Distance travelled today: 13 km
Total TA distance covered: 2159 km
The Deception of Deception Valley.
Today was supposed to be a really tough day. Everything you read states today is an 8 to 9 hour day up the Deception Valley on poorly defined track, multiple deep river crossings and a full body work out scrambling over boulders and walking up the river itself.
I’d set myself yesterday to be positioned at the start of the valley and allow a full day for this section. I needed to get through this section prior to the weekend as well as the Coast to Coast running race passes through the valley and all accommodation in town is booked solid.
Turns out the the description of this section is a deception, not the valley itself. Conditions were great. A hot sunny day and the river levels were managable which is probably why it only took me 6 hours to get to Goat Pass Hut and not 8 to 9. Turns out I probably could have reached Arthurs Pass by the end of the day.
Starting up the valley, the trail is on a well defined and marked route along the banks of the Deception River. However on the trail hitting the first steep section of rock it was clear the river needed to be crossed onto the opposite bank. Down low the river is wild having collected all the run off from feeder streams right aling the narrow valley. The water was fast flowing, but crystal clear and it was easy to gauge the depth and see a path through. There were many deeper pools in amongst sections of churning white water but plenty of shallower sections to cross.
I stepped in. The water was cold first thing in the morning. Unstrapping my pack waistbelt and hanging my spot locator beacon around my neck I inched across. Step by slow step. The water reached my knees and I could start to feel the pull of the current. Inching further across the water level reached mid thigh. Planting my walking poles further in front I could start to feel the current wibbling them and trying to take them from my hands. Another few steps and it was waist deep. Lifting one leg at a time the river tried to push me down stream but it wasn’t so bad. It didn’t get any deeper and as long as i kept 3 points of contact on the river bed all was well. Drench my safely across I only needed to repeat this x amount of times today.
On the other side of the river, it was now a game of choose your own adventure. I couldn’t see any indicators pointing the way so it was a matter of following my nose and the odd rock cairn. Perhaps it is a management respinse from DOC not to mark the start of the valley. I don’t think I saw any official directional signs until after about four crossings and an hour into the Valley. Further up the valley there were plenty of directional arrows marking the route and crossing points.
The forth crossing was probably the most challanging for me and the deepest. Give me cliffs, rock scrambles or high mountain passes and I tackle them no worries but I’m not a fan of big river crossings. The current on the forth crossing was strong as the water was channelled down between boulders and concentrated in a few spots. I could feel the water trying to take each leg as it was raised off the ricer bed to find the next placement. But once through this everything was fine.
Gradually climbing up the valley the rivers slowly decreaed in size as it list the strength of the feeder streams passed lower down.
The trail crossed from side to side of the river, following gravel banks, the odd section of bush track (required to climb high around steep rock sections safely) and in the river itself at times as previous floods had washed sections of trail away.
I reached rickety old Deception Hut just before noon and had an early lunch with a NOBO walker heading in the opposite direction. I knew from her description of what lay ahead that I’d reach my destination for the day in around an hour. And so I did, leaving the banks of the now very tame Deception River to climb up the rocky middle of a feeder stream to Goat Pass Hut. Reaching the hut just after 1pm I could have kept going to reach Arthurs Pass late in the day but opted for a short day today and leaving me with a good half rest day in town tomorrow.