Sunday, 16 February 2014

My Tramping Gear: Vaude Brenta 50 pack

I splashed out just before Christmas and brought myself a new light  pack to wear on day trips or for lightweight overnight jaunts. I had tossed up a variety of various sizes, brands and types and was really undecided about which one to buy. There are a lot of packs available
in the 35-60l range and prices range from less than $100 right up to $500.
Then i saw this pack on an end of line sale at one of the local outdoors stores.
This is a Vaude Brenta 50. I am a fan of Vaude gear, they are a German outdoor company with a wide range of packs, tents and outdoor clothing. The thing that especially attracted me was the great price of $120 (down from the usual $190).

The Brenta inside Lagoon Saddle Shelter

I would never buy gear solely based on price, but this pack was already in my top 5 list anyway. I call that fate, or a message from the God's if you like.
The pack is a light (1200 gms) double compartment bag made of medium grade ripstop nylon. It has a volume of 50 litres. It has a removable top lid, hydration port and expandable side pockets. The colour is the dark blue above. The waist strap is more light weight than a full on tramping pack, but more than adequate for light loads. I was surprised by how roomy it is, it almost holds as much as my 75l pack. I would probably keep the load below 6-7kgs
So far Ive only used it for a trip up and along the Port Hills , but it performed well on that trip, I would expect it to perform as well anywhere. I will let you know.

Jon and the Brenta 50 at Rod Donald Hut
NB: I have been using this pack very successfully for over 2 years now, it is my primary day trip pack and I have used it on a trial three day trip on the Summit Walkway in 2016. I have started to use this as my over night pack as it can easily accomodate all the gear I need to carry for a 1-2 day trip.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Wharfedale Track & Hut- 31st January-1 February 2014

My latest trip was a weekend jaunt into the Wharfedale hut in Mt Oxford forest park, it was a good trip despite some rain I had on the way out on Saturday morning. It was a bit of a long walk as Wharfedale hut is 14.6km away from the car park. Luckily the track is mostly flat,  as it sidles gently
 along the side of the ridges in the area.
I left the car at the View Hill car park which is accessed up a long gravel road to the West of Oxford township. Here is a view from the car park to the South West. There were low lying misty clouds on both days, it was also 20 degrees on the Friday. Muggy! 
Here is the trusty Honda parked at the car park, the access road is fair, there are two fords that can become flooded with heavy rain. They caused no problems during my trip

View to the East showing the access road leading off to the left of this photo. 

Here is the beginning of the Wharfedale track, the track rises slowly to a saddle at 750m, 10 km's distant from the car park. The Wharfedale is widely used by the MTB fraternity, the bikers ride out for day & overnight trips.

A closer view of the DOC sign at the beginning of the track, this is the access point for a number of huts/tracks in the area as well as several forested valleys.  

 The track climbs very gradually from the car park, first along a 4WD track, later the track assumes the usual back country form (rocks/roots/overgrown etc.).

Here i am about 1 km in, the track is fairly wide and clear at this point, the Wharfedale was originally surveyed and benched as a possible road into the Lees valley. Ultimately the route proved too costly and rugged to fill this purpose.  

The first DOC track sign, as you can see this is an access point for a lot of tracks. 

Here I am near the track junction, it was an overcast day and slightly cool, great weather for a tramp.


It is a great track, it would be good on an very hot day as it is shady with a border of beech trees on both sides. The track is well maintained for the most part, packed gravel and small stones reflecting its primary use as a MTB track.

A view back towards the car park, about 2 km's in, the car park is at the base of the exotic forest in the centre of the photo. 

You cross a number of small bridges built on the track, they span deeper gullies, here are two photos above and below of different bridges.

Below are a series of photos showing the track and surrounding area. The forest around Oxford is infested with wasps, all you hear all day is the drone of them. You have to be careful where you stand/sit/touch to save yourself from a sting.  I carry antihistamine tablets in case I or someones else has a reaction to them.


A view out towards the Canterbury plains, no visibility that day.

Below is a view up towards the saddle from a point about 1.5km's away, the saddle is just to the right of the rise in the centre right.

Below are more views of the track, the condition and maintenance of it varies along its length.

After about 3.5 hours you arrive at Wharfedale saddle, the high point (750m) on this particular trip. The track descends from this point down to the Dobson creek, in the Lees valley catchment.

As you can see there is plenty of room for a camp near here unfortunately there is no water source, so you would need to fill up before you reach this point. The closet water source would be the creeks about 1 km either side of the saddle. Lots of wood for a fire because of all of the windfall laying around. It would a nice sheltered spot for a camp.

 Hey fashion Jon changes his outfit!
(Actually the sun came out and it got too hot so I changed into short sleeves).

A view down into the valley from close to the saddle, the hut is still 2 hours from this point (but it is all downhill). The West side of these foothills are more densely covered than the Eastern side, the turn of the century timber milling never reached this far.

The hut lies at the mid point between these two descending ridge lines, in the centre of
the above photo.

Eventually you arrive at Wharfedale hut, it is a 8 person hut with wood fire, bunk platforms and bugger all space. Your water source is the Townshend river which is down a short track to the right of the hut. There is a fine deep swimming hole just downriver which makes for a great clean up at the end of the day. Obviously, I indulged ;>

 There is limited space around the hut for tents, you would be far better to camp down by the river as you would be closer to the water source and it is quite picturesque. 

Here is a view of the track heading down to the river. Below are two views of the hut surrounds, the balcony and a view to the North East of the hut.

View inside the hut, the hut is tidy but could use more ventilation (there are no opening windows in the hut). Because of the enormous number of wasps and sandflies in the area you have to keep the door closed. I cooked my dinner (steak/peas/mash/gravy) outside to save myself from the fumes.

The hut has one of those superb fire boxes (really hot once you get them going), not needed the night i was there. The hut sees a lot of use, both for day trippers and overnight. I had the hut to myself but there were 10 people there the previous Saturday.

There is a beech mast on this year, so all of the beech trees are covered in seed heads like the above.
(About every 10-15 years the beech trees produce seeds which fly away in the wind, sometime in later February/early March there will be billions of these seeds flying around, it is spectacular to see. Unfortunately, there will also be a massive population explosion of rats/mice/possums because of this food source. DOC have already started intense poisoning programs to try and mitigate the problem, that's why you don't import exotic animals into a pristine environment, you colonial dopes!)

Below are various views of the hut interior.

Hey folks!

I spent the night at the hut, it was very warm inside, the hut really needs better ventilation to make it more habitable. I set off home the next morning at around 4:30am, there was light rain falling and I was worried about rising creeks you must cross on the way in. In the event, they were only marginally higher than the previous day. I walked in the dark for about an hour and a half until, it is interesting walking at night as your senses work differently. You have the cone of light from your head torch, other than that all is black your ability to see is diminished. Sounds are amplified and your sense of smell is better. You rely on touch/feel/sound & smell a lot more. I really enjoy it, the distance just seems to fly past. Sunrise was just as I reached the high point at the saddle so it was mostly downhill to the car from there.
Because of the rain during the rest of the morning I left my camera in my pack.
(rain+ digital camera= pile of worthless junk)

This is what the last day was like (misty drizzle) but still good tramping weather when you are heading home to a warm shower and real food!

I enjoyed this trip especially walking out in the rain and dark (adventuresome!). I shall be back but next time I will take the other track up to Black Hills hut and stay for a night.