Showing posts with label Hanmer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hanmer. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Walking in Hanmer Forest Park, 30 May 2015

 A walk in the woods Hanmer Spring style...

 Kathryn and I took the kids and one of Georgia's friends up to Hanmer for the Queens Birthday weekend. It was a bit cold so I was the only brave soul who elected to go for a walk over the weekend. As Mt Isobel was covered with snow and the weather was a bit iffy, I went for a 2 hour walk in Hanmer Forest Park instead.

On a track deep inside Hanmer Forest Park

All of the tracks in the local forest start from the car-park by the old Ranger Headquarters. There are tracks on both sides of the road which take from 30 minutes to 4 hours.  The Hanmer Forest Park is awesome, I thoroughly recommend a walk here if you ever find yourself in Hanmer Springs.

Car-park outside the Hanmer Forest ranger station

On the Hanmer Forest Journey Track

The start of the track is the most developed section of track, all of the short and longer tracks start here. They are primarily walking tracks but I have encountered MTB riders on these tracks before.


Hanmer Forest Park Entrance


Hanmer Forest Park track network map


Start of the Forest Amble Track, Hanmer Forest
The forest park is a curious cross section of different timber species. They have been planted in this area as trial plots by NZFS, and latter forest owners. The selection runs the gamut from Aspen to Pine, Redwood, Spruce, Fir, Beech and Cypress.

Nice wide clear track in  Hanmer Forest
There is plenty of clear signage in the forest. It has got much better since Ngai Tahu (the local Maori Iwi) took over ownership of the forest as part of their Treaty of Waitangi Settlement. They seem to have put a bit of money and manpower into maintenance of the track network.

Start of Forest Walk track, Hanmer Forest


There are a number of interpretive panels alongside the tracks, these speak to the various tree species as well as general information about the forest. This is a commercial forest, although I think the part closest to the road has some kind of Historic Place covenant on its use.

Hanmer Forest: One of the interpretive signs on the track

As you travel along you strike a lot of these small bridges over the drainage network in the Forest. I've never seen any water in the ditches but it must happen occasionally.

One of the bridges over a drainage ditch, Hanmer Forest
There are a mixture of walking and MTB tracks in the Forest, sometimes it is hard to tell them apart.


Hanmer Forest: start of the Forest Journey

Me half way round the Forest Journey, Hanmer Forest

Hanmer Forest: Moving along the track

Another bridge for walkers/MTB'ers, Hanmer Forest

Hanmer Forest: Looking East at a track junction
Yes, it was very quiet in the forest, I only passed 3 walkers and 2 MTB'ers the whole time I was there. As I said, it was really cold in Hanmer over that weekend.

 Hanmer Forest: Looking West towards road

Hanmer Forest: Toadstool near the side of the track
I stopped at this nice seat after an hour of walking for a drink and just to take in the surroundings. It was so tranquil listening to the sound of the wind in the trees, and smelling the scent of pine resin.

Nice seat for a scroggin stop, Hanmer Forest

This beast is only 15 years old!

On the track back to the car park


The last part of the track runs alongside the road, on its way back to the Ranger Station and car park. The entire Forest Journey only takes about 1.5 -2 hours but it is very nice walking amongst these trees. Well worth a visit!

Access: From Hanmer Springs head east out of town on Jollies Pass Road, the start of the tracks are 2 km's out of town
Track Times: Forest Journey 1.5-2 hours total
Miscellaneous: Toilets and map board located at the Ranger Station/Park Headquarters at car park

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Mt Isobel: Hanmer Springs: 1 May 2014

Climbing Mt Isobel, Hanmer Springs


Recently my wife and I took the kids to Hanmer Springs for a holiday during the school term break. Hanmer is great it has thermal hot pools and a multitude of tracks and walks for those who enjoy the outdoors. Because it is only 2 hours north of Christchurch it is easily accessible and a great spot for a holiday. 

I took the opportunity to climb the track up Mt Isobel, a 1300 metre peak which looks down over the township.

Mt Isobel: Gearing up for the trip


Mt Isobel: the circuit I followed

On the Mt Isobel Track


I started up the Mt Isobel Track, this is one of the three ways you can access the summit, the others are from the top of Jacks Pass, and a track from the Hydro-Jollies Pass road. I decided to do a circuit, up the track to the summit and then down Clarence Valley Road to the car park, about 10kms in total. 

Mt Isobel Track

Here is the DOC sign at the beginning of the track, it is about 2 hours to the summit from this spot.



Mt Isobel Track

Above and below are views from the car park showing the track and parking area, plenty of space for several vehicles at this point.

Carpark at start of Mt Isobel Track


Mt Isobel Track climbing through broom

The track starts through scrub and then transitions into a mixed Spruce/Pine plantation, these trees here were planted in 1904.

Mt Isobel Track: in the exotic forest

The plantation is very reminiscent of European or Canadian forests, open plenty of light, there are a few board-walks to ease you over swampy areas.

Board-walk on the  Mt Isobel Track

The canopy gradually changes to pour typical beech forest, the track was muddy but in excellent condition.

Mt Isobel Track, climbing slowly


View of Hanmer area from Mt Isobel Track

This is the view from my first rest point, because the car park is already 200+ metres higher than the valley the views are expansive. This is the area around Hanmer Springs township.

Hanmer once again from the Mt Isobel Track


A rest spot on the Mt Isobel Track

There are a series of rest stops on the lower slopes, there are seats for people to rest on about every 200 metres or so, as you can see the undergrowth is quite thick.


Go left to reach Mt Isobel

After a kilometre there is a fork in the track, the main track continues to the right, the track to the left lead to a small viewpoint on a rocky outcrop. This provides a solitary view through the thick bush.

Hill range along SH7 from Mt Isobel Track

A view of Conical Hill from the outlook, Conical Hill is right next to the town and a moderately easy walk of 30 minutes with a great view of the valley. It is one of the must do's in Hanmer.

Conical Hill from the Mt Isobel Track

The four photos below are a panning view of the Hanmer basin from about half way up the track.

Hanmer Plain: view towards Hope Valley

Hanmer Plain: Hanmer Township

Hanmer Plain: view east towards the coast


We had a bit of snow early in the week (as you will see later), it fell to 1000 metres so all of the hills surrounding the town had a frosting of snow on their upper levels.

Snow on surrounding mountains from the Mt Isobel Track

As you ascend the canopy becomes almost alpine in nature, it reminds me of some of the alpine basins in the higher mountains of Arthur's and Lewis Pass.

Climbing the flank of Mt Isobel

Board-walks and single track on Mt Isobel Track


A classic (2014) selfie of Jon from the same location, selfies are the craze of the year!

Jon on the Mt Isobel Track

The lay out and extent of Hanmer Forest is more apparent from high on Mt Isobel.

Hanmer Forest looking towards east

This is the last of the forest on the track, above this point is a classic Alpine herb basin, this extends right to the crest of the ridge. The track to the right takes you back down the hill to the Waterfall track and a 41 metre waterfall.

Mt Isobel - Waterfall Track Junction

Classic alpine vegetation, this would be at 900-1000 metres ASL. The track zig zag's up the slope from this point until it reaches the track junction at the top of the ridge.

Moving into the sub alpine zone on Mt Isobel


Pt 1195 from the Mt Isobel Track

Summit of Mt Isobel from the track

There were still patches of snow this low down even after 2 fine and sunny days.

Mt Isobel: residual snow

Eventually you reach the top of the track; as you can see people will walk 4 km's up hill to put graffiti on something. Idiots! To the left is the track down to Jacks Pass, to the right Mt Isobel.


MT Isobel: on the saddle next to pt 1195

Below are some shots from the top of the track looking south to Hanmer and Kaikoura and North to the Clarence Valley.


Mt Isobel: to south, Hanmer plains



Mt Isobel: to east, the coast

Mt Isobel: to north, Clarence River Valley

" I turned around and headed back down.."

The summit trig station is on the centre of the hill to the centre right below. I walked about a kilometre in this direction and then had to stop and come back. There was about 10-12 cm's of icy snow on top of snow grass and tussock. As it was so deep and I didn't have any crampons I decided it was not safe to continue. I have been to the summit back in the 90's as part of an Army exercise so I didn't feel the need to take chances. It would be about 2 km's from the track junction to the trig, about 30 minutes walking in good conditions.

Looking towards Mt Isobel summit: too much snow!

Here are some views of the Hanmer basin from around the highest point I reached on the track, there is little snow here but down on the track it was quite deep.


You can just see the east coast from Mt Isobel

Waiau River, Amuri and Organ Range from Mt Isobel

Hanmer township from Mt Isobel

Spencer Mountains from Mt Isobel

Mt Percival from Mt Isobel



As you start to descend the Jacks Pass track there is a short but very steep dirt/scree slope, take care here as I saw a chap ahead of me fall and slide down this slope. It was not a pretty sight.
Luckily he was wearing pants so no rock burn.
Rock slide on Clarence side of Mt Isobel

The track follows the crest of this ridge right down to the road, watch out in misty/windy conditions as there are several points where there are bluffs/ rock faces you could stumble over.

Following ridge down to Clarence Valley Road

Mt Isobel: Pt 1195, from closer to Clarence Valley Rd

Mt Isobel: Lots of snow on the St James Range

Here are a couple of shots of Spaniard bushes (aka: bayonet grass, speargrass, bastard bush etc. it has many names, none of them complimentary), you only get them in tussock sub Alpine areas, they are bloody sharp so you don't want to fall onto one.
I walked into one near Lewis Pass once, it actually stabbed me in the ankle through my leather boot!

The barbs atop a Speargrass plant

Southern Speargrass

Two views from different points as I descended the track, the scree slope is in the centre-left in the first of the photos.
Mt Isobel: Pt 1195 from my lunch spot


Mt Isobel, about a kilometre from the road

I stopped near the point above and walked off the track to have some lunch, it was a great sunny place for a rest. Here is my lunch, crackers/tuna/raisins and water.....yum!

I usually have tuna or pate with crackers for my lunch, I've found some small cans of French pate that weigh less than 80gms, ideal for tramping.These are nice tune slices in olive oil....bloody marvellous vittels!

Tuna and crackers for tramping lunch

Great view from my lunch stop!

Mt Isobel with view of St James Range at lunch

The track continues down the ridge line for another 500 metres and then turns to the left towards the road in the centre of the photo. This road continues right through to St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes area, the middle part is closed from May-September as they get some prodigious falls of snow in these back valleys over winter.

The Hanmer-Clarence Valley Road

Here is the DOC sign at the Jacks Pass end of the track, this would be the closest access point to Mt Isobel but it would be a bit of a slog up the ridge line to the high point. Short and steep or long and steady, the choice is yours really.

Mt Isobel-Clarence Valley Rd track end

View back up the track from the road/track end.

View up the spur to Mt Isobel

There is a massive amount of parking space next to the track, a lot of people come up to this point and run/mountain bike down to the town. It is a straight road slog from this point onwards.

Car park at the Clarence Valley-Mt Isobel track end

The road descends from this point right down to Hanmer township itself, it would be 4-5 km's from this point to where I parked my car. The road is only closed at the bottom if the conditions are extremely bad up near Jacks Pass. Otherwise you are able to access this road through out the year.

Walking down the Clarence Valley Rd to my car

This was a very pleasant wee tramp, the hardest bit is the slog up to the ridge top track, it is easy after that point. I have now walked all three access tracks to Mt Isobel, but would be keen to try a traverse from the Hydro-Jollies Pass road to Jacks Pass the next time I am in Hanmer.

This trip took me about 5 hours total, by comparison they run a mountain running challenge along the same track I followed, the best time in 2013: 47 minutes!