Showing posts with label Binser saddle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Binser saddle. Show all posts

Monday, 28 January 2013

Andrews Valley-Casey Hut -Binser Saddle loop: 16-18 November 2012

The Andrews Valley-Binser Saddle Loop

In mid November I tramped the classic Andrews Valley-Binser Saddle route.  The track is rated as easy-moderate, which I think relates to the distance (36 km's total) rather than the difficulty of the track.  Unfortunately the weather was atrocious: rain, wind (80+ kph overnight)  and cloud  made the conditions less than ideal.

 Lovely New Zealand late spring weather!  

The theme for the trip was "WET"!

Day One: Andrews Shelter to Casey Hut

The track from Andrews Shelter to Casey Hut is mostly in the bush, so this protected me from most of the rain. The weather improved day by day, it was clear and sunny weather for the last day.

Topo50: Andrews Valley-Poulter valley area

Car parking area near Andrews Shelter

Start of the Andrews valley track
DOC timings for this track are out a bit, recommended time is 6 hours, I took 7 hours to get to the  hut, probably because the weather packed in and made travel more difficult.

Interior of Andrews Shelter

Andrews Shelter, at the start of the track

The car was left at Andrews Shelter, it is very basic, some bench seats, no rain water or fire place but it does have a toilet. You could sleep in the shelter if required but it would be cold and uncomfortable.

The track starts with a steep climb onto a spur, it then sidles it's way to Hallelujah Flats at around the 800 metre mark for the next 2 hours.

Manuka scrub lining sides of Andrews track

Andrews Valley Track, this is about 1.5 hours in

It would be difficult to get lost following this track, but incredibly, people have come to grief in this valley before. Personally, I found the going fine, the track sidles in a band about a hundred metres up and down for most of the way, not too strenuous.

If you did a right turn and walked off the track I can see how you could get lost, as it is quite thick but other wise....?

One of the side streams bisecting Andrews Valley Track

Mature red beech trees, Andrews Valley

Hallelujah Flats, Andrews Valley
Eventually made it to Hallelujah flat, aptly named I thought ( i certainly said "Hallelujah" when I saw them!!!!). These flats extend for about 2-3 km's with the track following close to Andrews Stream for most of the way. The track is easy to follow, it obviously sees a lot of use.

Hallelujah Flat is an excellent place to camp, there is a lot of flat land, the water is clean (no domestic animal access) and there is a bit of firewood available.

View back down Andrews Valley

The flats took about an hour to traverse, then a stop for a soggy lunch huddled under a patch of trees! This is the point that the rain started really coming down so I packed my camera away.

Casey Saddle, the track sidles spur to right, photo from

 Past Casey Saddle you need to ford Surprise and Trinity streams which will be impassible in any kind of rain. As it was they were right on the edge of safety for me crossing by myself, if I had come through an hour or so later I would not have been able to cross.

The last 2 hours are a climb up and over a spur, once over the spur it was a long slow descent in the rain down to the river flat the hut is located on.

Rest spot at unnamed stream near Pt 869, Casey Stream Track

Finally made it to Casey hut about 7 pm, only 2 other occupants so plenty of room in this 10 bunk hut.

Note: Casey Hut burnt to the ground in late 2015. Current DOC plans do not include replacing the hut, instead this will be a back country camp site, possibly with a new cooking shelter. Various groups are trying to encourage DOC to build a new hut here even if it is much smaller than the original. Currently you will find a toilet and the old woodshed on site, water is from the nearby stream. 

Burnt out Casey Hut, 2016  from the TVNZ website

The closest hut is Trust Poulter about 1.5 hours further up valley, inaccessible if there has been any rain as there are three streams to cross en route. 

Take a tent with you if you are considering walking this circuit.

The interior shots below are from the Tramping New Zealand website.

Interior of Casey Hut showing bench area

Bunk room in old Casey Hut, Arthurs Pass NP

The awesome firebox in Casey Hut, Arthurs Pass NP

Day Two: Casey Hut to Pete's Stream

I stayed in the hut for the morning drinking tea as the weather was terrible, it was due to clear in the late afternoon. Casey Hut is magnificent, it is one of the "Lockwood" style huts popular with the NZFS in the early 1980's, others include Hamilton Hut, Hope Kiwi, Hawdon Mark 1, Edwards and Goat Pass.

These are far and away my favourite DOC huts. I love all that wood!

Casey Hut, Poulter valley morning of day two
I started out at 2 pm, there were light showers on and off as progress was made down valley. It was quite a hike, about 10km's and took about 3-4 hours. Because of the rain I took no photos.

The long slog down the Poulter Valley, Arthurs Pass NP

There are two significant streams to cross: Mt Brown and Pete Stream's. I had no problems crossing them but they could be a problem if it was raining hard, bear this in mind when planning a trip up the Poulter Valley. 

Pete Stream, Poulter Valley from my camp site, morning day three

 A camp was selected on the river terraces on the far side of Pete Stream, around 6.30 pm. Pete Stream is the last reliable water point between here and Andrews Shelter, so fill up before you start the climb. There are a couple of scratch spots in the matagouri where you can pitch your tent, well protected from the wind. I stopped here as it was at least another 3-4 hours to get back to the car and
I didn't fancy walking on an unfamiliar track in the dark.

After a couple of brews and some food I was feeling much better. I heard some light rain and snow falling during the night but nothing too major...

Day three: Pete Stream to Andrews Shelter

Going up and over Binser Saddle, Arthurs Pass NP on day three. Red cross is my campsite.

I was surprised to wake on the last day and see snow on the trees towards Binser Saddle, but apart from the snow coating the trees it was a nice clear day. Set out to cross Binser
Saddle around 7 am, it was 2 hours to the top and 1.5 hour down the other side. I was surprised by how far it was, the track sidles up and down through the forest for quite a way but only 600m height gain over 6-7 km.

Binser Saddle Track

The track to the top is not steep, just long, the track condition on this side of the saddle is good.

Jon resting half way to Binser Saddle

Binser saddle track, looking back downhill

You are mostly travelling through areas of regenerating beech, kanuka and manuka, it is either storm or fire damaged.

Nearing the top of Binser Saddle
Near the summit there were patches of old growth and also a small amount of snow on the ground. There is a small seasonal stream about 50 meters from the saddle, this is the only water supply on the whole track.

Snow on trees, Binser Saddle Track

Near the saddle, snow on trees
There is a beautiful clearing at the top of the saddle which would be an ideal place to camp. It had about 5 cm's of snow on it as I passed, but you could see the potential there.

Track just before Binser Saddle, the stream is near here

View from the high point, down towards Mt White road

Half way down the other side of the saddle was an excellent view of the Mt White bridge area, as you can see the weather was great on the last day. 

The condition of the track from this point down to the flats is very poor. It is steep & rutted with a lot of wind fall, it really needs some TLC from DOC.

Binser Saddle from Mt White road

After another hour I made it to flat ground. There was the matter of a 4 km walk back to the car on the Mt White station road, I found this to be the most difficult part of the trip because I was quite tired by this point. Next time, I would be tempted to park my car at the base of Binser Saddle and then walk back to the Andrew Shelter start point, to save this walk at the end.

Binser Saddle, doesn't look so bad....nek minit!

Binser Saddle is the V notch in the centre of the above photo, you sidle through the forest and then work your way down the ridge running left to right.

Overall a good trip, enjoyable even with the rain. I made a rookie mistake and started out with a three day tramp, really I should have worked my way up to a three day trip because I was seriously unfit. I think next time I would start at the Binser end of the track and walk out through Andrews Valley.

Access: From off SH 73 drive along Mt White Road to Andrews Valley entrance near Andrews Shelter, other exit is at base of Binser Saddle 4 kms along Mt White Station Road
Track Times: 6-7 hours to Casey Campsite, 5 hours to Pete's Stream, 4-5 hours to Andrews Shelter via Binser Saddle
Hut Details: Andrews Shelter, no bunks, no heating, toilet: DOC campsite on old Casey Hut location, toilet and wood shed, water from nearby stream: Scratch campsite on the river terrace overlooking Pete's Stream
Miscellaneous: All streams on this circuit are un-bridged and may be impossible to cross in a storm, long periods traversing flats which are prone to windy conditions.