Monday, 22 September 2014

BMH: Books for Mountain Huts

Books for Mountain Huts

I had an idea for an initiative I'm going to start while I'm out tramping.

I really enjoy reading the magazines and books that people leave in tramping huts, you get an eclectic mix from books, FMC/Wilderness journals, hunting catalogues, Woman's Weekly to Marie Claire. Ive decided that I will start planting books/magazines in the huts that I visit, for the edification of fellow trampers.

Magdalen Hut, the table top mag stash

Some of these will be books withdrawn from the library I work at, some from my own collection and other items will be newly brought.

Examples of ex library books to be donated
My idea is to systematically leave these items for anyone to use, both at the start/finish of longer tramps and individual huts. I'm going to label them and leave a message to please leave for the next person/ in the same catchment. Hopefully, these items will move back and forth along tramping routes and provide some useful recreation for people spending the night in a hut.

I just chuck a small book into my pack when Im going out for a tramp, I tend to use novels although I have dropped a couple of thinner non fiction items as well. 

I know a lot of these will just get used as firelighters but that's ok as well. 

Interior Boyle Flat Hut

Here is a list of locations I have left books at:

Hawdon Hut, Arthurs Pass NP (2)
Bealey Hut, Craigieburn CP
Andrews Shelter, Arthurs Pass NP (4)
Anti Crow Hut, Arthurs Pass NP
Bealey Spur Hut, Craigieburn CP
Lagoon Saddle Shelter, Craigieburn CP
Craigieburn Shelter, Craigieburn CP
Joihn Hayward Memorial Hut, Brooksdale Station (Near Porters Pass)
Mid Robinson Hut, Victoria FP
Lake Daniels Hut, Victoria FP
Cannibal Gorge Hut, Lewis Pass SR
Ada Hut, Lewis Pass SR
Anne Hut, St James CA
Christopher Hut, St James CA
Magdalen Hut, Lake Sumner FP
Boyle Flat Hut, Lake Sumner FP
Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula (2)
Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula (2)
Camp Bay Shelter, Queen Charlotte Track
Anakiwa Shelter, Queen Charlotte Track

Watch this space for more locations!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Lake Daniells Track: 19th September 2014

I was hoping to get away for a 3 day tramp this last weekend to escape from the idiocy of the election campaign. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas with rain and high winds in the Southern Alps. Instead, I took the opportunity to go for a day tramp into Lake Daniells on the Friday.

It was raining and mildly cold but the track is first class,  so I just hunkered down in my jacket and went for it. I got as far as the Alfred-Fraser stream confluence when it started to sleet and hail: discretion being the better part of valour I turned around and headed for the carpark.

Map of the Lake Daniells track
I left the car parked at the Marble point carpark, there are a number of campsites here, toilets and water supply. There is a shelter near the start of the track with some maps and interpretive panels about the area. The Lake Daniels track starts to the right of the shelter in the photo below.
Lake Daniells shelter

Carpark at Lake Daniells track

Lake Daniells track information board

Lake Daniells Track
As you can see the track is in fine condition, it is almost like a Great Walk. Because the track is in such good nick it can be walked in all weather conditions.
Lake Daniells Track

Lake Daniells Track
After 10-15 minutes you approach the bridge across the Maruia river, known as the Sluice Box. I think they named it this because of the fast powerful flow of water through the narrow gorge, also gold was mined in this area in times past. The bridge is a solid steel and wood version, not your more usual suspension type bridge.
Bridge over the Sluice Box, Lake Daniells Track
Yes, if you fell into the river you would be LTD,  Long Time Dead!
Maruia river, Lake Daniells Track

Maruia river, downstream of bridge

Lake Daniells Track
The track overlooks the Alfred river for about the first hour or so, as you can see it is bank to bank on this day, in low flow it is possible to ford the river to access the mountain ranges to the North-East of the area.
Alfred river, Lake Daniells Track
There are significant amounts of boardwalk on this track, laid down to cover swampy areas of the track. This makes for quick and comfortable tramping. Last time I was up here back in the early 90's this track was a total bog for much of its length. This is a great improvement: otherwise you would be swimming through a sea of mud.
Boardwalk on Lake Daniells Track
This is an example of the large Beech trees on the margins of the track, this beauty is probably 200-300 years old. Im suprised any of these big trees remain as the area has been cut for timber before.
Probably a 300 year old native tree
The Alfred was so full it was topping the banks and flowing across the river flats as you can see in the photo below.
Overflowing Alfred River
The track is superb, it would easily be up to great walk standard with bridges on all side streams, gentle gradient,  boardwalks and gravel in the boggy spots.
This would be an excellent track for first time trampers and families.

Lake Daniells Track
Here we are looking at the Alfred river, it was up to the top of its banks and swift. Anyone on the far bank was staying there for a least a day or two because it would suicide to go into that water.

Alfred River

Swollen Alfred river

Lake Daniells Track
You pass two large flats while walking along the track, in fine weather these could be good spots to camp near to the river. This is the first flat about 2 km's in on the track.
First flat on the Lake Daniells Track

River terraces, Lake Daniells Track

First grade track, Lake Daniells Track
After about an 40 minutes you reach the highest point of the track, there is a clearing with views of the surrounding hills. Exercise caution as there is a bluff falling towards the river gorge at the end of the clearing.
View from high point of the track towards Pell stream

Another view from high point of the track towards Lewis Pass
Nicely benched track, leading up and down as it meanders along its way.
Lake Daniells track

Pell stream lookout sign
Here is the infamous "seat with no view"! Many years ago, so Im told, there was a great view from here of the Pell Stream confluence, now the semi mature beech trees block the view all together. All you can see are trees, bush and hillside. Scenic wonders abound!
Pell stream lookout bench
Just past the bench seat is this bridge, this is the half way point of the track, 4.1km's behind you- 4.3kms ahead.
Lake Daniells track
I passed a DOC worker who was cutting up the windfall on the track, a lot of trees fell during the wild weather earlier this year. This is some of the work he was doing.There is a whole hillside just outside Springs Junction where all of the trees have fallen over. Tragic loss, but part of the natural pattern of growth for a beech forest.
Windfall on the Lake Daniells track

Troll stream bridge
Cool name for a bridge, "Troll Bridge"in all its glory!
Troll bridge
Approach to Alfred-Fraser confluence
Eventually i made it to the Alfred-Fraser confluence, about 2 km's or an hour from the hut. Because of the worsening weather, and the 2 hour walk back to the carpark i decided to turn around. Stupidly, I didnt take a photo of the bridge that spans the Fraser.

Here I be on the Lake Daniells track
Couple of photos of me near the Troll Bridge, hard to see here but it was hosing down with rain.
Wet Jon on the Lake Daniells track

Boardwalks on the Lake Daniells track

I noticed on the way back to the carpark just how thick the bush is in this area, it kind of reminds me of the jungle you strike on Pacific Islands, but colder and no snakes of bird eating spiders. The boardwalks tend to channel people along a determined path, so you dont see many side tracks running off into the bush. They are quite common on New Zealand forest tracks, you sometimes wonder, "Where in the hell are they going"? I'm sure that there are probably areas of virgin territory surrounding this track, even though it gets so much use.
Look at that thick bush
The second set of flats (as seen on the topo map) are on the other side of the Alfred stream, inaccessible in this weather, but normally you can ford the river to reach the Pell Stream 4 wheel drive track. If you are contemplating a trip up the remote Pell Valley, the 4WD track is the easiest way to get to the confluence.
Second flat from the Lake Daniells track..half way home
The side streams were all up, luckily you have bridges so no problems with access. It doesnt look very impressive but it was probably a metre deep and running very very fast. It would definitely knock you over if you had to ford it.
Swollen side stream Lake Daniells track

Eventually you reach the Sluice Box again, and the last 15 minutes of the track. There is nothing quite as satisfying as reaching the end of a track with dry clothes and a warm car waiting for you

Sluice box

Last forest margin before the Lake Daniells track carpark
As you can see, there was a lot of rain and clouds on the West Coast over the weekend. The track heads up the valley to the left of the sharp mountain in the centre of this shot.
Stormy weather......
I really should have taken my overnight gear as I would probably have been in the hut by myself that night. The Manson - Nichols hut at the lake is normally a scene of bedlam as a LOT of people use it. Not my kind of scene at all, I like a bit of quiet. The Saturday was fine up until 1 pm so there would have been plenty of time to get back to the car before the weather turned to custard.
Never mind, there is always a next time, and an excuse to visit a nice spot again!
Storm clouds over Harwaden area
Above and below are a couple of photos of the stormy weather over the Lake Sumner area, this is from the highway just outside of Culverden. Totally bizzare, sunny and warm here but cold and rainy about 10 kilometres away.
Storm clouds looking back towards Lake Sumner area
Even with the weather this was a good trip, it is a nice track, great natural scenery and a good workout. I will definitely come back sometime and stay in the hut for the night.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Bealey Spur Track, 6 September 2014

I went for a tramp up to the Bealey Top Hut on Bealey Spur this last weekend, it was a great trip, the weather was outstanding and the mountains look spectacular with all the snow still on them.
Panorama of the tarns on Bealey Spur

Panorama of the Bealey, Edwards and Hawden Valleys from Bealey Spur

Bealey Spur Track

Bealey Spur is about 10 kilometers short of Arthurs Pass village, and overlooks the Waimakiriri valley and Klondyke corner. The track starts at the top of the access road for the Bealey bach settlement, it is about 2 odd hours to the hut, climbing steadily all the time. Because of its location it tends to get better weather than a lot of the other tracks in the park.  

Here is the carpark at the top of the access road, there is space for about 3-4 cars here. There is also a much bigger carpark at the bottom of the Spur with a link track to the actual Bealey Spur track.

Its not a steep gradient by any means but you are constantly walking up hill for the next 2 hours.

No major rivers or streams to cross only these small drainage ditches. You could walk this track in the rain but would need to watch out as the marking of the track is not great.
Very few poles or markers.

Hot? Yes, it was about 17 degrees and sunny, but good cover provided by the forest on these lower slopes of the spur.

Here is the first view point about 30 minutes up the track, this is looking out towards the Bealey-Edwards-Mingha valley confluence.

After an hour you break out of the beech and enter a regenerating area of Manuka scrub, this area was burnt over during the pastoral days and is only now rejuvenating.

View looking South East towards Mt Bruce, the Cass-Lagoon Saddle track runs around the mid-upper slopes of this mountain before heading down to Cora Lynn Station.
This track is on my "to do" list of future tramps.

View South towards the Mt Hutt range and head of Bruce Stream, you can bush bash down into the stream and walk out from there but it looks like a "sporty" proposition.

That way down there is Bruce stream, the drop off point here would be about 200 vertical metres. If you go up this track watch out at these viewpoints as there are no barrieirs to stop you falling way...down....there...!

Here is the top edge of the manuka and the start of the sub alpine vegetation, you are walking through varried tussock basins, beech forest and manuka for the rest of the way.

First view of the Alps, this is the area between Mt Bealey- Avalanche Peak -Mt Rolleston at the head of the Crow valley.

This is looking East towards the Dome and the Cass-Mt White bridge area.

View East towards Blind Spur, and the uppers reaches of Mt Bruce,. The Cass-Lagoon Saddle track crosses the slopes just above the scrub in the upper middle left of this photo.

North towards Klondyke Corner, Edwards-Bealey river valleys and the Alpine highway far below.

Here are the headwaters of the Waimakiriri river, Crow valley, and looking North West towards the White river area. I didnt realise how big this drop off is until I was down at Klondyke corner looking back towards Bealey Spur. It too is about 200 verticle metres of scree and loose shingle. 

The forest opens up as you climb higher along the spur, with frequent tussock clearings in between.

About 2/3 of the way up the track you arrive at the tarns, this area is the most picturesque of the tramp. If you were running out of steam by this point the tarns are a worthwhile destination in their own rights. The hut is still about 2 kilometres away at this point.

The ice on top of that bog is about 40cm's thick, evidence of the low tempretures which are the norm in the area. It might be possible to camp near these tarns as there is a lip of slightly elevated ground surrounding them. Buggy in Spring and Summer though.

The hut is just beyond the line of forest crowning the ridgeline off to the right.

A view back down on the tarns from above.

Another paorama of shots from left to right from a resting point above the tarns.

There were the odd patches of snow amongst the trees as Igot closer to the hut.

Here is the first view of the hut, it has recently been repainted by DOC in this excellent lime green colour. The hut is nestled on the edge of a tussock clearing with a water tank, wood shed and toilet close to hand.  

Still a bit of snow lingering in the shaded areas around the hut. I would imagine it gets a lot of snow deep in winter being so close to the Southern Alps.

Here is the Bealey Top Hut, it is a very small DOC six bunk hut that you can stay in overnight if the fancy takes you. Originally it was the musterers hut for the sheep farm that existed on the spur. It must have been hellish getting the sheep up and down the spur, glad I didnt have to do it.

Rustic interior! The beams for the walls and ceiling are made from beech branches, it has an open fire, no insulation so it would be damn cold in the winter. It must have been a very small space for 6 musterers to occupy with all of their gear, food and "flossie".

DOC historical board setting out the history of the hut and surrounding area.

The walls are totally covered with the names and details of people who have stayed in the hut, right back to the 1920's. Graffiti is not a modern occurance obviously!

Mission accomplished, lunch eaten now its time to head on down.

That way be home!

Panaromic series of photos from a rest stop just before you reach the tarns.

Below are a couple of shots of the tarns on Bealey Spur that I took as i was decending the track. There are a lot of birds around here you can hear them in the patches of beech forest hereabouts. I saw Tui, Kea, Fsantails, Bluebirds and a lot of waders.

Last view of the Waimakiriri headwaters...

...and South East towards Cass.

There is something truely beautiful about the play of light on a forest in the early afternoon.

Here are a series of shots from Klondyke Corner showing Bealey spur from bottom to top.

Here are a couple of photos of what I think are one of the old K Series steam locomotives used  up until the 50's on the Christchurch-Arthurs Pass-Otira line. A local trust owns this one and several times a year runs to Arthurs Pass and back. They used big Italian electric trains to take the carriages through the Otira tunnel as the smoke from a steam locomotive would have aphyxiated the passengers. There were a lot of train "enthusiasts" waiting to photography the train as it passed.

My first trip for a couple of months and what a stunner of a day to be out and about in the mountains.