Tuesday, 31 March 2015

My tramping gear: ACR Res Q Link 365 Personal Locator Beacon

My Personal Locator Beacon

I usually carry a Personal Locator Beacon or PLB with me went I'm out tramping. Up to now I have been hiring one for each trip but I have finally managed to save enough shekels to buy my own.

My ACR 365 Locator Beacon

I brought myself a ACR ResQLink PLB so that I will always have one with me when I'm out tramping. In basic terms, PLB use a satellite network to send a distress message to your local Police force who then coordinate any Search and Rescue operations.

ACR ResQLink 365 PLB


 These are the same used by the Southland PLB Charity and are one of the brands recommended by New Zealand Search and Rescue (SAR). The cost was $550 from the Hunting and Fishing store here in Christchurch, this was $50 cheaper than any other domestic supplier.
That's one of the reasons everyone doesn't own one, they are bloody expensive!
Instructions for use on the back of the ResQLink PLB
I think most people recognize the usefulness of carrying a PLB, especially if like me you do a lot of solo tramping. Although it is not a "get out of jail free card" it does give you a small measure of added safety in the outdoors.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mt Richardson: Mt Thomas Forest - March 28th 2015

 Tramping in Mt Thomas Forest

I was planning a trip down to Mt Somers but had to cancel as some bad weather was due to roll in.
I'm still holding the Mt Somers track as a potential 3 day trip as I would like to go down and walk the full circuit.

Instead I went for a day tramp up Mt Richardson in North Canterbury over the weekend, as I work my way through my "to do" list of trips. I am hoping to get all of the Canterbury foothill tracks ticked off before the weather starts to deteriorate. I just have Mt Oxford and Mt Tomas still left to do as I have been up Mt Grey while in the Army.

Trig point on summit of Mt Richardson

Glentui to Mt Richardson Day Trip

I did a circuit on this trip, up Mt Richardson and then along the Blowhard and Bypass Tracks back to the car park at Glentui picnic area.



You start the Mt Richardson track from the picnic area at Glentui, there are a number of tracks starting from here into the forest, river and hills in the area.

Old 'Betsy' parked at the picnic area

Glentui picnic area, Mt Thomas Forest


It is signposted as a 2 hour trip, that is about right, it took me roughly two hours to reach the summit.

DOC sign at Glentui car park

Typical DOC 3/D map board
The start of the track is a old 4 W/D track, this gradually gets smaller and rougher the further up valley you walk. Most of the locals tracks start from this same spot.

Start of the Mt Richardson Track

The track soon changes into a benched one it is very pleasant walking along here. 

Nice benched track on Mt Richardson

The first track junction goes to Mt Richardson, in the other direction lies the Waterfall Track and access to the Bypass Track. Here is a link to the DOC track brochure for the Mt Thomas Forest Park.


Junction of Mt Richardson/Waterfall track
DOC track brochure page for Glentui/Mt Richardson area

The real track starts soon after the track junction, this is more typical of the type of tracks you will strike when walking in the Canterbury foothills: rough, muddy, rocky and narrow.

Mt Richardson Track: slightly rougher as we get going
Below is the only un-bridged  stream you cross along the entire length of the tramp, this area is very dry even in a "wet" year.

Only river crossing on Mt Richardson track
The point below is the start of the steep section of the track, you are climbing up the side of a ridge for about the next hour or so.

Last flat section, start of the climb to Mt Richardson

Mist over Canterbury Plains from Mt Richardson Track
There is a lot of wind fall around the track, probably as a result of the storms last year, it is cleared from the track, but it is still a real mess in the forest.

Mt Richardson Track:  wind fall damaged trees
Hard to see in this photo but the track is at a 60 degree angle up through this section.

Steep rocky track conditions on the Mt Richardson Track
Eventually you make it to the top of the ridge, from here you sidle along the top and sides of the ridge as you steadily climb towards the summit.

Mt Richardson track - ridgeline section

Plateau 3/4 of way to summit of Mt Richardson
There are a couple of half decent dry camp sites along this flatter section of track, nice location but absolutely bone dry- bring water if contemplating a camp.


Mt Richardson Track: Possible camping spot?

More open beech forest on Mt Richardson Track

Approaching Mt Richardson summit
The final steep section before you reach the summit, it is only 5 more minutes from here to the top of the hill.

Last climb before summit of Mt Richardson
There is a large broom covered flat on the summit of Mt Richardson, there are great views in all directions. Here is a series of shots showing the Lees Valley and Mt Oxford.

View south from Mt Richardson

View towards Puketeraki & Torlesse Ranges from Mt Richardson 

Lees Valley, Eastern end, Puketeraki Range from Mt Richardson 

Mt Oxford from summit of Mt Richardson

Lees Valley from Mt Richardson

Track sign, summit of Mt Richardson

Here I am on the summit, there is a area of rocks and low scrub here, exposed to the weather but with spectacular views. There were a trio of younger trampers here enjoying that most typical of tramping fare: hot cross buns and beer......?

What every hardcore tramper eats...isn't it?

 After a 10 minute break I set off once more along the Blowhard Track which runs along the top of a intersecting ridge in an easterly direction.


Jon on Mt Richardson summit
Heading along Blowhard Track following the ridge top


There are couple of nice looking camp-sites about 5 minutes along the Blowhard Track, with nice bush for shelter  & fire wood but no water. It is very dry along this ridge with no streams or tarns to source water from.

Camp-site near Mt Richardson summit

Scrub and beech along Blowhard Track
This ridge is crying out for a small 2-4 person bivy with a rainwater tank, similar to the one up East Hawdon.  If I win Lotto I will donate one....


Another dry ridge top camp-site on Mt Richardson


The East Hawdon Biv



Blowhard Track: Nice track conditions
There is an interesting plateau on a ridge off to the north east of the this track, I couldn't see any tracks to the area so don't know if many people visit. You would need to bush bash through the scrub to get there. Looks interesting......


Blowhard Track: Distant plateau from ridge

Mt Thomas in distance from Blowhard Track


Beech forest along Blowhard Track

Misty Canterbury plains from Blowhard Track

No views of Canterbury unfortunately as the Plains were completely covered with low fog, the effect is visually interesting though.

Heading along Blowhard Track from Mt Richardson

View towards Banks Peninsula from Blowhard Track
You eventually reach the Bypass Track junction after about 40 minutes of walking, the track heads down one of the spurs from here all the way back to the Glentui Picnic area. It is about 2 hours walk from this point to the car park.


Blowhard/Bypass track junction
Close up of Blowhard Track sign

Blowhard Track to Glentui car park


Moving down the Bypass Track
I stopped about 10 minutes down the track for lunch, in the distance you can see the ridge I climbed up earlier in the day. The track goes up the side of the ridge and then follows the crest all the way to the summit.


Mt Richardson in distance from Bypass Track
Another area of extensive wind fall, these steep rocky ridge lines are very prone to this sort of damage. Most of the trees have pulled their whole root systems out of the soil during a big wind gust.


Heavy windfall trees on Bypass Track

Steep gradient in mid section of Bypass Track

This was the largest Black Beech tree I passed all day, it is an impressive example. It is probably 30 meters tall and 2 meters around the trunk, that is big for this sort of tree.


Bypass Track: large Black Beech tree

Ferns and regrowth near Bypass Track end

First Bridge on Bypass track
Just after crossing the first bridge over the Glentui River I was surprised when two deer walked across the track about 20 meters from me. By the time I got my camera out they were long gone. I don't know who was more surprised me or the deer. When you are tramping by yourself you make very little sound so things like this happen quite often.

Spot where I saw the deer on Bypass Track

Second bridge on Bypass Track
The upper reaches of the Glentui River are very picturesque, you honestly wouldn't think you are only 40 km's away from Christchurch.


Upper Glentui River
You connect up with the Mt Richardson Track about 5 minutes walk from the river, from here it is a short walk along the nice benched track back to the car park.

Back on the Mt Richardson track
This was a good trip, and another peak from my to do list sorted!


Access:From Christchurch head to Loburn, take the signposted road to Oxford for about 22 km to the Glentui Bush Road turn-off. The winding, gravel Glentui Bush Road emerges at the Glentui picnic area after about 4 km.
Track Times: From Glentui car park, 1.5-2 hours to Blowhard Track, 1 hour along Bypass Track, 1.5 hours to car park: 4-5 hours total
Miscellaneous:Moderately steep tracks in places, no potable water source along any of these tracks, Blowhard track exposed to weather.