Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Department of Conservation Huts: A guide for newbie trampers

 Backcountry huts: A guide for new trampers...

One of the unique things you will encounter tramping in New Zealand are the DOC huts which are such a feature of outdoor life here. We have 900+ back country huts scattered around the country which can be used for a very minimal charge.

That first tantalising glimpse of your home for the night...Magdalen Hut


Your average Kiwi tramper will probably stay in huts for 90% of the time when tramping, the other 10% will be camping.


A good hut has an awesome location...Nina Hut, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

That is a lot of hut life!

 I don't know about you but huts are one of the things I most enjoy about tramping. 

A breakdown of DOC hut amenities


I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the amenities DOC huts contain as well as discussing some of the rules of good hut etiquette before you start your tramping adventures.

Living Space

  Most of the larger huts will have some sort of living area, what this entails varies from hut to hut. Generally this will consist of a table of some description with wooden benches, a cooking bench (see below), heating source (see below) and possibly some shelving space. 

Living/Cooking space, Te Matawai Hut, Tararua FP
 If we look at a specific hut, Boyle Flat Hut on the St James Walkway we can see what the hut contains in the way of living space. This is one of my favourite huts, I have been here several times now and I have always enjoyed my stay.

As you can see below there are several tables with bench seating, there is also a very nice bench seat under the window. There are a series of drying wires across the living space for trampers to dry their gear on.

Living area in Boyle Flat Hut
In this photo we can see the integrated gun rack that has been built for this hut, there is a book shelf with some reading material and some information panels on the walls.

Looking towards the bunk room in Boyle Flat Hut

  The other side of the room has a cooking bench along the wall, with shelf units above and below it. The sleeping area at Boyle Flat consists of two separate 10 bunk rooms. This hut was built by the Walkways Commission back in the early 1980's so it has a much higher level of amenity than your more typical 4 or 6 bunk hut.

Other side of Boyle Flat Hut living area
Compare Boyle Flat to the classic NZFS 6 bunk Hackett Hut in Mt Richmond FP. The New Zealand Forestry Service (NZFS) was the precursor to DOC, they had generic 2, 4, 6 and 8 bunk hut designs which they scattered wildly about the country. A NZFS hut has the same amenities as a larger hut but in a much more compact form.

 Generally these smaller huts are an open room design, they will not have a table but will still have a cooking bench, heating and shelving in the living area.

Entrance way for Hackett Hut, Mt Richmond FP

Hackett Hut Interior

Sleeping areas

Many of the DOC huts were built as overnight shelter for NZFS forestry workers, deer cullers and musterers so of course they needed sleeping facilities. 

Some of the older huts still have the original canvas/burlap sacking bunks which was the standard format up till the late 1960's. This consists of a piece of canvas stretched over poles to make a hammock like bunk. 

If you never have the doubtful pleasure of sleeping in one just let me say...they are damn uncomfortable!

Canvas sacking bunks, West Harper Hut
Far more common are huts with mattresses and bunks/sleeping platforms. A sleeping platform is one large expanse of wood or concrete which you top with the supplied mattresses. This is the most economical use of space as 10 people can fit on a sleeping platform that will only hold 6 individual bunks.

Sleeping platform in the new (2014) Anne Hut
 
Let us look once again at the facilities at Boyle Flat Hut.  Boyle Flat is a 20 bunker, i.e. it has space for 20 people to sleep inside. In this case the sleeping areas consist of two bunk rooms separated by a wall. The bunks in this particular hut are of the "sleeping platform" type and can accommodate 10 people per room in two layers.

Sleeping platforms at Boyle Flat Hut
Bunks are individual spaces, just big enough for the standard DOC foam mattresses to fit on and are more common with huts built after the mid 1970's. All DOC huts can be partially characterised by the number of bunks supplied: for example Anne Hut is a 24 bunk hut, whereas tiny Harpers Pass Bivouac is a 2 bunk.


Individual bunks in Anti Crow Hut, Arthur's Pass NP

Some huts will also have you sleeping on the floor, an example being Lagoon Saddle Hut in Craigieburn FP. There is a combined table/sleeping platform for one person in the hut, the other two residents sleep on the floor on the mattresses provided.


Lagoon Saddle Shelter, 1 person sleeping space (2 more on floor)

When you leave in the morning you need to stack the mattresses on their sides in an orderly fashion, this protects them from dust, vermin and mildew.

Nicely stacked mattresses in Christopher Hut

A note concerning bunk reservations...

 If you are hiking with a group and arrive piecemeal, good hut etiquette dictates that you cannot reserve a bunk for your mate....they need to be there in person to claim a bunk.

 Hut floors, decks and verandas make great back ups if the bunks are all taken and this perfectly allowable (I have slept on a hut table a couple of times...). You can sleep in your tent and only use the hut for cooking, socialising etc if that proves necessary.

Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula, 10 bunks...awesome views!

Share the hut: if there are 6 of you in a 6 bunk hut and a group of 4 arrive move over, make room for them and welcome them in.
This is how a real kiwi tramper acts...be a real kiwi tramper!!

Verandas/Decks

There is a trend in the newer huts to include both verandas and decks to maximise the usable living space.

Decks are a welcome addition to huts, as they provide space to sit in the sun, dry out gear and generally stop mud from entering the hut itself. There is nothing finer of an afternoon than sitting on a sunny sand fly free deck supping a hot brew.
Anne Hut, the wrap around deck look...
 Verandas are often built onto existing huts to provide a place for hanging wet gear out of the rain as well as providing storage areas for firewood. They range in size from small alcoves right through to fully enclosed secondary rooms.

Boyle Flat Hut, open deck and enclosed veranda

 

Inside the Lakehead Hut veranda, Nelson Lakes NP

 Water sources

With some exceptions every DOC hut will have one of two types of water source: a water tank or a nearby stream or river.

Your source of water, the Robinson Rive, Victoria Forest Park

The vast majority of huts will still get their water from a nearby stream or river but this is changing. With climate change, drier weather and more people visiting back country areas these water sources either disappear or become vectors for sickness. The solution is rain water tanks.

Boyle Flat Hut, stream fed water tank

Increasingly DOC huts are provided with a rainwater tank, these take rainwater from the hut gutters and store it in large capacity tanks. This is especially prevalent in low precipitation areas like the Richmond Range and at those huts atop ridge lines or on drier east facing hills.

 
Magdalen Hut, brand new rain water tank next to hut

 All new huts are built to this standard and more and more older ones are having them added as maintenance is done on the huts. Eventually all of the huts maintained by DOC will get the majority of their water from rain.

NB: Not all of the huts are owned & maintained by DOC, a lot are owned by 4 W/D/hunting/skiing/mountaineering clubs and increasing numbers are maintained by volunteers.

Water is a precious resource please conserve it: take only what you need.

Cooking spaces

  Cooking mishaps are the number two reason huts burn down so DOC have provided us with metal cooking benches for our stoves. Please use these, as cooking on one of the wooden tables or the floor of a hut can easily cause a fire.
  
Small Hut: Magdalen Hut,Lake Sumner FP: the cooking bench
In the newer huts these benches will be stainless steel, generally with a metal back splash on the nearby walls. There will be a window for ventilation and candle holders or solar lighting panels to illuminate the area. 

Inside a larger hut: Lakehead Hut cooking area, table and bench

In the older huts the bench will be made of zinc covered wood but they provide the same fire protection for the hut.

Some popular huts may have pots, pans, utensils etc. but don't count on this, bring your own.

Hut etiquette note:

Please make sure you have adequate ventilation while using a stove. Solid fuel, white spirit, meths and gas canisters all give off carbon monoxide in use, open a window so it can escape. Be extremely careful when refilling gas bottles or changing canisters as fire is a real risk at that time. 

Classic NZFS zinc covered cooking bench, Mid Robinson Hut
Many of the established DOC camp grounds will have a covered shelter where you can cook and hang out. Generally these are set up like a hut: steel/zinc covered bench, picnic table with seating or benches and water supply from tank or stream. If the bugs aren't too bad these are excellent places to mingle with other trampers.

Cooking shelter, Bay of Many Coves, Queen Charlotte Track

Fire places/stoves

Most DOC huts in will have a fireplace, gas heater or wood burner in them. These are there to provide heating as well as a place to cook. What you wont always get is wood- only the Great Walk and Serviced huts will have a fuel supply- otherwise it is up to you to provide. Fuel can be wood, coal or gas depending on the location.


Example of an open fireplace at West Harper Hut, Craigieburn Rnge
Firewood waiting to go into the wood shed at Lakehead Hut
A sight to gladden any budding pyromaniacs heart...a full wood shed!

All huts with wood heating will have either an axe (usually chained to the wood shed) or a bow saw for cutting firewood. Please return them to their spot so other trampers can use them in the future.

With axe and saw we get firewood...


...and fire!!!!

 Please don't steal the tools: some day a cold, wet and hypothermic tramper might turn up at that hut and find no means to cut wood for a life saving fire...

Consider your actions!

Extra fuel for the wood burner at Magdalen Hut

Hut etiquette note:

Please do not cut up the furniture, decks, doors etc. and burn it (yes people have done this), not only is it ridiculous it also the number one way to get off side with fellow trampers. If I turn up at a hut and I see you shoving the last piece of the table into the fire rest assured I will tear you a new one....

Please do not cut down the 200 year old tree next to the hut....go find some standing dry in the forest and cut it up with the axe or saw provided. Look for standing trees that are dead but not rotting, these will often burn extremely well. Rotten wood WILL NOT burn so please don't gather it up.

Don't use all the wood, replace the dry wood you use so the next visitors have some.

Nothing like a blazing fire...


Make sure the fireplace is cleared or at least fully out before you leave. More huts burn down because of careless ash handling than any other cause. Dowse them or put them in the ash barrel if there is one. As a last resort leave the cooling ashes in the fireplace with the door firmly shut, at least they wont burn down the hut if they are contained.


Ash barrel at Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes NP

Finally, if it is a sweltering 30 degree summer day don't light the fire, it is not necessary. You are just wasting firewood and irritating your hut mates.

Cheers!

Toilet facilities

Ah... a subject dear to the heart of all trampers....toilets!

Almost all of the 900+ DOC huts will have toilet facilities of one sort or another, the quality will depend on popularity of the hut, its age, location and users.

Were there be people there be long drop....

The toilets will range from very basic long drops right through to palatial toilet mansions with flushing toilets, sinks, fresh water, a disco ball and even a supply of paper in some cases.

Most basic toilet...a handy patch of bush...



A "Bog" standard DOC long drop toilet


Better: Slightly more up market facilities, Hawdon Hut



Oh yeah!!!: High quality DOC campground toilet block
Two things to consider:

1.  Bring your own paper as 98% of the DOC facilities will not have any.

2.  USE THE TOILETS! There was a lot of hate for Te Araroa thru hikers in the media earlier this year as tales of sordid toilet habits were made public. It seems that some people were "doing their business" outside hut doors and on tracks rather than using the toilets provided.

It was probably not TA walkers but that is who got blamed.

Don't be that guy or gal... if there is a toilet available then bloody well use it!
If you must "s - - t in the woods" do it right and bury your waste at least 100 meters away from water/tracks/huts.

Martins Hut, Longwood Forest...the first/last hut on the Te Araroa Trail

Miscellaneous Hut Gear

Stuff you will commonly find in a DOC Hut:
  • Broom (Hint: You use it to sweep the floor...)
  • Ash bucket for the fire
  • Axe and/or saw for cutting firewood
  • Half brush and shovel
  • A green DOC hut visitors book

Axe and bow saw, Mt Rintoul Hut, Richmond FP

Stuff you might find in a hut but don't rely on it:
  • Buckets/bowls/pots/pans
  • Cleaning materials/soap/dishwash
  • Reading matter
  • Paper/matches/lighter for starting a fire
  • Pack of Cards
  • Spare tramping food left by other visitors
Cleaning materials at Hawdon Hut
 Weird stuff I have found in a hut:
  • an unopened 750ml bottle of good red wine (seriously...why didn't you just drink it...it was delicious by the way).
  • A pair of lavender frilly french knickers?
  • a 12 pack of condoms...found near the knickers...???
  • One sized 10 boot??????
  • a kiddie paddling pool???????

 Use them....don't abuse them!

Outdoor loving kiwis are justifiably proud of our hut network and we are also very protective of it. We are privileged to be able to use these huts, just imagine how different the New Zealand outdoor experience would be without them.

East Hawdon Biv, Arthurs Pass NP


Please remember they are a finite resource: DOC is strapped for cash so if you damage a hut or burn it down it will probably not be repaired or replaced (Casey Hut in Arthur's Pass is a case in point...).


Please fill in the hut book, DOC maintain these huts based on the number of visitors to them and hut book statistics are their main source of data. No data....no maintenance! 

Standard DOC hut visitors book
Pay your hut fees........I do, so should you. This includes all kiwi trampers...no you haven't already paid for them with your taxes, Joe Taxpayer paid for them back in 1971 when the hut was built! A DOC hut pass costs about $100 per year - how many coffees is that: 25!

Don't be so goddamn cheap!

 


If in doubt, treat the hut like you would your own home, thanks very much...

Monday, 17 October 2016

Lake Rotoiti Circuit: Nelson Lakes National Park: 14-15 October 2016

Walking around Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes NP


Mt Robert, Lake Rotoiti from Kerr Bay car park

Over the weekend I went and tramped the Lake Rotoiti Circuit. This is a 30 km loop track around Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park. I last visited Nelson Lakes way back in the early 1990's, so its been awhile but as there are a number of places in the park I am keen to visit I will be returning there shortly.


Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park
This is a 2-3 day tramp so the original plan was:
 Day 1: Arrive St Arnaud then walk to Lakehead Hut via Lakeshead Track (3 hours), 
Day 2:  Walk to Coldwater Hut (4+ hours) via the Travers swing bridge and Travers Valley Track, stay the night at Coldwater.
Day 3: Back to Kerr Bay (4.5 hours) via Lakeside Track flanking Mt Robert, Mt Robert road and the Peninsula track. 

More on that later.....

St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut: Day One

I set off from Christchurch at 4 am on Friday for St Arnaud, this small village is the gateway to Nelson Lakes NP. It takes about 4.5 hrs to drive to St Arnaud and arrived I around 9.30 am. It was cold and raining for most of the way which slightly concerned me as I wasn't sure if I would arrive to find snow down to ground level.

Entrance to St Arnaud from SH 6
I started my tramp from the Kerr Bay Car park which is near the NW end of the lake, there are a number of car parks here as well as two boat ramps/jetties. If you wanted to start from St Arnaud then you could stay the night at the DOC Kerr Bay Campground, this is right next to the start of Lakehead Track. The campground looked good: lots of shady trees, quality toilet block and a nice enclosed shelter for cooking and eating. 

Lake Rotoiti from near the jetty at Kerr Bay

According to the woman in the visitor centre security is so-so at these car parks, if you are concerned there is a DOC car park on Ward Street, right outside the local DOC workshops.

You ARE NOT allowed to park at the visitors center!

The 'Beast' at the carpark at Kerr Bay

The other side of the Kerr Bay car park
This side of the lake includes a fenced "mainland island", an area surrounded by predator fences with a large population of native wildlife including geckos, frogs, Kaka, Kiwi, Bellbird and Tomtit. There are a multitude of tracks starting here ranging from 15 minutes right up to 3 hours in length.


Kiwi Zone right down to the shoreline, start of Lakehead Track


Start of the Kerr Bay track network
The DOC track network board at Kerr Bay
As you can see the start of the track is wheelchair friendly, very easy walking, it eventually becomes your standard DOC track but the first half hour of the track is very nice...

Wheelchair friendly start to the Lakehead Track

Interpretive panels about 10 minutes up the Lakehead Track


Travers Valley in the far distance from the Lakehead Track
You strike a number of boardwalks early in the track as there are several mossy swamps to cross along this side of the valley.

Boardwalk at the start of the Lakehead Track

Jon on the Lakehead Track
After an half an hour the Lakehead Track starts, this is a bit rougher but it is still a very easy track to walk on as it is well benched and not too arduous. This was also the point when it started to rain so it was jacket on and buttoned up for a wet slog to the hut.

Lakehead Track, start of the tramping track proper


Lake Rotoiti from a viewing area on the Lakehead Track
Most of the time you are in forest with the lake to your right hand side, you get occasional glimpses of the lake but it is mostly out of view. Every now and then the track drops down to the shoreline so you can stop and admire the distant mountains.

Lakehead Track, gravel debris field
After an hour and a half much heavier rain rolled in this continued until 3 pm in the afternoon and made for wet tramping conditions. Lakehead Track is well maintained but all that rain resulted in me walking in 10 cm's of muddy water for the next hour....

The storm clouds roll onto Lake Rotoiti

Lakehead Track, young red beech tree grove
Two hours down the track you get a glimpse of Whiskey Falls on the far side of the lake. The falls are 10 minutes up a side track and are a good stop point on the second or third day of this tramp.
Whiskey Falls on the flank of Mt Robert from the Lakehead Track
It was raining for most of the time I was walking, it was fine as you are covered by forest for most of way but I still got pretty wet.

Thank God for quality rain jackets, eventually you get wet but at least you stay warm.

Lakehead Track, Jon models the "wet ca"t look

Lakehead Track, typical scenery
There are three streams to cross on this side of the lake, only one of them could cause a problem in heavy rain.The problematic one is about 15 minutes before you reach the Lakehead jetty.

Lakehead Track, crossing a rising side stream
After 2.5 hours you get to the Lakehead Hut jetty, there are good views from here of Coldwater Hut on the far side of the lake. If you wanted a interesting day walk you could hire a water taxi to take you to this jetty and then walk back to St Arnaud.

Lakehead Track: Coldwater Hut across Lake Rotoiti
Lakehead Hut Jetty

Rainy view of the Travers Valley from Lakehead jetty

From the jetty it is a short 10 minute walk to Lakehead Hut, it is roughly 750 meters up and over one last debris field to the hut site.The photos are blurry because it was raining so hard I couldnt clear the lens of mist quickly enough to keep them sharp....!

Lakehead Track, not far now....

Climbing the final debris field just before Lakehead Hut

I was quite pleased to reach the hut as it had started to rain really hard and you are walking in the open along this last section. Lakehead Hut was built in the 1960's and is very nice: 24 bunks, nicely appointed interior, good woodburner, full woodshed and it looks like it might have been painted recently. It sits on a terrace quite a long way from the lake but it has good views as a compensation.


Lakehead Hut in the rain


Woodburner and sleeping platforms, Lakehead Hut
Lakehead Hut dining area


Kitchen area Lakehead Hut


Lakehead Hut, cooking benches and water tap



Lakehead hut sleeping area


Lakehead Hut enclosed veranda, my Macpac jacket
There was already gear on several of the bunks, it belonged to a group of guided adventure tourists who were staying in the hut for the night. I found out later that they had gone up valley for the day to try to visit Lake Angelus but had to turn back due to the deep snow up Cascade Valley. 

Jon happily ensconced in Lakehead Hut

Lakehead Hut, doing some chores while the billy boils...
After changing into dry clothes and setting up my gear I relaxed with a brew and ate my lunch looking out the windows at the rain pouring down. Nothing quite as good as sitting inside a hut and watching it pour outside knowing you are finished walking for the day...


Travers Valley from Lakehead Hut deck

Robert Ridge from Lakehead Hut deck

Lakehead Hut wood shed
I went out and cut up a pile of firewood as I had a fair idea it would turn cold later in the afternoon. There was a massive pile of wood waiting to be put in the shed so i spent about half an hour piling some of it inside so it could dry.

Axe and saws in the  Lakehead Hut woodshed

Start of my firewood pile, Lakehead Hut
After cutting some firewood I fell asleep on my bunk for an hour or so.

By the time I woke around 4 pm the weather had cleared so that you could see the snow further up Travers Valley, there was a LOT of it on the ranges near Travers Pass so I don't think anyone is going over there any time soon. 

Travers Pass & Travers Valley from Lakehead Hut deck


Lakehead Hut: snow on the mountains near Travers Pass
The water tank at Lakehead is fed from a nearby stream not from rain fall, so if it is empty you need to walk about 10 minutes back towards the jetty to reach the first sidestream. Otherwise it is a 20 minute walk down to the Travers River itself. 

Lakehead Hut on its terrace


Snow on Angelus Ridge from Lakehead Hut veranda



View of the fresh snow from Lakehead Hut



Brief sun shining on Travers Valley, late afternoon

I lit the fire around 5 pm as it was getting cold and put on some soup, the other hut residents arrived about 20 minutes later.  They were wet and cold so appreciated the warmth that had started to build up from the blazing fire.


Fire burning at Lakehead Hut


The group staying in the hut with me was from Active Adventures and consisted of two Kiwi guides (Nick and Rachel) and four American clients. I chatted with all of the members of their party at one time or another over the evening. This was the second to last night of their 9 day trip around the South Island.

They said the snow halfway up Cascade Valley was at least knee deep so for safety sake they decided to return to the hut.

I imagine anyone at Lake Angelus Hut was staying for another night due to deep snow along the ridgeline....

Resting on my bunk, Lakehead Hut

Nick invited me to walk out to the Mt Roberts car park with their group the next morning. This was great as it would save me a day and allow me to travel back to Christchurch on the Saturday. It is also nice to have some company for a change.

The track from Lakehead to Coldwater huts


These tour groups eat well: their menu had antipasti + red wine followed by chicken paella + champagne and a cheesecake with fancy coffee for dessert all prepared by the guides. 

Jon had dehydrated chicken Laksa and cold water......!

 Yes, my lip did quiver a little bit....but at least I was offered some of the cheesecake!

Lakehead Hut to St Arnaud via Coldwater Hut: Day Two

Because I was walking with a group we were able to use the ford over the Travers River. Normally there is a ford you can use at this end of the Travers but with the rain it was deep and swift. There is no way a solo tramper could cross the ford after rain so you have to walk up valley for 2 hours to the Travers swing bridge and then down the other side of the river to Coldwater Hut.

Using the ford saved me 10 kilometers and 4 hours and meant I could head home early.


Heading out towards the Travers River ford, Lakehead Hut
Once we got to the Travers river Nick, Rachel and I scouted the best crossing point (not on the official ford, there is a waist deep channel there...go down river about 30 meters) and crossed over in a stick of 3 and another of 4. The water was freezing and fast but only knee high at our crossing point.

Travers River ford from the true left of Travers Valley

View of Upper Travers Valley from near the ford

Start of the Travers Valley Track, true left of the valley
The Travers Valley Track runs down the true left of the valley from John Tait Hut right down to Coldwater jetty. Because of the rain the previous day it was very wet and muddy but I would imagine that normally it is a very easy track to walk on. 

On Travers Valley Track to Coldwater Hut

Travers Valley Track, climbing around a spur

Chandler Stream bridge just before Coldwater Hut

View of Chandler Stream from the bridge
After 20 minutes of walking you reach Coldwater Hut on the shore of Lake Rotoiti. The hut looks nice: it is 12 bunks with an open fire, plenty of internal space and also looks like it has had recent maintenance done on it.

There was obviously a party of hunters in residence as their gear was scattered around the hut including gun cases.They were not there so they may have been the group of three we saw fishing down by the mouth of the Travers River. 


Coldwater Hut, Lake Rotoiti

Coldwater Hut from the jetty in front of the hut

View of Lake Rotoiti from the Coldwater Hut jetty



Coldwater Hut, open fireplace and bench

Coldwater Hut, the sleeping platform
I noticed this gem as soon as I walked into the hut: classic JanSport pack circa 1970's styles....now that is the definition of old school....It looked like it had just been brought so it must not get a lot of use.


Check out the classic Jansports pack.....

For the next 3 hours the track sidles above the shore of Lake Rotoiti, the track is very nice and we seemed to fly down it. Generally you are about 20 meters above lake level but there are a couple of places where you go right down to the shoreline.

Lake Rotoiti from the Lakeside track

My American tramping companions....on the Lakeside Track, Lake Rotoiti
The snow over night had fallen roughly along the 900 meter ASL level, all of the surrounding mountains had a good dusting along their tops. 

St Arnauld Range: snow along the 900 meter line...
The side track to Whiskey Falls (40 metres) is about 40 minutes down the track from Coldwater Hut, I have already visited them before so didn't this trip but this is what they look like...

Whiskey Falls, Nelson Lakes NP


Crossing a shingle slide on the Lakeside Track near Mt Robert
Two hours after leaving Coldwater Hut you get your first clear view of St Arnaud, it is about 45 minutes to the Mt Robert road from this point.

St Arnaud in the distance from the Lakeside Track

Last flat before the climb to the Mt Robert Road
You climb up to the car park and Mt Robert road through Manuka re growth, it is about 15 minutes to a high point and another 20 odd minutes walking along an old 4 W/D track to get to the road.

Lakeside Track: climbing through the Manuka, Mt Robert

On the final stretch, near the Mt Robert Road

Mosses, ferns, Manuka trees alongside the track....


Lakeside Track: 100 meters from Mt Robert road.....

Mt Robert access road, Nelson Lakes NP
From the road you turn right and walk about 2 km's down hill to the car park at West Bay. It is possible to organise a shuttle to collect you from the track head, you probably need to do this before you start the tramp.

Heading along the Mt Robert Road towards West Bay
The outlet for Lake Rotoiti is also the headwaters of the Buller River, the water is deep but for such a mighty river it is a mediocre starting point....

Head of the Buller River, flowing from Lake Rotoiti

The St Arnaud Range from West Bay, Nelson Lakes NP
My travelling companions were stopping for lunch at West Bay so I bid them adieu and set off for Kerr Bay on my own. Originally I had planned to walk the Peninsula Track but in the end I followed the short cut up and over the spur to the DOC visitors center on Ward Street instead. 

Start of the Peninsula Track at West Bay

On the Peninsula Track, Lake Rotoiti

Climbing up to the Ward Street track head, Lake Rotoiti
After about 20 minutes I made it to the Kerr Bay car park and was pleased to see that my car was still sitting where I left it. The carpark was much busier on the Saturday probably because the weather was much nicer than the previous day. 

Mt Robert from the Kerr Bay car park, Lake Rotoiti

Lake Rotoiti, the Kerr Bay jetty, Mt Robert and Travers Valley

Back at the start of the Lake Rotoiti Circuit....

All in all a really excellent tramp: the tracks are great, the huts are well cared for and it was nice to have some company while I was walking. If I was going to do this tramp again I think I would reverse the order and start from the Mt Robert car park instead.

I will be back Nelson Lakes National Park, see you soon!

Post note: Home via Blenheim and Kaikoura


Snow covered Seaward Kaikouras from my lunch spot


I drove home via Blenheim and Kaikoura both for a change of scenery and so I could stop for some fish and chips in Kaikoura. They were good by the way....!

There is only 60 km's difference between the two routes so both are fine ways to get to Nelson Lakes from Christchurch.The round trip was somewhere in the region of 750kms over two days so what you should do is go to St Arnaud for a week or two to make it more worth while. 

Access: Lakehead and Lakeside Tracks are in the Travers Valley, Nelson Lakes NP. Access is from the Kerr Bay boat ramp around the lake in a clockwise fashion.

Track Times: It is 2-3 hours to Lakehead Hut from St Arnaud. It is another 20 minutes to the ford near the mouth of the Travers River, then 10 minutes to Coldwater Hut. If the river is too high to cross, travel 2 hours to the Travers River swing bridge, then another 2 hours back down the true left of the valley. It is 3 hours from the ford to Mt Robert Road via Coldwater Hut. Another hour to walk from the track end to the DOC Visitors Centre in St Arnaud. Total tramping time is 7-11 hours over two days.

Hut Details: Lakehead Hut (Serviced, 28 bunks, water tank), Coldwater Hut (Standard, 10 bunks, water tank)

Miscellaneous: Some un-bridged side streams, Travers River can be deep and swift: cross only in low flow.