Showing posts with label Lake Daniells Track. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lake Daniells Track. Show all posts

Monday, 1 December 2014

Lake Daniells Track: 28-29th November 2014

A wet overnight trip to Lake Daniells

I went for a very wet trip into Lake Daniels on Friday, my original plan to go up to Arthur's Pass being scuppered by the rain. The Manson-Nichols Hut at Lake Daniell is a memorial hut built by the Canterbury Tramping Club to commemorate three trampers who were killed in an older hut near here in 1974. The hut is now 40 years old but still in very good condition.

A wet and windy Lake Daniells

Conditions were fairly atrocious, it was raining both of those times when you just hunker down in your jacket and walk through it. The hut was less than half full: there were 7 of us;  myself, a party of three from Wellington and three students from the University of Canterbury. It was a great group dynamic- classic kiwi tramping.

A note on the name of the lake: Or say my name say my name!

At points in this report you will see me use different versions of the Lake's name. This is deliberate: it is officially Lake Daniell but is also known as Lake Daniels, Lake Daniel and Lake Daniells. 

LINZ map: Lake Daniell it is......

From Marble Point to Lake Daniell/Daniels

It was raining moderately hard as I set out, the advantage of walking this track in the rain is the protection provided by the canopy of trees. The track is also built to a superior standard so it is reasonably safe to tramp on it when the weather is bad. 

Wet at the start of the Lake Daniells Track

Lake Daniell area: from Marble Point to Lake Daniell

Swollen Alfred river near the sluice box
Here is a video of the flow of water going through the sluice box, not as high as my last trip here but still enough to dead you if you fell into it...

Video of the river from the bridge

Starting out on far side of Sluice box
As you can see the condition of the track even in bad weather is excellent, there are the odd boggy spots but for the most part it is good. I noted a party of 20 in the Manson-Nichols hut book who pushed 5 prams up this track: that is probably taking the piss to a certain degree but you get the general idea.
N.B: Don't try pushing a pram up this track, it is not that good!
Lake Daniells: Excellent track
The ford to access Pell Stream Track was impassible, this was the intended location for the group from Wellington. Under normal conditions it is possible to cross with care at the spot in the photo below. There is an old 4 W/D track running along the far bank, you follow this upriver. Alternately there is a track running down to the Pell Stream/Alfred River confluence near the Pell Stream lookout.

Normal crossing point for Pell Stream route

Board walks along the Lake Daniells track
The photo below gives you an idea of the weather conditions, it was wet and windy with the occasional fall of hail, hardly noticeable under the trees though.

Brooding clouds over the Spencer Mountains
Here is the famous tree swing about 35 minutes up the track, I have seen lots of photos of children swinging from this tree branch.

Famous tree swing on Lake Daniels Track
The board walks along the track have been done with a lot of care, they are well maintained and make the tramping much easier. This is not Great Walk style but certainly better that your usual back country track.

Great board walk on Lake Daniells Track
All of the clearings were covered with new flowers, it was really appealing to see a big open space like this with yellow flowers everywhere. Late Spring is a great time of the year to experience these.
Lake Daniels Track: Fields of Alpine flowers
A view up Alfred Stream, this is another potential point to access the track to Pell Stream.

View upstream Alfred River from Lake Daniells Track

Lake Daniels Track: Dense under growth
 I remember a young child went missing up here back in the late 90's, I always wondered how that could happen on this busy, good quality track, but there are areas of very dense bush in the area. I can see how you could lose the track and never be found. I stepped about 10 steps off the track to attend to a "call of nature" and looking around you couldn't even tell there was a track there at all.

Fully grown red beech trees on Lake Daniells Track

Climbing towards Pell Stream lookout

View of Alfred river from Pell Stream lookout, Lake Daniels Track
The Pell stream lookout is the half way point on the track, you descend slightly and then the track sidles across an old debris field from the ancient slip that dammed this valley. The gradient of the track is very gentle all the way to the hut, although it gets boggy the closer to the lake.

Waterfall just past Pell Stream confluence

Lake Daniell: Side stream just before climb over debris field

Lake Daniells Track: View upstream of same creek

New bridge over Fraser Stream, largest side stream
The track sidles along the side of the slip for a distance, then climbs over the lip to the large flat plateau on top. The view below is looking downhill from the track towards the distant river.

Classic goblin forest near Lake Daniell

Track climbing slip debris field at Lake Daniell
Sections of the track were a bit wet and boggy, it is a massive change from the 90's though, as this track used to be notorious for the mud you had to traverse in the wet. Generally the track is in good conditions, certainly better than some others in the same area. DOC had only recently finished clearing the dead fall from the storms in March.

Lake Daniells Track: Very wet....

...and boggy conditions near Lake Daniel

Frazer Stream from the Lake Daniell Track
The last 30 minutes of the track has extensive board walks, to protect the delicate swamp and bogs around the lake outlet. That they make the walking more pleasant is a secondary consideration.
Board walk 30 mins from Manson-Nichols Hut

Jon en trail to Lake Daniell!
Frazer Stream is the outlet for the lake, given the size of the lake itself it is a very small stream. In fine dry weather it could make for a very nice camping spot.
Frazer Stream, Lake Daniells outlet

First view of Lake Daniell
Always the best view of the day: when a back country hut comes into view, especially when it is so wet. I always let out a casual "hussar" when I first spot a hut I will be staying in for a night.
Manson-Nichols Hut (1976)

View Lake Daniell from the hut

Here is the blurb about the hut from the DOC website:

This hut has two 12 person bunk rooms and a central kitchen/cooking area with inside sinks and water.  There is an axe for chopping up fallen/dead trees for firewood and a winter supply of coal for the multifuel fire.  Outside there are two picnic tables and an outdoor sink for campers.
Hut location
Grid reference: Topo50 map sheet BT23, E1541459, N5316142
Hut history
The Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut was constructed by volunteers in memory of three young trampers who lost their lives in this area in 1974.  Brian and Sharon Manson and Phillip Nicholls were killed by a landslide while they sheltered from appalling weather in the old Lake Daniell Fishing Club Hut.
This old hut was located on the opposite side of the lake but it was decided that the current site would be most suitable for the new hut.  The new hut that stands today was constructed by members of the Christchurch Tramping Club and The Lake Daniels Fishing Club and was completed in 1976.

The Manson-Nichols hut is 38 years old now and is still in very good condition.
Lake Daniell: The classic view from the end of the wharf
Here are a variety of photos of the lake and surrounding area.

Lake Daniell: view north towards lake end

Eastern side of Lake Daniell
Lake Daniell is very shallow at this end, the water would be no more than a metre deep for a long distance out from the shore. One of the university students staying in the hut said that you can wade out for about 200 metres and the water is still the same depth. We saw a lot of trout rising out in the lake as well as around the dock. Bring a line with you for a fish fry!

Shallow water at Southern end of Lake Daniell
Here is a classic shot, the view of the lake looking along the dock, how many thousand trampers have taken this same shot since 1976? Here we can see the lake in one of the few clear periods I experienced over the two days.
Lake Daniell: Another classic photo from the dock
Two shots of the grass area in front of the hut, both before and after a rain squall.

Flat area to front of Manson Nichols Hut

Manson Nichols Hut: Same area after rain
About an hour after I arrived there was a really good rain squall, the three trampers from the University arrived mid squall looking wet and sorry for themselves. I was just happy to be dry and warm in the hut, we had the fire going for an hour by then so it was toasty inside.
Lake Daniell: Rain storm about an hour after my arrival
The grass area in front of the hut is intended for tents, although the amount of surface water would seem to preclude this. If you were camping, a spot in the adjacent forest would seem to be the right call.
Lake Daniells: Growing swamp in front of hut

Rain fall from the veranda at Manson Nichols Hut

Lake Daniels: Alpine flowers growing near lake shore

The Wellington trampers were older Tararua Tramping Club stalwarts and regaled us with tales of tramping in the North Island and elsewhere. By contrast the young chaps were on their first overnight tramping trip, and I'm somewhere in the middle. We had a good discussion about tramping, outdoor gear, the work of Permolat and the remote hut group.
Blazing fire, plenty of grub, hot brew in hand, good company.... it was a classic night in a DOC hut.

Lake Daniell: Misty lake scene

Lake Daniels in rain.....

...and lake Daniell in the clear dusk air!
It rained on and off overnight but we were all comfortable inside the warm dry hut. 

Heading back to Marble Point

I was first up the next morning as I like to get up and get going early, the lake was covered with mist... in between the heavy falls of rain and hail! After a leisurely breakfast listening to the rain, I packed up and headed back out to the Marble Hill car park

Lake Daniels: The dock with early morning mist

There is a display on the wall, explaining the history of the hut as well as natural features of the surrounding area. The hut was built in 1976 as a memorial to three trampers who died when the old hut was hit by a massive landslide at Easter 1973. The Christchurch Tramping Club raised the money for the new hut and a work party from same built the hut over a couple of weekends.  For a 40 year old building in these extreme conditions it is in excellent condition.

DOC info board about Manson Nichols Hut
Here is a shot of the interior of the living area of the hut, there are two 12 person bunk-rooms off to both sides of this area. Plenty of bunk space but the hut would be cramped with its full 24 person capacity.

Manson Nichols Hut interior from YukonRambles blog

It is a very popular hut, I counted 47 visitors in the hut book during the month of November alone. By comparison, Lake Christabel hut had just 10 visitors in the 2 month's prior to my visit earlier this year.
Manson Nichols Hut: communal living area
I decided to store my camera in my pack as it was raining cats and dogs on the Saturday.

Lake Daniell Track: The Sluice Box still full of water
This was a good trip, regardless of the rain, helped enormously by the fine company I enjoyed at the hut. Personally, that's what I like, walking the track by myself, but having companions to interact with at the hut.

The small trampers shelter at Marble Point car park
I recommend you head up to the lake sometime for a visit, it is quite scenic and it is a great hut for an overnight stay. Take a tent just in case it is busy on the day you visit.

Access: Take SH7, the Lewis Pass Highway, turn off at Marble Point camp site 5 km's west of Maruia Springs, track starts next to car park shelter
Track Times: 3 hours to Lake Daniels Hut
Hut Details: Manson-Nichols Memorial Hut: standard, 24 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets
Miscellaneous: All weather track to a good standard, can be busy in Summer/holidays