Trip Report: Freshers—the advanced crew (again)

29 March 2019 |

Tramps: George, Andre, Johanna, Ruth, and a large number of other CUTC-ers
Route: Boyle Village to Magdalen Hut via Faust; return via valley

As per tradition, March brings about the first big Canterbury University Tramping Club trip of the year: Freshers.

After a classic ‘will-we-make-it’ journey in our rental vans of questionable quality, we ultimately reached the carpark at Boyle Village (580m). 2019’s destination was to be Magdalen Hut, in the St. James/Lewis Pass area, with three levels of difficulty—the first-timers were to walk straight up the valley, the medium crew were doing the valley walk plus an additional wander after reaching the hut, and the advanced crew were to go up and over nearby mountain Faust (1710m).

Following a bit of faffing around at the car-park, we eventually began the slog up the well-formed but reasonably steep track to the bush-edge, myself and Andre leading the pack, and Ruth and Johanna following at the end. Andre, proving beyond a doubt that he’d been running around steep forestry sites all summer, lead a fast pace which got us to the bush-line in time for lunch. For me, most of the ascent consisted of a vain effort to try and seem fitter than I was in front of the group of freshers, but nonetheless I was overtaken on the final ridge as some people found their second wind on the approach to the summit!

Looking down the ridge-line from the summit The view from Faust

We passed a leisurely 30 minutes at the summit as we waited for the stragglers at the back to catch-up. No-one seemed bothered by the wait, with most choosing to nap on the windless ridge, or survey the majestical 360-degree view of the surrounds under the bright blue sky.

For the descent, Andre and I swapped with the other two to become the ‘tail-end Charlies’, ensuring everyone got down the ridge-line to a short-but-sharp descent down a marked route.

About 5 minutes out from the hut, without warning the people at the front of our immediate group started running at a remarkably fast pace—I remember commenting to Andre that it they must have seen the hut when in fact, it was for an entirely more sinister reason. As we continued, suddenly I saw some small things land on the back of his leg. The next few moments were a blur, but turns out they were wasps on the attack! It’s amazing how fast you can move even after more than five hours on foot… I was one of the luckier ones, only getting stung three times (3 out of 4 limbs)—one guy got stung more than ten times. From experience, the only silver lining to wasp stings is that their sharp pain stops you from caring about any other discomfort, such as sandflies.

With Andre providing ongoing motivational advice to the last few in the pack, we all managed to make it to the hut just on nightfall—a tent city had already been set up, but a few of us more experienced types opted for a night sans-canvas. Fortunately, pleasant and settled weather prevailed into the next day, where the whole crew set off down the valley back to the vans.

Aside from the wasps, it was a very pleasant trip! It’s always fantastic to see so many people out tramping, even though for some it might’ve been their first and last time.

Useless stats: ~26.1km total, ~1410m ascent