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August 2014 Issue
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Pottering around Potts

Walking a snow-laden Potts Hut Track. Photo: Carolyn Catt
15hr. Potts River Bridge to Potts Hut via true right of Potts River, 7hr; Potts Hut to Potts River Bridge via Mystery Lake Track, 8-9hr
Potts Hut, 10 bunks
From Potts River bridge beneath Harpers Knob on the Hakatere Potts Rd

Potts Hut, Hakatere Conservation Park

Early on a winter morning, I joined members of the Peninsula Tramping Club on a two-day trip in Hakatere Conservation Park.

We were all in high spirits, despite our leader having pulled out at the last minute. When this happens, you wonder if they knew something you don’t. On this occasion, there was something neither he nor we knew: the best way up the valley to the Potts Hut. Our plan was to walk up Potts River to the hut and then take the Mystery Lake Track out the following day.

But all we had for the first leg was an unconfirmed route, which had been sketched onto a topomap, and a strong warning not to drop into the river before the gorge.

Thanks to some good navigating we bypassed the gorge, dropping down into an open stretch of river, where we made a fair number of feet-numbing crossings before reaching the distinctly characterful hut. Having had to thrash through only a short section of prickly matagouri en route, it had, all in all, been a pretty relaxed seven-hour hike in the warm, windless sunshine of a blue-sky winter’s day.

That night, dinner went down a treat, interspersed with tales of past trips, discussions about preferred gear and equipment, recommendations of other tramping routes and the swopping of tramping recipes. For me, this is what being a member of a tramping club is all about: the sharing of food and information, and the sense of community. I love that I can choose to either take a back seat, leaving everything up to the leader, or to participate in discussions on route finding and the weather prospects. In a group context, there is always something new or different to do, to learn and to appreciate.

We started late the following morning – 8.30am – but made good progress along the Potts Hut Track until we hit the snowline. We found ourselves breaking through the hard crust and sinking into the underlying soft stuff; those at the back barked their knees on the edges of the deep holes made by the people in front. Even so, the going wasn’t too bad along the side of the unnamed lake at the head of Boundary Stream. The unexpected sight of a pair of black swan in that strangely monochrome setting provided an interesting diversion.

Travel got distinctly harder on the climb up from the frozen lake onto the Dogs Range.

By the time we made the ridge, it was mid-afternoon and the weather had started to deteriorate. The sky had darkened and the wind was strengthening. So, with flakes of snow whipping our faces, we decided to head down and make a bee-line for the track out. Disappointingly, this meant bypassing Mystery Lake, but a couple of short and fun bumslides down the hill kept us in good spirits.

Once on Mystery Lake Track, around 200m above the Potts River, we made quick progress back to our cars. A nine-hour walking day was rounded off with coffee and a snack at a café in Rakaia, which made a pleasant finalé to a fun weekend.

– Carolyn Catt