Parachute Rocks – Nelson Lakes National Park
Sunday 31 July 2022
After a pretty wet week and yet more torrential rain on Saturday 30 July, the messages came in thick and fast – is the trip tomorrow still on? Absolutely I said – the rain is forecast to stop about midnight, and rain in Richmond will be nice fresh snow up at Nelson Lakes.
… It was still raining heavily at 5am on Sunday morning …
And then it cleared. We met in Richmond and drove expectantly to St Arnaud, with snow on the road from Tophouse onwards. Parachute Rocks and the tops of the St Arnaud Range were shrouded in cloud, but optimistically I told everyone that the forecast had it burning off by midday and awesome views would be had.
At 9.30 our group of nine departed Kerr Bay for our trip up to 'The Rocks’. Before too long, patches of snow on the ground became heavier snow, and the forest was a winter wonderland of snow-laden trees. Flaxes resembled big white octopuses, and small icicles could be seen on exposed banks. What a day to be out in the hills! although the snow made the going much slower than usual.
We came out of the bushline just below Parachute Rocks, then a short time later were enjoying lunch. But where were the views? All we could see was the inside of a cloud, with none of the usual spectacular views across to Mt Robert or down to Lake Rotoiti. Don’t worry I said, by the time we finish lunch it will have cleared – look! here’s the forecast I saved to my phone.
The trip was advertised as a walk in the snow, not an ice-axe and crampon affair, however two of the more intrepid members of the group decided to have a scramble up the steep slope to the ridgeline. It was above the cloud and looked tantalisingly close. After a longer lunch, watching the ridge-baggers slowly climb ever skyward, the remaining seven of us started heading down. We had reluctantly given up on seeing more than a fleeting glimpse of the promised vistas.
We stopped part-way down through the forest and built an epic snow-woman. With a carrot for a nose, vari-coloured drink-bottle caps for eyes and a jaunty red hat, Sally looked very colourful (said non-natural components were retrieved before leaving and replaced with stones and twigs).
With the group together once more, blue skies could be seen through the canopy – the low-lying cloud had finally lifted. So the forecast had been accurate … just a few hours off in time. However, we had to stop and put our coats on as we were getting sodden. The snow in the trees was melting like crazy and we were walking through a steady shower of water, and the track was a running stream.
We arrived back at Kerr Bay at 4pm. We had a beautiful clear view up to Parachute Rocks and all along the St Arnaud Range, as well as the view we’d had in the morning down the lake and across to Mt Robert. Everyone agreed they’d had enjoyed a magic day in the snow, and we happily headed homeward bound.
We were: Diane (Leader and Scribe), Paula G, Mary, Esther, Eric, Dean and Ian, with visitors Sharen and Simon.
PS – Eric & Simon reported amazing views from the ridgeline!