.

Entry to Crucible Valley was straight up a bush spur, gaining about 300m elevation. Crucible Stream, to our left, was one long waterfall tumbling over large rocks and steep rock slopes. Pulling ourselves up by trees and roots we eventually sidled around and slightly down to cross to the true right of Crucible Stream. Here we emerged from the bush to look up at the majestic walls of rock towering above this beautiful sub-alpine valley. The two hut wardens were busy identifying the various plant species and even I could instantly recognise the Mt Cook Lily with its large green leaves and lovely white flowers with yellow centre.

A poled route led steadily uphill for another hour to the foot of the moraine wall, which rises an estimated 150m to the lake’s rim. This last, somewhat taxing climb was through large rocks but the view from the rim was stunning. Ice and frozen snow covered most of the lake surface. The cirque of rock walls culminating in the glaciers and snowfields of Mt Alba, 2360m, rose hundreds of metres directly from the lake.

The view and experience of being there was all I had imagined it would be.

– Simon Thompson