In war as in tramping there is one rule: No man left behind! So how did we end up on top of our little pile of rubble with one person missing? Let’s start at the beginning.

My lovely Better Half (she asked me to capitalise due to her significance) and I enjoy open tops tramping. The biggest commitment to staying on tracks usually involves getting through a stretch of otherwise impenetrable New Zealand bush. Once above tree-line we tend to find our own way to a scenic location to spend the night. The extra effort of going uphill is rewarded with amazing views. Obviously we are both very appreciative of instant gratification!

Walking up a seemingly endless river valley would therefore be at the very bottom of my to-tramp list, if it wasn’t for one reason: glaciers! I love barren, hostile landscapes, and nothing says ‘You shall not pass’ quite like a glacial moraine.

Off we went along Cameron River on a beautiful day that soon bared its teeth. As it turns out summer had been hiding in this treeless Canterbury valley in  these last few months. Within our first hour we were steaming in our boots, with not a single tree for shelter anywhere around. From a photography perspective it is the worst weather possible. Yes, even worse than rain!

There is no way to sugar-coat the trip itself. Six hours of plodding up a never-changing valley are topped by an hour of ascending the top of a rock-pile of epic proportions. Our travel companion decided he’d rather spend his time surrounded by nicer things (river, grass, sandflies) and smartly made himself at home at the bottom of the moraine. So the two of us headed on alone, on the lookout for greyer pastures.

For those less inclined to carry their furniture into the backcountry, a hut was conveniently located at the end of the track. Cameron Hut is a gem, but we opted for the 360 degree view on top of the pile of rubble.

The view from our tent. Left vestibule: A pink sunset over gently rolling Canterbury hills, with Cameron River snaking through a landscape of tussocks. Right vestibule: Purple alpenglow over a vast moonscape at the bottom of the Arrowsmith Range.

I like to think that we paid our tribute for this view in small donations of blood to speargrass, matagouri and sandflies. Totally worth it!

The next morning we found our plus one in high spirits. Despite our concerns sandflies had not eaten him alive, and neither had militant keas ransacked his camp. That left only the clay oven of Cameron Valley to be conquered by our reunited band.