The ubiquitous nor’wester was howling out of the maw of the Rangitata as we set off, sending powerful dust storms across the barren riverbed gravels. We hunched into the gale, steering a course for the canyon of Black Birch Creek.

After a failed attempt to visit Crooked Spur Hut near Mesopotamia Station in the Rangitata Valley a few years back, due to high river levels, I was setting off with mates Tim and Nick on a three-day excursion to access the hut via another catchment to the north. This entailed a traverse of Black Birch Creek, a capricious little defile squeezed between the Black Mountain and Brabazon ranges, and crossing Brabazon Saddle to gain Bush Stream and Crooked Spur Hut.

The creek is easy to begin with, mostly gravel flats and a wide mouth, but the way ahead is formidable with 500m bluffed faces dropping sheer into the creek bed and a steep gradient.

However, with low water levels and a fine day, aside from the wind, it was mostly

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