First Canyon for the Season!
Located in the North Eastern Ruahine Range, the south branch of Mathews Stream was our objective for the day. During the steep but straightforward 2 hr access, we could see fresh snow sprinkled on the tops of trees on the ridgelines. Access was very simple, but the snow flakes bumped from the branches made us shiver a bit. The sky was grey and occaisonal drizzle drifted down, perfect canyoning weather!
But fortunately Neoprene and Adrenaline combined to keep us warm enough during the day. There was one marked waterfall in the south branch, which appeared to be the 2nd drop. About 80m it total, we were able to pendulum to a tree about halfway to split it into two 40m pitches.
Soon, the stream walls began to get vertical, signalling the start to the canyon proper. Unusual for greywacke, the canyon was reasonably continuous, with only brief sections in the lower 2/3 that were escapable.
There was a moderate amount of tree debris to contend with, though the debris did provide a number of convenient anchors. The water was very cold, but there was not much flow and only a couple of chest deep pools.
There was very little walking, with drop after drop after drop. 340m vertical, 17 pitches and 6hrs from entering the south branch we made it to the main forks of the river, relieved to exit from the steepest part of the trip. From study of the Topographic map, I figured the rest of the stream would be a steep boulder hop, and apart from the final drop, be non-technical. However, 200m downstream of the junction, we peered down a 60m + slabby chute of waterfalls.
The chute looked fantastic, but since it was 5.30pm and we still had 300m vertical and 1.5km horizontal to go, we made the call to escape. Easier said than done, we bashed our way up the ridge, through very steep, thick scrub and the occaisonal rock step. The terrain around was very steep, with lots of bluffs that made the climbing a little nerve wracking.
However, a little over an hour of fast and agressive bush bashing saw us 240m higher and back on the track. As the light faded, we strolled back down the track without incident, completing our 10hr round trip.
Well worth finishing, but worth doing when its warmer and there are more canyoners to carry extra ropes!
Watch the KiwiCanyons.org website page on Mathews Stream for more information very soon!