Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Hawdon Hut: Arthurs Pass National Park: 1-2 Feb 2013

A sashay up the Hawdon Valley

In early December I went for an overnight trip to Hawdon Hut at the head of the Hawdon river valley. I had been this way back in the 1980's but I've not visited since then. 

There is a new hut built to replace the old version which burnt down in 2010. I am very impressed with this new hut, it has been moved to a much better location and is very tidy and spacious. The hut has 18 bunks but could quite easily take more than this if required.

Map of the Hawdon Valley

If you don't like wet feet then you are out of luck, because you have to cross the Hawdon river in the first 5 minutes. Mostly, the river is ankle to knee high, but can get much higher when in flood.

Hawdon river, near Hawdon shelter

True right of Hawdon river

Over Sudden Valley Stream and heading up Hawdon Valley

After crossing the Hawdon river and Sudden Valley stream you look for and follow the old 4WD track leading up valley. This is by far the easiest and quickest way to travel, it goes all the way up to the East Hawdon confluence, which is the ridge line in the middle of the photo.

4 WD track heading up valley
The 4 W/D track was built to facilitate a study of the native bird population in the valley, this is one of those happy coincidences when trampers benefit from some other activity in the bush. Thanks DOC!

Hawdon Valley: 2 kms up valley, before East Hawdon confluence

Looking up East Branch Hawdon valley

 Once over the East Hawdon, you follow along the river banks and move along short lengths of bush track, there are at least 4 required crossings of the Hawdon River, this is not a track too be attempted in heavy rain, as the river would become impassable.

Sidle track, through bush heading up valley

Track following alongside Hawdon River

 The track closely follows the river, with some areas of travel on the riverbed itself, you need to keep an open eye for the markers etc. as some of them are not very obvious.

Hawdon Valley; 5 km point up valley
 The hut up this valley is new, the original burnt down in 2010 after some fool threw hot ashes under the hut. I stayed in Hawdon Hut way back in the 1990's it was one of the Lockwood designs that were so popular with the Arthurs Pass NP board. A nice hut in a good location, but the new location is so much better.

Old Hawdon Hut, 1990's from

Here is Hawdon Hut II, built in 2010 to replace the old hut, it is 1 km upstream from the old hut site. It is very nice and sits in an excellent location with views of the surrounding mountains, this is a much nicer spot than the old location, so at least something good came of the fire.

Hawdon Hut Mark II

Me on the veranda
Very spacious and light within, the facilities are excellent, with bunk platforms and mattresses for 18 people. There were 12 people here on the night I stayed, they all arrived after 3pm, I had the hut to myself up to that point.

Hawdon Hut, bunkroom, cooking bench

Common area, Hawdon Hut

Bunk room, Hawdon Hut
Lovely view from the veranda, there are lots of excellent looking camping spots on the river flats across the river.

View from veranda of Hawdon Hut

Mountains at head of Hawdon valley

Sunset on the tops, from Hawdon hut

Hand hewn wooden bench, cool!

Me inside Hawdon Hut

Woodshed and toilets out the back of Hawdon Hut

  The next morning I set off at 7am for the road head, here is one of the forest sidles you pass on the way down valley. I always start out early in the morning, it is the best time of the day to travel in my opinion.

Sidle track heading down valley towards Discovery Stream

Crossing Discovery Stream near the hut site

Track, meadow next to Hawdon River

 There are a lot of good camping spots in this valley, this is about 200m from the East Hawdon, heading down valley. I will be coming back and camping in this area sometime in the future.

Meadow, up valley from East Hawdon

Woolshed Hill from the Hawdon Valley floor

As you can see the 4 W/D track is fairly easy to see, following this track will save you about 45mins each way, so it is worth finding it.

View of the Black Range from near Sudden Valley Stream

Hawdon Valley: 4WD track looking back up valley

Back over Hawdon Stream heading for home

 I stopped at the Sheffield pie shop on the way home to get a pie, they are excellent and they have won several awards. Nothing like a pie after eating dehydrated food the previous evening!
Sheffield pie shop, yum!
The Hawdon valley might not be the most remote area but it is beautiful nonetheless. You don't have to go to a wilderness area to enjoy solitude in New Zealand, we are very lucky in that respect.

Access: SH73 to the Mt White Road turn off, once over the Mt White bridge head left to Hawdon Shelter. From Hawdon Shelter follow the track crossing the Hawdon River and Surprise Stream, follow the 4 W/D track up valley.
Track Times: 4 hours from the Hawdon Shelter
Hut Details: Hawdon Shelter: day shelter only- no bunks, no water but does have open fireplace. There are plenty of rough camp-sites here: Hawdon Hut; serviced, 18  bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed.
Miscellaneous: Hawdon River, East Hawdon and Sudden Valley Stream susceptible to flooding in heavy rain, none of the rivers or side streams are bridged. Numerous required river crossings. This IS NOT a wet weather destination.