Almost Swept Away

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Several years ago a mate and I were going hunting up the Cameron Creek area over Wanaka/Haast way. It was meant to be a quick in-out overnight trip. We had had a rather big night the night before in Wanaka and were a tad hungover on the walk in and the weather wasn’t doing what it was forecast to do.

We got in to the hut to find another couple of hunters about our age who had done the smart thing and got in early and we’re about to pack out (its around a 5hr hike out) to head back to town for beers. It rained the whole way in and by the time we reached the hut we had neither the energy nor the conditions for hunting so decided to have a kip and go out around dusk to look for deer.

We woke up at 6pm and with stuff all light and the rain still beating down on the tin roof decided it could wait til the morning. When we awoke the next morning it was still raining and the creek outside had risen quite a bit, by this time it was Sunday morning and we both decided to leg it out before the river got much higher and we couldn’t get out. We made it back to where the river intercepted the track and after half an hour of assessing the conditions decided it was feasible to cross it.

The river had risen several feet and it was a dumb idea but we were young and dumb and thought we could handle it. My mate went first after several more minutes testing the depth and picked a channel that would get him to the other side. I remember the horrible feeling I had as I watched him make the attempt that if it failed there was absolutely nothing I could do.

Luckily he made it and once he was safely on the other side I followed. I wouldn’t have made it if he hadn’t have plunged halfway back into the water and pulled me out by my pack straps.

We eventually made it out to the car; soaking wet, mildly hypothermic and bloody grateful to still be there. A year later we went back in with some French friends of ours, this time more prepared and in the right conditions. One of our party was uncertain about river crossings as she had had a similar experience in Patagonia. We assured her there would be no unnecessary risks taken as this time we knew what we were dealing with.

Fortunately with good weather and low river levels we got in and out without any trouble and managed to bag two beautiful Chamois for our efforts.

The moral of the story… if in doubt, wait it out. In hindsight that river would have dropped as quickly as it had risen and we should have camped out at the hut for another night.


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