Monday, 16 December 2013

Nina Valley - Nina Hut 13-14th December 2013

For my latest tramping trip it was back to the Lewis Pass area, specifically the Nina valley. The valley with its tracks and huts is accessed from the track end across the road from the NZDA Palmer Lodge on the Lewis Pass highway. I walked up to the hut on the Friday and then back out to the road the next day, total distance would be 7-8 km's each way.
NZDA Palmer Lodge

Here is the trusty car parked next to the NZDA hut, there is a large flat area here for parking vehicles, be aware that car break ins and thefts are common all along this highway. The best bet would be to park at the Boyle outdoor centre and either get them to drive you to the track end or hitch to this point. I had no problems, and in fact there were 12 cars parked here on the Saturday.

Here is the sign at the start of the track there is a more informative notice just inside the bush edge showing all of the tracks and huts in the area.

You cross the bridge over the Lewis  river right at the start of the track, it is a very scenic area, but the sandflies are vicious so I didn't tarry long.

The track slowly climbs onto an old river terrace, passing through areas of beech forest, there is a heavy layer of moss on the ground which is very attractive.

View down to the Lewis river from the beginning of the track, the bush is open at this point, with several detours to avoid places where the track has fallen into the river. You would be about 30 metres above the river at this point.

You gradually climb through beech to an area of more open forest on the top of the old river terrace. The track climbs and falls through a narrow 100 metre band all the way from here to the hut.

The track was a bit muddy in spots, due to recent rain, you need to carefully pick your route to avoid the worst of the mud and swampy areas.

On the way to the hut you cross several unbridged side streams, this is the largest of them.

At one point the track drops down to the river for a short while, loads of great camping spots in this valley, if that was your interest.

Here is a view of one of the gorge areas on the Nina river, the track basically follows a path which avoids these impassable areas.

Here I am at the track junction just before the suspension bridge over the Nina, turn right and cross the bridge for Nina hut. If you stay on this side of the river you will continue to the Lucretia valley track and the Nina biv (2 person) at the head of the valley. This track is a lot rougher as it does not get the same amount of traffic.

The suspension bridge over the Nina is in a lovely spot with very deep (and I'm informed really cold pools under it). The bridge is relatively new (2002), previously travel to the Nina hut or points south would have required a river crossing higher up the valley.

Really deep pools under the bridge (at least 10 metres deep).

That pool looks so tempting, but I bet it is perishing cold!

Once on the other side the track sidles along the lower reaches of the range, the forest is some of the nicest Ive travelled through. The river is within view or hearing distance almost all the way to the hut.

There are a few of these wide grassy terraces which would make ideal camp sites.

The track starts to very gradually climb up the ridge on which the hut sits. From the flats you are about 1 km away from the hut, although it seems further.

The track passes through areas of beech forest and more open areas like the above.

Here is a view from the track up Duchess stream, it is possible to use this valley to access the tops but there is no track so it would be a hard bush bash to get there.

The track ascends the ridge line through Goblin forest, you almost expect an Elf to jump out and brain you at any moment. The gradient is very gentle, but it was hot as the sun was fully
blazing by this point.

Eventually you arrive at the hut which is perched on the ridge crest in a natural clearing. This hut was built in 2002 to replace the old and cold hut on the other side of the river. Apart from the sandflies it is a fantastic spot, warm, sunny with views to all the surrounding mountains.

Another view of the hut from the far end of the clearing, the views are very nice, unfortunately you are a distance from the Nina river, a trip to the river would require a moderately long trip. Plenty of space for a tent if the hut was full but the sandflies would eat you alive.

Jon having a tasty brew once I arrived at the hut. I passed 1 other person the whole time I
was on the track.

The interior of the hut. it is in excellent condition given the number of people who visit the hut. No bunks in this hut, there are two sleeping platforms to maximise capacity, the hut will sleep 10, with a couple more on the floor if needed.

Here are several views of the surroundings, first the view East down valley to the road. Spot the lovely composting toilet in the centre of the photo.

Another view to the North-East

North towards the Duchess range

West towards the valley head
The Lewis pass highway is next to the tan hill range in the centre right of this photo.

Another view of the hut interior, good firebox (not required as it was 27 degrees) and the cooking bench/table. There were only three of us in the hut overnight, myself and an older couple who came over from Doubtful Valley via Devilskin Biv. A very quiet night, with morepork/kiwi calling out to each other across the valley. There is a kiwi recovery program in the Nina, DOC/ Huranui College and a local wildlife group have reintroduced kiwi to the valley after a more than 20 year absence. Here is their face book page:

Set out back to the car early the next morning following the same track out. I had contemplated crossing the Nina and following the old track out but the river was a bit high for my liking. I'm very cautious about river crossings, that is how most people come to grief in the NZ bush.

There is a very different light in the forest early in the morning, the photos from the Friday and Saturday are quite different because of the light.

This stream is about 500 metres from the hut.

There is a lot of power in the Nina river, I would  think long and hard before trying to swim in it or ford it. The above rapids have squeezed the river from 50 metres to less than 20, it was really loud!

Back at the trusty suspension bridge, the return trip always seems to take a shorter amount of time, I suppose because you know how far you need to go. I struck a group of 8 Brazilian tourist's near here who were going up to the hut for a day trip, the only people I saw the whole way.

My final stream crossing about 1 km from the track end, from here there is a small rise to climb and then the final flat track back to the bridge. The Nina valley is quite beautiful, I would recommend it with reservations to anyone as a great place to visit. My reservations are that you realise the track is a bit rough (expect mud and roots/rocky terrain). Also there are a couple of stream crossings, they were fine this trip but could be problematic if it was raining hard.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Mt Bradley - 30 November 2013

The weather has not been cooperating with my tramping plans this year. I had planned to visit the Robinson Valley this last weekend but because of rain and high wind forecasts decided to try a trip closer to home. I headed out to the summit of Mt Bradley, via the Packhorse Hut track. Mt Bradley is the second highest peak on Banks Peninsula and a worthy destination in its own right. I was out for 8 hours on the day and didnt see another person the whole time.

Kaituna-Mt Bradley area

Kaituna valley Carpark

I parked my car at the Kaituna Valley track end, and followed the familiar track across farmland and up to the saddle the hut sits on. This is the 5th time I have walked this track, 3 times in the last 2 years

The track passes over the local farm and along a 4 W/D track right up to the hut, it is located on the saddle between the two peaks in the centre of this photo.

Lovely lush greenery as there has been a bit of rain recently, the track cuts through the occasion patch of brush and bush as it ascends.

Lots of bush to left and right of the track through this section, also a couple of very mild streams.

This is a substantial area of regenerating bush in a gully to the south of the track. The peaks at the top of the photo are the rear of the Remarkable Dykes, a  bluff like volcanic upwelling. There is a short section of track from Packhorse hut if you would like to visit the area.

This is the view of Mt Bradley as you ascend the track 

Here I am halfway up the Kaituna valley track, the car park is located near the trees in the middle of the photo.

View of the hut as you top the last rise in the track. If you are thinking of staying overnight in the hut you should collect some dead fall wood in the patch of bush you pass near this spot. The hut is warm but there has been no firewood the last two times I have been there, it can get cold if the weather is bad. This is a great location for an overnight trip - even in winter - the track is easy to follow, you are only an hour away from the bottom of the valley. 

A view to the South-West from near the hut.

Another view showing the antenna farm near Gebbies pass, this is an alternate route, you ascend through the forest to the hut.

Looking North down into Lytellton harbour, with the Sugar Loaf and Southern Alps in the background.

Packhorse Hut, it is a great for a lunch stop overnight stay. It is also the closest DOC hut to Christchurch so it can be busy in the weekends.

From the hut you continue east on the Mt Herbert track which starts next to the hut. The track moves through mixed tussock, gullies and bush remnants until you reach the side track to Mt Herbert. The track slowly zig zags up the southern flank of Mt Bradley until you reach a point where it sidles eastward. You leave the track at this point and make you own way uphill to the summit.
Below are several shots taken as I followed the track, you can see Packhorse hut for most of the way.

The track sidles upwards through the tussock

Packhorse hut is situated in the middle of the saddle, with the Remarkable Dykes behind.

Here we can see the valley from near the top of the mountain.


I finally made it to the top of the mountain, the views from the top are spectacular. Here is a view from the summit looking north over Lytellton, the Port Hills and out to Kaikoura

The view down towards Gebbies pass, and South West to the Alps.

 This is South along the ridge line, you could walk along here and make your own route down to  Packhorse hut, you would need to watch out for bluffs. and other hazards
 It was just possible to make out Aoraki/ Mt Cook when I first reached the summit  it was soon covered by an approaching front. I didn't stay for long on top as the wind picked up and the cloud drifting over the mountain made me worry about visibility on the way down.

Heading back down,  this is Lake Ellesmere, South Canterbury and in the extreme distance the Southern Alps. You can see the front that was making its way up the South Island.

This is the track heading towards Mt Herbert, it would be another 1 - 1.5 hours away from this point. It is a rough route, following the base of these bluffs: it is exposed to the weather, steep and there is a big drop on one side to contend with. Not for the faint hearted.

Here are the distant ridges at the top of Kaituna valley, an extended traverse is possible along these tops.

View down the ridge line to the Kaituna valley and ocean in the distance. Once you leave the track you basically follow this spur all the way to the top.

I stopped for a rest on the way down: it was quiet and peaceful laying in the tussock out of the breeze. Below are shots to the right and left of my resting area. I was quite comfortable here in the lee of the mountain with a great panorama all around me.

There are significant areas of re generating bush in the steep sided gully's on the sides of Mt Bradley.

The marking of the track to the Mt Herbert is ludicrous: these are examples of the markers used. The track is distinct but there are no signs/maps/notices etc. to say that you are on the correct route. I had to get the map out and triangulate my position on the climb up as I was concerned I might be following the wrong track.

The track is very basic (it is actually a route: this is the most basic category of trail in NZ), this is typical of the conditions you face while accessing this area. This is a proper tramp.  If you were under equipped and struck bad weather you could get in a lot of trouble. I was carrying all the gears as a safety measure: wet weather/thermals/bivy/cooker etc. as I had heard how rough the going was.

View to the South again, here is the front coming over the Alps in the distance.

This is a beautiful wooded gully on the South flank of Mt Bradley, there is always a tremendous amount of birdsong coming from this area. Small pockets of bush like this are slowly regenerating across Banks Peninsula, in 40-50+ years a goodly percent of the peninsula will be forested as it was before Europeans arrived in Canterbury.

I wont be here but i like to think about how my kids will be able to enjoy it.

It was a great trip, i will come back early next year and walk all the way around to Mt Herbert.