A Freezing Fool (Part One) – Cameron Hut

“On a Mish” #99 A Freezing Fool (Part One). Cameron Hut. Hakatere Conservation Area. 4.9.2013. Many times on my missions I have leant outdoor lessons in a very lifelike situation. Most of the time it has been little things like forgetting the gas canister or another vital piece of kit like the toilet paper. While I have made do when I have forgotten something, on the odd occasion my error has left me in a position I’d rather not be in. And it was during the winter of 2013 that I would learn that I person who underestimates how long it will take them to get to a hut can end up a freezing fool…

Hakatere Conservation Park is 60,000 Hectares of pure fun on foot in the Canterbury Foothills. Tracks, huts and mountains are easy to find, and every type of hiker is catered for. I came to the ‘Ashburton Lakes’ as a kid with my family, and I remember exploring the wide open spaces and how fun it was. With that said a lot of time would pass before I even thought about the foothills. And it would be many years later when I was well into adulthood that I would rekindle my interest in the park, starting with the first of many trips to Lake Clearwater Village back in 2009.

What started as a spark of interest in Hakatere (mostly around Lake Clearwater), turned into a blazing inferno which burnt brightest during the winter months. When the guiding season on the Routeburn, Milford or Humpridge track neared its end I would start planning missions into my wintertime stomping ground.

Thanks to the internet I could research certain places, and one of those locations was Cameron Hut. Perched at the top of a long valley, the hut was built for climbers who wanted to base themselves at the head of the valley and climb the many peaks that jut up abruptly. According to the guide book I had read, it would take four to five hours to reach the hut, four to five hours to a place where I can kick-back amongst the massive mountains at the top of the valley. Due to the conditions and potential snow in the forecast, I was planning on just chilling out. So, like many of my adventures I started out by driving to Lake Clearwater Village for a comfortable night in the cozy crib.

Winter’s grip held the area like a predator on its prey. The temperature hadn’t hit double digits shown by the fact that both Lakes Clearwater and Camp had large sheets of ice forming on the surface. It was chilly to say the least! After arriving, my first goal was to get the fire roaring and the crib warm. With my main goal completed I could kick back and relax and start planning the next day’s wild outing. The irony is the position I would find myself in around 24 hours later would be the complete opposite. Of course, I didn’t know this yet so I enjoyed the warmth and comfort.

The next day (not early-ish at all) I got up and sorted myself out for a nice, simple walk up to Cameron Hut. The comfortable environment of the crib kept me inside perhaps just a couple of hours longer than I had planned, but I do like to make sure the place is super clean for the next person. After cleaning up I drove from Lake Clearwater to up past Lake Heron, and then onto the entrance to the Cameron Valley

Stormy Conditions in the Cameron Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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