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Duke of Edinburgh - Mavora Lakes trip

Duke of Edinburgh’s Award - Mavora Lakes expedition

Richard Roe —

“Let’s go off-track” was the call from the boys after our last expedition back in April.

Some may have been reconsidering that idea when they were half way up the first scree slope last Saturday afternoon. The latest Duke of Edinburgh’s Award tramp headed to the seldom visited ridgeline of the Thomson Mountains, a thousand vertical metres above the beautiful Mavora Lakes. Eight hardy souls set out from school at 8am not realising that they would be camping at 1400m above sea level beside a frozen tarn that night. They were also unaware that almost 8 hours of hard slog were going to be needed to cover the 8 horizontal kilometres to get there.

The first day started off gradual enough, but after a few minutes we were bush-bashing up a steep incline to make the start of the ridge. From here it continued uphill, with occasional sidling across scree faces to avoid rock outcrops on the ridge. The only flattish area in the vicinity was the bank beside a small tarn under the snow-clad shadow of Mt Campbell, and there we set up camp just before dark for the first night.

On Day 2 we had a choice between tackling the steep scree faces to the West of Mt Campbell, or the less steep snow-covered face on the Southeast of Mt Campbell – we chose the latter. It was still an effort to reach the ridgeline again, and once there the summit of Mt Campbell was achievable at 1685 metres above sea level. From here it was an enjoyable descent along the ridge with fantastic views over the Mavora Lakes to the left and the headwaters of the Oreti River to the right. The boys planned their own route down off the ridge to reach our second campsite beside the North Mavora Lake.

Comparatively, Day 3 was a doddle. Even though we travelled further in distance than the first two days combined, being reasonably flat and on well-marked tracks made all the difference. Our campsite this time was beside the South Mavora Lake.

The final day was an opportunity to stretch out aching muscles heading South along the Mavora walkway, before being picked up by the van and arriving back in town around 5pm.

We were very fortunate with the weather, as despite a variable forecast, the only proper rain we encountered was on the windscreen of the van during the drive home. This expedition challenged most of the group at times, but their determination and positive spirit made for another very enjoyable trip overall. I am sure they have all picked up some new skills and gained confidence in what they can do in the outdoors.