The Adventures of Suzi and the Silly Subaru
Getting stuck in the Old Woman
So when I had asked Ben if he wanted to go snowshoeing in the Old Woman Range I didn’t expect to find myself driving Suzi up Nevis Road with three others plus an all-wheel-drive Subaru with another four that could “totally tackle any muddy roads”. Seven out of the eight of the party seriously doubted this assertion but decided to watch the inevitable unfold anyway. The Nevis Road is one of the highest public roads in the country, reaching 1280m at its highest point and is pretty tame - this lulled us into a false security. Approaching the heights of the road there was a sprinkling of snow, but it was clear that snowshoeing would not be viable. That was a good thing considering six out of our party of eight didn’t have a pair of snowshoes.
I waited in Suzi at the top of the turn off to Duffer’s Saddle and the Old Woman Range track. It looked a bit muddy and rutty, but Suzi is a sender so I wasn’t concerned. Adam, the owner of the Subaru was also optimistic, despite the fact his car was more suited for taking your Tinder date to the beach rather than the backcountry. Regardless, both cars proceeded, descending quickly into the mud-fest. Suzi bounced around happily, superbly handing the ruts and traversing the undulations with relative ease. The same could not be said for the Subaru, which got beached within 10 seconds of the turn off. Now any sensible person would take this as a sign that perhaps taking the Subaru down this road was a bad idea, but not Adam. After a bit of faff the car was unstuck and we were ready to go again. Deciding that the four out of the eight of us in the Subaru could fend for themselves, Suzi and I sent it down the hill. The road got decidedly moister and the ruts became more prominent. The solution was a bit of speed and some sideways action. Suzi expertly slid down the road, handling herself masterfully. Three out of the four of her passengers did not agree, and there may or may not have been a scream along the way. Nevertheless when we reached a relatively flat spot out of the mud I decided to park up and wait for the others. So we waited… and waited… and waited. Of course I already knew what had happened, I just didn’t want to accept it. We sent a scout back and they reported there was a beached Subaru waling in the mud. I was all for abandoning it to its fate but three out of the four of us vouched for sending the cavalry back.
The sight wasn’t pretty. The entire front of the car was beached on a thick strata of mud.The wheels could only turn helplessly in pools of brown disappointment. There was a lot of pushing, mud splattering and arguments in the process of trying to get it out. The main strategy was to place rocks under the wheels to give the car some traction, but this neglected the fact that the Subaru’s underbelly was stuck fast on the road. Phase two of this plan involved using the avalanche shovels to dig the front of the car out. The combination of these methods, along with a lot of pushing, got the car moving, only for Adam to floor it down the road and get stuck again.
By this seven out of the eight of us were all thoroughly fed up with the situation. That is not to say we weren’t committed, Grace even commando crawled through the sludge under the car to repossess a plank shaped rock because it would help us get it out. I took over the driving, being the one out of the eight of us that had successfully driven down the road prior. With some more pushing, rock placement and road flattening we managed to reverse the car up the road far enough that it was kind of (sort of not really) off the road. It was getting dark by this stage so the call was made to march on and make the Subaru tomorrows problem.
Down the road I drove Suzi onto Duffer’s Saddle and then cut my losses and got out to walk. As we made our way up the hill two 4WDs were coming the other way, which was either an extremely good or bad thing. On one hand they could probably get us out, on the other their 4WDs would probably not be able to squeeze down the road if they couldn’t. We hailed them down and Adam faithfully handed his keys to them as they had agreed to try pull it out. Adam didn’t really have a choice in the matter as any other course of action would have seen him sleeping outside.
The constellation prize for the evening was that at least we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset as we strolled towards the hut. To our side stood the Remarkables, backlit by the golden setting sun. There was nothing for it but to plod on.
I was first to arrive at the hut, just on dusk. My headlight acted as a beacon to draw the others in. The guys in the 4WDs had left the fire on, so soon the hut was super toasty. There was a lot of faff when the seven out of eight arrived at the hut, all appreciating the shelter. Dinner was a classic pasta, which for all intents and purposes went down a treat.
After dinner Ben took us through an intensive training course on tabling, to which there were a few graduates. All in all it was a successful night, although I don’t know how Sophie is going to explain those bruises to Luke.
The next morning everyone was keen to get moving, most of all me to take advantage of the frozen mud to get Suzi out. It was a team effort cooking breakfast and packing everything up. We were out on the track before 9 and waved goodbye to our ninth member Kerry as he went for a stroll down the ridge in the opposite direction.
It was a lot easier walking when we could see the road. There were a few stops to investigate interesting rocks, but for the most part we were keen to be on our way back to Dunners. The only question was, what had the fate of the Subaru been the day before? This was soon answered as bounced up the road in Suzi, there was no sign of the Subaru — thank God. Either it had been stolen or it was out on Nevis road, either way it was no longer my problem. The latter turned out to be true (minus one packet of chippies), so in the end our party all made it off the Old Woman that day.
Moral of the story is, all-wheel-drive is not four-wheel-drive, and that the seven out of eight of us were right in having doubts about Adams judgment! [But also the Old Woman Range is beautiful and accessible, it is totally worth a visit!]