Powder Valley - St Arnaud Range
Saturday 8 April 2023
A day trip on a fine Easter Saturday proved a popular choice for 13 trampers, rather than the traditional four-day Easter weekend trip.
We headed up the Rainbow Road in the upper Wairau Valley, then 1km up the skifield road and parked by a locked gate. It was a steady gradient walking up the wide road above Six Mile Creek. Signposts every 1km gave an indication of our quick progress.
A few hundred metres past the 5km sign we turned off onto a track opposite an avalanche warning sign. The track was really only a route marked with pink tape and was quite steep, rough and overgrown. After 20 minutes we emerged from the bush onto tussock at the base of Powder Valley, just east of the skifield. This is the name given by Rainbow Skifield for the quality of the snow here, with the track provided for any skiers going outside the patrolled boundary needing to exit down to the road and hopefully get a ride back up to the skifield.
We had a short, steep climb to get up to the edge of a basin, then we followed up beside a creek as the gradient became easier and the views opened up. But it was then steeper again, climbing up one-by-one to each of the three magnificent large tarns drained by small waterfalls all set in a beautiful valley. It is of no surprise that the St Arnaud Range boasts about 50 tarns of reasonable size, which must be the most of any range in the top of the south.
The final climb was a steady gradient up to a saddle just east of point 1813 with views down to some tarns draining west into Lake Rotoiti. This had taken us 3¾ hours from the start. Our lunch was finished off with mini Easter eggs to celebrate our achievement.
We carried on a short distance to a saddle before point 1820, then down rocky slopes to the skifield buildings. We stopped at the skifield café but of course it was closed, so we then continued all the way 8km down the skifield road and back to the cars in 2½ hours to complete a good circuit and a new trip for the club. Altogether a duration of 7 hours and a distance of 17km.
The trampers were Robert (scribe), David W, Jenny R, Edward, Tony, Andrew, Maria, Rob, Arif, Lynda and newcomers Petra, Sue and Greg.