Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Who will you encounter when tramping in New Zealand?

You are likely to encounter a wide variety of people when tramping in New Zealand. I have written a post about the variety of different folk you will meet if you go tramping, ranging from Kiwi weekend trampers to Te Araroa Long trail walkers and all species in between. 

Trampers outside new Kime hut (DOC photo)

Check out my post about fellow trampers at my Te Araroa blog.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Arthurs Pass Walking Track: 24 October 2015

Woo Hoo, i have finished study for 2015 so time to do some.....tramping!

I went for a tramp on the first day of the Labour Weekend break, just a day trip as we had plans to watch the All Blacks vs South Africa game on Sunday morning. My original plan was for a trip up to Carrol Hut near Otira, but when i arrived at the car park at the base of the track I was meet with the still smouldering wreck of a car that had been set on fire. After reporting it to the Police, i decided that maybe this was not such an awesome place to park my car for 5-6 hours.

Instead I went back to Arthur's Pass and walked the new track from the Devils Punchbowl Falls car park to the pass. I've been wanting to do it for a while and this was the perfect opportunity. The track follows the path taken by Arthur Dobson an early surveyor and the first European to cross the Pass between the Bealey and Otira rivers back in the 1880's.

Car park at the track start
Arthurs Pass Walking Track

There are a series of information panels near the car park laying out the various tracks at this end of the valley. this is the starting point for tracks to Punchbowl Falls, Arthurs Pass, Cons Track and Mt Aicken.

Track information board at car park
 As you can see nice clear details and the required warning information for tourists, it is a busy spot and thousands if not tens of thousands of people must walk up to the Falls when travelling through the Pass.

Details of the board
The start of the track is very clear, nice signage throughout its length.

Track junction for Punchbowl Falls and Walking Track
  The track quality is excellent, Great Walk quality really, and it stays at this level all the way to the pass. It certainly makes the track a lot easier to walk, back in the old days the previous basic route took about 2.5 hours to the pass, it is now an hour and a half or so. 

Walkin' Great Walk styles....
 There are plenty of steps and boardwalks along the trail here is a shot of the first of many for the day....
First of MANY steps!
 The bush to each side of the track is very dense, Arthurs Pass gets a lot of rain, over 2 meters most years and it actually holds the NZ record for the highest amount of rain in a 24 hour period (it was 2.4 meters, that's 39 inches or 7.8 feet) back in the 1960's. 

Dense bush to side of track
 There are a series of well constructed bridges along the track, they remind me a lot of the ones I've encountered on the Wharfedale and St James tracks. Standard DOC bridge design?

Example of the bridges en route

Jo on one of the bridges
 Periodically the far Southern side of the valley becomes visible, nice views of Mt Avalanche, Bealey and Rolleston as you climb towards the pass. 

Mt Rolleston and Bealey

Waterfall on the South side of the valley
 The photo below shows the flank of Mt Avalanche as well as the distant and small looking buildings of Arthurs Pass township far below. This is a view form a nice scenic lookout with a seat and picnic table about 30 minutes up the trail. 

Flanks of Mt Avalanche
 You pass many small side streams on this track, all of them are bridged so this is an all weather track.

Nice looking side stream

 I passed a number of  Dracophyllum traversii on the way, these are sometimes called "Dr Seuss" trees as they look exactly like the ones in The Lorax. We really have some weird and wonderful plants in New Zealand. 

Dracophyllum traversii alpine tree
 The track follows the route of a high tension power line access path for most of the way up the valley. The last time I walked this track back in the early 90's it was a rocky and wet experience as no formal provision for a real track had been made. You still pass under the pylons every now and then on the new track. 

Track passing under the power pylons
 At one point you need to descend and then ascend a series of steps to get around a small gorge, it has been well routed along a couple of handy gully's either side of the stream crossing. 

Descending to gorge...

Stairway to heaven.....?

"Goblin" forest

View North West towards Mt Rolleston, Bealey Valley
 Eventually you reach Jacks Hut, former home of a well known road man of the early 1900's and up till the 1980's a private bach or holiday home. It must have been some experience living here in the Winter as the road sometimes gets up to 3 meters of snow in a big storm. 

Historic Jacks Hut
 The track crosses State highway 73 to the South side of the valley and continues on up to the Pass.

There be the track......!

Nice track work

Mt Rolleston
 You breakout of the bush after 15 minutes, the rest of the track is across boardwalk's over a classic alpine bog. There are stunning views in all directions. 

Start of the alpine bog-lands looking down valley

Alpine bog-lands looking up valley

Arthurs Pass - Highway 73  looking East
 There are a series of excellent interpretive panels along the track explaining the flora and fauna, history and topography of the surrounding area. 

Interpretive panel- Alpine plants

Falls near the Temple basin ski field
 At one stage during the last ice age this valley was home to a massive glacier that was 200 meters higher than the existing pass. It stretched all the way to the Canterbury Plains and as far West as the Taramakau glacier. The whole National park has been shaped by ice, wind and water. 

Glacial moraines field near Pass
 As you can see i have my fleece on, even with the fine weather it was cold due to the wind blowing in from the Otira Valley. I could see steam from my breath as I was walking, unfortunately too windy for a hat so i got a bit wind burnt on the face. 

Jon at the Pass
Below are a selection of photos taken as i walked around the short nature walk at the Pass. 

Series of tarns at the Pass

Looking East towards Otira Valley
Here is some decent kiwi tramping track leading off from the nature walk going to the Otira Valley, more like the mess we have come to expect and love.

More basic track heading to Otira Valley

One of the small tarns next to the track

Dobson Memorial from the track

One of the interpretive panels- glacial action

View West towards the Pass

One of the bridges on the track

View towards Mt Bealey
After 20  minutes walking around the nature walk i headed back down the track towards the village. Below is a view of Jacks Hut from the opposite southern side of SH73. There are tracks from this point to the "Chasm" (a point where the Bealey river goes underground) and the Bealey Valley Track both of which are worth a look.

Jacks Hut opposite track exit

One of the picturesque side streams
I stopped about half way back to the village and sat on a log for a break for 5 minutes listening to the forest, river gurgle and birdsong.

Stopped for a snack

Endless stairs to climb and descend

Young Dracophyllum traversii alpine tree
This will be a familiar scene to anyone who has visited Arthur's Pass, here are the Punchbowl Falls near the village. I am told that DOC have remade the track and it is a wonder of boardwalks and platforms now, I will have to visit when next there to confirm this. 

Punchbowl Falls from near the car park

Close-up of Punchbowl Falls

View up valley to Pass

It was a good day out tramping and while not the trip I had planned it still worked out very nicely. It was excellent weather for a walk, dry but not too hot and even though this is a popular track I only saw 4 people on the track the whole trip.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sad news: Casey Hut in Arthurs Pass NP burnt to ground

A group from the Christchurch Tramping Club discovered the smouldering embers of Casey Hut on Saturday morning. I visited the hut back in 2012 while doing the Andrews-Casey-Binser circuit, it was a lovely old Lockwood style wood building.

Casey Hut in 2012

A very similar thing happened to the old Hawdon hut back in 2010 and it took 2 years for a replacement to be built. Here's hoping it will be replaced by DOC as it is vital stop over for anyone tramping the Upper Poulter Valley, Casey-Binser Circuit and Lake Minchin.

Here is a photo of the gone hut from Radio NZ site:

The hut was completely destroyed in the blaze.