Monday, 29 April 2013

Ryde Falls: Mt Oxford Forest Park: November 2012

Overnight camping at Ryde Falls

In late November I went for an overnight tramp to Ryde Falls , in Mt Oxford Forest Park. There is not a hut near the falls, so I took my tent and pitched up in a clear space provided for this reason. It is a 2.5-3 hour trip each way, following a track through regenerating bush and scrub. I started out at the car park at the end of Mountain View Road and started walking in. 

Tramping in Oxford Forest

The area around Mt Oxford was once heavily forested, timber felling in the area decimated the native bush until only remnants remain in steep inaccessible spots. There are a network of tracks leading towards Mt Oxford, Wharefdale hut and the Black Hill range.

DOC sign, start of the track
There is quite a big car park at the beginning of the track. This photo was taken on the Sunday morning, a lot of people do the track as a day walk, I passed numerous people on both days.

Ryde Falls car park
You start on river flats and gradually ascend into exotic and native forest. The track is clear and easy to follow for its whole length, reflecting its front country location.

Ascending through broken scrub, Mt Oxford Forest

Mt Oxford and Coopers Creek area

More of the same, Coopers Creek
The track leads to both Ryde Falls and the Wharfedale track, there is a turn off point about an hour and a half after starting out. As you can see the travelling is easy, it is well maintained and the gradient is relatively flat. I noticed a lot of mountain bike wheel tracks, this is not an official mountain bike track but that obviously doesn't stop anyone.

Wharfedale/Ryde Falls track

Area of old growth forest, Ryde Falls Track

There was an old tramway for moving the timber out of the area, this is mostly overgrown now but there is an option to explore the area near these information panels. The Wharfedale turn off is close to this point, it is all down hill to the Falls from this point.

Info board at site of old tramway, Coopers Creek

Descending towards Ryde Falls on the track

When you reach the bottom of the valley you are surrounded by a suprisingly thick area of bush, it is really quite beautiful. There is a small amenity area with cut up logs for seats, a concrete fire pit and flat camping area next to the river. You follow this sign up a side stream to visit the Falls.

Next to Ryde Falls camp area

Visiting Ryde Falls

Eventually you arrive at the Falls, they have 7 steps, the flow at the time was very low as it has been so hot and dry in Canterbury. This area is sand fly hell, when I stopped to take these photos about a thousand of the sods attacked me at once. Be warned, cover up before you come down to the falls.

Ryde Falls in Oxford Forest Park

Ryde Falls, Oxford Forest
The camping area doesn't look very promising, but it was actually very nice, with the dark forest, the sound of the river/wind and a cosy fire to keep you company. There are sites for about 4 tents, a couple of small fire pits and a toilet, water is from the stream right next to the camp-site.

I had my lunch here and after the day trippers had left set up my tent, had dinner and settled down next to a fire before turning in.


Camp site near Ryde Falls
View of Coopers Creek next to camp-site

Here I am sitting in the picnic area, it is on a river terrace about 10-20 feet up from the river. There are a lot less sand flies near the camp-site, they must all be hanging out with their buddies up near the falls. There were two other groups here when I arrived all having lunch after the trek in.

Jon at Ryde Falls camp-site

Tent set up in the small camp site at Ryde Falls

Small campfire at Ryde Falls for some night ambience

Home via Wharfedale Track

The next day, I was up early, packed up, had breakfast and headed back out to the car park. On the way back I followed a feeder trail up to the Wharfedale track, there were a lot of ferns growing alongside this trail, a fire a couple of years ago cleared away the competition.

When you get to the Wharfedale Track, you travel along for 10-15 minutes and then join the traverse track to get back to Mountain Road car park.

Lots of ferns on the Wharfedale feeder track

Ascending track towards Wharfedale track
I passed some examples of windfall on the track heading back to the car park. This beast was at least 2-3 times taller than me (I'm 6'3") I'm glad I wasn't in the forest when that wind storm came through. There was a whole area of windfall and all of the dead trees were the same size. Big Wind!!!

Massive windfall tree, Connector Track, Coopers Creek

All in all an excellent trip, next time I will do it as a day trip as the whole trek could be done in about 5 hours.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Packhorse Hut: 12 April 2013

A trip to an old favourite: Packhorse Hut

A planned trip to Arthur's Pass was postponed because of rain in the mountains. As an alternative I decided to do a day trip up to the historic Packhorse Hut on Banks Peninsula. 

The track to the hut starts mid way up the Kaituna Valley, 4 kms in length with a 700 metre altitude gain. The advised time for the track is 4 hours return, I finished in about 3 hours total, and I am sure that fitter people could do it in a much shorter time frame.

Packhorse Hut walk- not 4 hours, 2 up, 1 down

Kaituna Valley to Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

The track crosses farmland for the first 1 km, and then starts to climb up a steep bulldozer track over the middle reaches. The final part of the track is over grassy (and steep) fields.

Kaituna Valley carpark

Here is the sizeable car-park close to the Kaituna farm buildings, I think cars would be quite secure here overnight.

Crossing farm land on the way to Packhorse Hut

Most of the track is on a farm track winding over the fields and up a spur rising to the hut location.
'A mighty torrent', unnamed stream on the Kaituna-Packhorse hut track
This is one of the small creeks you cross on the way up hill, there are 3 crossings in total. The flow is very low at this time of the year, but I have seen a picture of trampers fording this stream and the water is halfway up their thighs.
Track on way up

The track about half way up the hill looking back towards Kaituna valley, you cannot see how steep this path is but the angle would be at least 45 degrees at this point, so STEEP!
Bush remnant climbing flank of  Mt Bradley

Many of the side gullies have remnants of the native bush, this one was mostly under story but with some truly magnificent trees at least 40 meter high as well. I could hear what sounded like hundreds of native birds singing, these hill side pockets are a refuge for Tui, Bellbirds and Keruru (native wood pigeons).
Massive native tree near Kaituna Saddle

The tree above was probably a hundred plus feet tall, with two fat pigeons sitting on the top branches.
First glimpse of Packhorse Hut
First glimpse of the hut as you reach the summit, the track continues on to Mt Herbert,at 926 asl it is the highest peak on Banks Peninsular.

View of the upper reaches of Lyttelton Harbour

From the top you have expansive views to Lyttelton harbour, Gebbies Pass, both coasts and the Southern Alps (when they are not clouded in).
Towards Gebbies Pass from Kaituna Pass

Lyttelton harbour from near Packhorse Hut

The Port Hills and Sugar Loaf in distance
Packhorse hut was built in 1916 as one of a string of huts along the crater of Lytelton harbour. Eventually they were meant to be linked by a road but this was never fully completed. It is one of only a dozen rock built huts managed by DOC, two others are the Mt Aspiring Hut and one on the Tongariro Crossing, so it is in good company.

The Packhorse Hut, attractive stone exterior

Entrance to Packhorse Hut

Cosy interior of the Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut, the Dining area
Jon brewing a hot drink, as you do, I would love to do an overnight trip here, it is very popular because it is so close to Christchurch. On the previous Saturday there were 12 people in this 9 person hut.
One of the bunk rooms in the Packhorse Hut

Excellent view from table, Packhorse Hut
Look at that view, it would be magical sitting here with a meal in front of you, a brew and a roaring fire warming the interior, how could you resist.
View down to Kaituna valley
After an hour I headed back down to the car park following the same route, there are 2 other ways to visit the hut; from Gebbies Pass and also over Mt Herbert, both take about 3-5 hours
60% slope on way down  Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track
Above is a very steep part of the bulldozer track with at least a 60 degree slope, thankfully it is only this steep for about 300 meters or it would be a total gut buster.

A very pleasant spot to visit in its own right, a great spot if it is raining in the Southern Alps. 

Access: Via a track over farm land from Kaituna Valley, some seasonal restrictions.
Track Times: 3-4 hours return from the carpark, 2 hours up- 1.5 hours down
Hut Details: Packhorse Hut; serviced (booking required), now (2017) 12  bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed
Miscellaneous: 2017: Packhorse is now on the DOC hut booking system and MUST BE booked before an overnight stay. It has been reconfigured as a 12 bunk hut. It is part of Te Ara Pataka (the Spine of the Lizard) track from Hilltop to Gebbies Pass.