Suddenly Stunning (Part One) – Sudden Valley Bivouac

“A Mish a Day” #63 Sudden Valley Bivouac – Part One. Sudden Valley. Arthurs Pass National Park. 31.7.2013. It is fair to say that New Zealand has one of the best hiking hut networks on the planet. So many remote valleys have huts or at least bivouacs, and these shelters have kept hikers and hunters safe and dry for many years. Arthurs Pass National Park has got to have the most huts / bivouacs per square meter of any park in the country. Even though it is one of our smaller national parks, it still has many, many places to seek shelter from a storm.

Another little gem in the park, the Sudden Valley, doesn’t receive many visitors as it should. Each year the few who force their way up to the tiny two person Bivouac are rewarded with the stunning Polar Range mountains, and a remote escape which is only a few hours of classic Arthurs Pass tramping from the Hawdon Valley Campsite. Most of the hikes in the area have river crossings, and unfortunately this has led to many hikers drowning when attempting to cross while the rivers are swollen. All of the rivers in the park need to be treated with the utmost respect. With adventure in mind I headed to the Hawdon Shelter during the 2013 winter, and immediately got the party started with an icy cold crossing of the Hawdon River. There is nothing more ‘refreshing’ than crossing a chilly river to wake you up after a couple of hours driving from Christchurch. Starting from the wide Hawdon Valley I followed the Sudden Valley Stream, crossing multiple times before reaching the impassable barrier of the aptly named Barrier Falls. Here I looked up a steep rocky gully with the odd orange triangle track marker letting me know it was time for a climb. The by-pass track to avoid Barrier Falls is up a steep grunt upwards in an avalanche gut covered by loose rock. It’s not too difficult, but after a while I realised I was quite high up and a fall back down the gut would not end well. After I climbed the gut I sidled through beech forest then, once above Barrier Falls, the valley opened up and the going got easier as it flattened out. Just before the bivouac I crossed the stream for about the 400th time, onto a section of loose rock which, once over, I realized was a huge pile of avalanche debris from the east face of Mt Foweraker(1804m).

The Stunning Upper Sudden Valley

After an epic couple of hours I finally got to the Sudden Valley Bivouac, and was happy to dump my pack inside the tiny hut. The little hut is so small that a tall person would be able to stretch their arms out and touch all of its interior walls. Now evening time, as the last of the sun’s light turned the snow on the surrounding peaks pink I collected wood for a fire, pausing every now and then to admire the grand location I had got myself to. Finally it was time to dry out and enjoy the surroundings on a clear Arthurs Pass night. With the moon’s light shining brightly on the constant trickle of the nearby Sudden Valley Stream and countless stars in the sky, is there a better place to be than this?!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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