27-Feb-2003 -- The inspiration for this visit came from the pages of Land Rover Monthly magazine and a small article on The Degree Confluence Project. A check in the New Zealand Lands & Survey atlas revealed that the easiest one nearby(41°S 173°E) had been picked off and I`d have to go further afield. A study of a 1/50,000 map showed that 42°S 173°E looked the next best of three confluences roughly equally spaced from Nelson and so I began to lay plans for what would prove to be a real expedition.
Having enlisted a neighbour, Phil Wylie, "we`re going where?!" into my plans I set about researching access to our intended goal. 42°S 173°E seemed to lie in a basin high above the headwaters of Judges Creek. Although the confluence lay on public land administered by the Dept. of Conservation, access to it along the valley of Judges Creek would involve crossing through the high country sheep and cattle run of the Rainbow Station. Depending on the time of year and farming activties, access to the Rainbow can be restricted.
The intial approach to the area would involve about 30km along a private gravel toll road accessicible to 4wd vehicles only, and then from the Rainbow valley road approximately a 10km trek by foot before commencing the climb toward our target. A phone call to the manager of the Rainbow station to explain the purpose of our expedition brought a positive response and the observation that Judges Creek was one of the more attractive corners of the Rainbow so we expected to be well rewarded for our labours.
The 27th Feb 2003 dawned beautifully clear and we set out from Nelson early in my Land Rover 4wd. In about 2 hours we`d arrived at the junction of Judges Creek with the main river and having parked the Land Rover off the road (#4), donned our heavy overnight packs and set off on foot. The first 2km or so involved several creek crossings but then the valley opened out to give us superb vistas of stunningly attractive rugged scenery(#5) and unexpectedly easy walking.
By early afternoon we were at the top of the valley and here left our heavy packs to climb toward our goal taking only a day pack with snacks, water and foul weather gear, always an essential precaution in New Zealand's rugged back country. A worry at this time was the non functioning of our GPS due to lack of signal in the close confines of the steep and narrow valley. As we gained altitude, however, the signal returned and we were assured of accurate direction once again. The higher we went, the steeper and more rugged became the terrain(#6) and the time came, with the GPS still indicating about 500 metres to go, that we realised we had run out of time to progress any further (#7). Sore muscles and aching bones probably had an influence on our decision.
Our goal lay in the direction of some large and very narly looking outcrops of rock, and although I think it would be possible to skirt aroud these and get closer, it would have been imprudent for us to have tried to do so on this day.
With heavy hearts we took photos in the direction of our goal (#1) and also up and down the valley from where we`d reached (# 2& 3).The descent back to the valley was a leg numbing race against the rapidly lenghtening shadows as we made our way back to where we`d left our packs. A search for a level patch free of rocks to pitch our tent seemed harder than it had appeared to be earlier in the day and after a quick meal we slid gratefully into sleeping bags(#8). The next morning we awoke to low cloud and light rain in which we breakfasted and broke camp. The walk out and return to civilisation was tempered by the knowledge we`d failed in our objective, although in every other respect the trip had been well worth it. Phil seems to think that near enough is good enough, but I`m keen to have another go during our approaching summer. And then there are those other two confluences.