Showing posts with label tramping in New Zealand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tramping in New Zealand. Show all posts

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Tramping Literature: A bunk for the night: A guide to New Zealands best backcountry huts

More good tramping reading!

Some people are into cook books, some like books on  photography, sports or books on gardening. I like outdoor books...I don't care what the subject is so long as it features the outdoors. I currently have 60+ books on tramping, climbing, hunting, outdoor cookery, trail skills, the Te Araroa Trail etc. etc. 

I recently brought myself a new book: A Bunk for the Night: A Guide to New Zealand's Best Backcountry Huts. In a way this is a companion piece for an earlier work by the same authors, Shelter from the Storm also about our back country hut network.

A bunk for the night, new tramping literature

A Bunk for the Night is a photographic essay on the authors favourite huts, it explains what makes them special and includes historical information and trail notes. It is excellent and features many of those classic huts your average Kiwi tramper visits. There are huts here from the top of the North Island right down to Stewart Island in the deep south.

Pinnacles Hut is in the book... is John Tait Hut...

...and also Nina Hut.

If you know someone who tramps, this would be an excellent birthday or Christmas gift. Or buy it as a memento of your visit to our fair isles. I brought mine from Paper Plus a local book store chain, it cost me $39.50 NZD which I think is a reasonable price. I have seen copies in most of the larger book stores, it is also available direct from the publishers

The photos and general production values are great and the three authors are informative. They are all well known for their involvement in Kiwi tramping circles.

 Highly recommended!

Friday, 23 September 2016

A dip into my hut bagging bucket list

A hut bagging bucket list

Bucket lists seem to be all the rage, people have lists of the places they want to visit, beers they want to sup, concerts they would like to see. Whatever your hobby there is sure to be a aspirational bucket list and the outdoors is no exception.

Personally, I have a bucket list of huts I would like to visit, or "bag" as we say in New Zealand.

What is hut bagging?

 Minchin Bivouac, Arthur's Pass NP (2 bunks)
  We are very lucky in New Zealand to have a collection of public huts available for general use. At last count there were over 970 huts ranging from tiny  2 person "dog box" (they look like a doghouse) bivouacs right up to Great Walk monster huts which sleep 50-100 people.

Magdalen Hut, Mt Sumner FP (6 Bunks)...most consecutive nights stayed at a hut (3 nights...)

They have a varied background: DOC huts, ex New Zealand Forestry Service huts, miner's huts, research stations, climbing/skiing/tramping club shelters or ex farm accommodation.

Coldwater Hut, Nelson Lakes NP (12 bunks)

These are almost universally managed by the Department of Conservation or DOC as we call it.

Luxmore Lodge on the Kepler Track (54 bunks)

Because of this profusion of huts we have a peculiar outdoor hobby in New Zealand of visiting or "bagging" as many of them as possible. My current "bag" is only 122 huts visited, there are many trampers who have visited over 400 huts and there several people close to reaching all 970+ huts.

  A selection from my personal hut bagging bucket list

Here is a list of 12 interesting huts I would like to visit....and bag!

NB: All photos are from the DOC website unless free commons or linked to the source...

Field Hut

 Ah, good old Field Hut.

Field is one of the first purpose built tramping huts in New Zealand and the oldest original hut in the Tararua Ranges. Field Hut was built by the the Tararua Tamping Club (TTC) in 1924 to encourage more people to visit the mountain range where tramping began in this country.

It may be old but it is still serviceable, Field Hut, Tararua Range

Field Hut is an integral part of the classic Southern Crossing of the Tararua Range from Otaki to the Wairarapa Plains. Although a lot of the outside of the hut has been replaced over time it still resides in its original location. 

A true classic!

 (I am embarrassed to say that in more than 20 years of tramping I have never ventured into the Tararua Ranges. Shameful my defence I have never lived in Wellington)

A note on tramping in the Tararua Range:

 This range of mountains is clearly visible from parts of Wellington, our capital and third largest city.

November 2014, southerly front slams Wellington and the distant Tararua Ranges

 Don't let that fool you, this range can be dangerous.  It is mountainous, rugged and because it sits beside Cook Strait powerful storm fronts can blow in at any time of the year. The Tararua's have more memorial huts named after trampers who died tramping locally than any other place in New Zealand.
Bear this in mind and give it the respect it deserves! 

Ivory Lake Hut

 Ivory Lake Hut is Mecca for hut baggers, it is one of the most difficult huts to bag in New Zealand. If you have reached it you have already been tramping for 4 solid days up Westland's Waitaha Valley, arguably one of the most rugged locations in the country.

Ivory Lake Hut, from

The hut is an old glacial research station, the glacier is almost gone but there is a beautiful lake remaining.  Probably less than 300 people have ever visited the hut in its 50 year history.

 This is absolutely NOT a hut for a solo tramper to visit: you need tramping companions, superb fitness, great gear and a LOT of alpine/backcountry experience. But I can dream......

Welcome Flat Hut

 Beautiful Westland valley location, fantastic two story hut, 100 meters from some of the best natural hot springs in New Zealand....whats not to like?

Welcome Flat Hut, Westland Tai Poutini NP

It takes 5 hours to reach the hut from the car park off State Highway 6, and requires you to cross a number of un bridged side stream enroute.

The Welcome Flat Hot Pools

If you are completing the alpine crossing of the Southern Alps via Copland Pass this is your final nights accommodation. 

 NB: The other boot drops.....this hut is on the international tourist circuit, just like the Great Walks, Lake Angelus Hut and the Tongariro Crossing...CROWDS and CROWDS and god-damn CROWDS of people is the result! It is now on the DOC hut booking system and in the summer this IS absolutely a hut you will get chucked out of if you don't have a booking.

Be warned!

Blue Lake Hut

 Blue Lake Hut is just off the classic Travers-Sabine Circuit in Nelson Lakes NP, it is one of the huts you must pass on the way to completing the Te Araroa Trail route over Waiau Pass. 

Blue Lake Hut, Nelson Lake NP
The hut is lovely and well located but what you are here for is to see the Blue Lake. Blue Lake has the clearest water in the world, it was measured in 2014 and has underwater visibility of over 80 meters meaning it is clearer than distilled water.

The world famous Blue Lake, Nelson Lakes NP

 I have been over Waiau Pass before but I have never visited the hut/lake as we hurried past on the way to points west. I'm planning to walk this section of Te Araroa in the summer of 2017-18.

  Colenso Hut

  Colenso Hut is in the North Island, it sits on the strenuous Ruahine Corner to Rangitane Road tramp in Ruahine Forest Park. Most visitors will fly in by helicopter and then spend the next 4-5 days following the route out to civilisation. The track is mostly high ridge travel inter spaced with river bed walking making fine weather an imperative.

Colenso Hut, Ruahine FP

  I have tramped in the North Island before but never in the Ruahine Range.

Fenella Hut

  Fenella Hut is in the beautiful Cobb Valley, Kahurangi National Park in the north-west corner of the South Island. The hut is named after Fenella Druce who was one of 4 people killed when the Three Johns Hut in Mt Cook was blown off its ridge in a massive storm in 1977. Her family and friends provided most of the funds for this hut.

Fenella Hut, Cobb Valley, Kahurangi NP

  The hut is not particularly difficult to reach it is just a long way from Christchurch at the end of a torturous gravel road from Upper Takaka. I will eventually visit the Cobb Valley area as there are several huts/routes/tracks/lakes in the area I would like to visit. Its going to be a big mission...

   Roaring Stag Hut

Look at that gorgeous hunk of a has it all. Nice sunny location, right next to a river (but far enough away so that it won't flood), relatively easy access, lots of trees around it....perfection in a hut thy name is Roaring Stag.

Roaring Stag Hut II, Tararua FP

The hut is in the less visited North Eastern part of Tararua Forest Park, entailing access from the Wairarapa Plains.

 Park-Morpeth Hut

  Park-Morpeth Hut is owned by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club (CMC) and is another memorial hut. This hut was built in 1931 in memory of James Park and John Morpeth who lost their lives, drowned in a nearby stream when attempting a difficult river crossing during a storm.

The classic "New Zealand Death" in action...

Climbing via to Harman Pass via the Taipoiti River

Materials to build this hut were carried in by pack horse from Mt Algidus Station by the CMC who then built the hut over several weekends.
 DOC hut passes cannot be used at this hut, instead:

Hut fees can be paid by direct credit to the CMC account 03 1592 0103242 00, putting your name and the hut name in the payment details.  Alternatively send a cheque to the Club Treasurer, PO Box 2415, Christchurch with a note of your name and the hut you stayed in. (from the CMC website)

Park-Morpeth Hut Wilbourforce River Valley

  A visit to Park Morpeth is part of the classic Three Passes Tramp from Arthurs Pass NP to the West Coast via Harman/Whitehorn/Browning Pass. This is not a route for amateurs as it requires crossing three Alpine passes as well as over 100 river crossings!

Mt Brown Hut

This started as an old hut relocated from the Lower Arahura Valley, but as it required a lot of new material and wind strengthening it is basically a new hut. Construction was carried out by the Mt Brown Community Project Team and involved significant unpaid volunteer work. Many of the materials were given as donations from businesses in the Hokitika area. It was one of the first joint public/private outdoor projects to be completed and showed that this model could be made to work in New Zealand.

Mt Brown Hut, Lake Kaniere, West Coast

It is a bit of steep hike to get to the hut site but the views are supposed to be spectacular from there.

Larrikin Creek Hut (Thousand Acres Plateau)

  Larrikin Creek Hut sits on the 1000 Acres Plateau just to the north of Murchison on the West Coast of the South Island. Both the 1000 and the 100 acre plateau are ancient pene-plains thrust up through geologic action. Stunning tussock grasslands, limestone caves, sharp limestone peaks are all features of the area.

Larrikin Creek Hut, Kahurangi NP

  A good itinerary for a visit to the area is:
  • Day 1: Walk into Lake Matiri Hut (half day).
  • Day 2: Climb onto the plateau, pass Poor Pete's Hut, and continue on to Larrikin Creek Hut.
  • Day 3: Visit the Needle ( a local peak) and Hundred Acres Plateau, and walk back to Poor Pete's Hut, camp in vacinity of the hut
  • Day 4: Descend off the plateau down to Lake Matiri Hut and out.
This trip is very firmly on my to do list and while not easy can be achieved by a solo tramper. 

The view from The Needle of the Haystack and 1000 Acre Plateau

Soper Shelter Tent camp

  The majority of our back country huts were built to facilitate deer culling in the 1960-70's. Most were of solid construction, wood or metal but a small number were temporary tent-huts made of canvas. Using canvas meant a cullers hut could be raised cheaply and quickly by two men over a couple of days and often in locations where a solid hut was impractical.

Soper Shelter in Kahurangi National Park is a new built example (2015) of this iconic design.

Soper Tent shelter

The framing is made from local timber while the walls and roof have an inner and outer canvas skin.
This is one of only two ( the other is Cobb Tent Camp in the Cobb Valley) left in the country, most of the others have just rotted away. The hut was built jointly by Golden Bay Alpine and Tramping Club and DOC staff over five days in 2015.

If you are interested there is a nice article about the build in the July 2016 FMC Bulletin if you can find a copy. There is an on-line report about the build on the FMC website

  Martins Bay Hut 

 As with many of the other huts on this list, the hut itself is not the focus, it is the location that matters. If you are staying the night in Martins Bay Hut you have just finished or are about to start the Hollyford Track. 

The Hollyford Track should be on the bucket list of all serious New Zealand trampers. This Fiordland track is a lot more rugged than the Great Walks in the same area. Because it is at sea level it can be walked for most of the year, not just in the busy summer season.

Martins Bay Hut
 The hut sits on the mouth of Lake McKerrow with views out to the wild Tasman Sea. It is at least a 4 day journey from here to civilisation (if you want to call it that) at the Lower Hollyford road end.

Interior of Martins Bay hut
Obviously this list is far from exhaustive, but it gives you a taste of the kind of huts I have on my bucket list!

My favourite DOC hut, Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula (10 bunks), 9 visits so far...

If you are interested in hut bagging you should check out the Hut Bagger NZ site, register and bag some huts. 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Purau Saddle to Pt. 913 via Monument Track: April 25 2016

Walking the Monument Track...more tramping fun on Banks Peninsula

I thought I would get out for a tramp over the ANZAC weekend, so after a bit of thought decided to walk up Monument Track. This track on the far side of Lyttleton Harbour follows a paper road from Purau Saddle to the summit of Mt Herbert. I have previously walked the track but it is a nice walk so warranted another visit

Lyttleton Harbour from the Pt 913 repeater Station

When I was thinking about trip ideas I realised that I have been to the top of Mt Herbert six times but had never climbed Pt. 913 just east of it. Pt. 913 is only 6 meters lower than Mt Herbert making it the second highest point on Banks Peninsula....that became my destination for the day.

 At the start of the track you pass the historic Monument Hut (1957) it is a couple of hundred meters to the South West of Purau Saddle.

Entrance to historic Monument Hut (1957)
Please note that the course of the Summit Walkway has been altered since the topo map below was published. The Summit Walkway now runs to the SW of point 913 (marked in red), the old route joining with Monument Track is now a secondary feeder track and not the main route.

It is shorter but much steeper following this course.

Map:  Monument Track, Purau Saddle to Pt. 913/Mt Herbert

Monument Track: Purau Saddle to Mt Herbert

The track starts over a stile next to the parking area on Purau Saddle, it is not marked (there are no DOC information panels) so you just have to trust that there is a track. It's marked with DOC style poles about every 20 meters for its entire length so you are not going to get lost...

The start of the Monument Track on Purau Saddle

The Purau Saddle car park, Monument Track
The track heads up over a small slope before joining the main track near Monument Hut. Both the track and the hut are named after the rock feature in the photo below, the Monument or Te Pōhue.
I have been forwarded some information (see comments below) about the name/meaning of the Monument to the local Iwi. Thanks Janey!

Monument Track: the track marker poles heading South West

The Monument, the track sidles this side of the peak
The trail follows old farming tracks for much of its length, this would make it easy to follow, even if it didn't have a blindingly obvious DOC track pole every 20 meters!

 NB: The track may be easy to follow but it is STEEP, at least for the first hour or so...

Monument Track: starting the step climb to the Summit Walkway
There are some awesome views almost right away as Purau Saddle sits at 450 metres ASL so you have good views of Lyttleton, the Port Hills and Pegasus Bay for most of the trip. 

Looking back towards the Purau Saddle from the Monument Track

Monument Track: a multitude of farm tracks up here...
About halfway to the ridge top you strike a series of switchbacks in the track, above these the track levels out considerably making for much easier & quicker travel. 

Starting up the switchback on Monument Track

Purau Bay and Lyttleton from near the Monument, Banks Peninsula

Purau and the Port Hills from Monument Track

Topping the switchback section on the Monument Track
The next section (about a kilometre) is a fairly gentle stroll ascending and descending a series of small hills and ridges.

Pt. 913 to left and Mt Herbert to right...

Pt. 806 is to your left as you climb this section of the track.

View of Pt. 913 from the Monument Track under Pt 806

View back along Monument Track

Pt 913 the destination for today, Monument Track, Banks Peninsula
On the saddle between pt. 806 and 913 you can see the old route of the Summit Walkway heading south along a fence.  This is now a connector track as the new route climbs the SW side of pt. 913. The walkway passes close to the summit of 913 and then descends & crosses the saddle between pt 913 and the SE side of Mt Herbert.

I have noted this on the topographic map at the begining of this post...
The side track to the Summit Walkway....
The last part of Monument Track is a short uphill section sidling around to another saddle between pt. 913 and Mt Herbert. You could just walk straight up the side of 913 but I wanted to see where the track went so I stayed on it.

Monument Track heading off to right, note the bluffs on Pt. 913

Jon at the saddle between Mt Herbert and Pt. 913
The track eventually arrives at the saddle between Pt. 913 and Mt Herbert, you turn left and follow Te Ara Pataka , AKA the Summit Walkway for a couple of hundred meters to the summit of Pt. 913. 

Mt Herbert to West from the saddle

Birdlings Flat from near Pt. 913
You can just make out Mt Herbert Shelter in the middle of the photo below, it is the green roof just above the bush-line, with Mt Bradley directly behind it. 

Mt Herbert shelter and Mt Bradley in the distance
As I said the last stretch of the climb is following the Summit Walkway for a couple of hundred meters. When I came through here in early April, it was so cloudy that I didn't even see that this was a high point let alone spot the repeater station. The summit is about 10 meters uphill from the walkway at its closest point.....

It was QUITE windy/foggy/wet/ bloody miserable on the day!

Climbing the Summit Walkway to the repeater station on Pt. 913

Radio repeater station on Pt. 913

View to South towards Birdlings Flat from atop Pt. 913
From the top of 913 you have clear views of the rest of the Summit Walkway heading towards Port Levy Saddle and points beyond.

The track follows the top of the ridges heading out to the left in the photo below...

View to SE along Te Ara Pataka from Pt. 913

Lyttleton and Port Levy from Pt. 913, Banks Peninsula
Pt 913 is a high outlier peak to Mt Herbert (919 meters). At 913 meters above sea level it is only 6 meters lower than Mt Herbert, making it the second highest point on Banks Peninsula.

Surprisingly it has never been named!

As you can see in the photo below we are more or less on the same contour line as Mt Herbert out to the North West. Awesome views of Canterbury from up here even with the high cloud that obscured the distant Southern Alps. 

Mt Herbert from atop Pt. 913

View to SW towards Mt Bradley from pt. 913
There is an emergency services repeater station located just off the summit, it is fully automated so does not have any road access. I would imagine that maintenance is done using a helicopter to transport gear and personal as required. 

Jon on Pt. 913, Banks Peninsula

The distance from Pt. 913 to Mt Herbert would be about 1-1.2 kilometres or about 20-30 minutes walking distance.While I was on 913 having lunch a person walked down off Mt Herbert and passed heading in the direction of Port Levy, it took her 20 minutes to get to me.

Mt Herbert from lunch spot next to Pt. 913 repeater station

Close-up of Mt Herbert, people near the trig point on the extreme left....
I spent about 20 minutes on or around the repeater station and then set off back to the car park as it was getting cold and windy on the summit.

A note of caution: if you decide to walk down the NE face of Pt. 913 to meet up with the Monument Track look out for the small bluffs about 40-50 meters downhill. They are only 3-5 meters high but that would be plenty of height to seriously mess you up if you fell off them.

View to East: Pt. 806, the Monument and Port Levy from Pt. 913

Pt. 806 is the rising ground heading off to the right in the middle distance of the photo below.

Monument Track from Pt. 913
The return trip was much quicker; as is to be expected when you are walking down hill. Monument Track is the shortest route to gain the summit of Mt Herbert (not really the easiest though...) which would account for the 14 people I passed who were walking uphill. 

Pt. 913 to left, Mt Herbert to right

Wind blowing the tussock on the Monument Track

Closing in on a misty Monument
From a point on the track just past the Monument you are able to see down onto Monument Hut and the Purau Saddle car park which was now full of cars. 

I saw a small group of rock climbers at work on one of the cliffs near the Monument, this area would be a climbers heaven with cliffs, bluffs, boulders and the Monument itself to explore. 

View down to Purau Saddle from the Monument Track

Monument Hut in lee of slope from Monument Track
I stopped by Monument Hut on the return journey to have a look at this historic hut. Monument Hut was built in the 50's as one of a series of YHA huts located on Banks Peninsula. There were also huts built near Port Levy Saddle and Montgomery Bush, both now long gone. They were built to stimulate outdoor recreation in the area by using the public transport system at a time when only the wealthy had cars.

I imagine the hut didn't see much use, by the time it was completed Banks Peninsula was not the focus of local tramping clubs any more. With the advent of the overnight train, Arthur's Pass became the Mecca of Canterbury climbers and trampers in the 60-70's.

It is a pity really as it took another 49 years before a new public hut (Rod Donald) was commissioned on Banks Peninsula.

Historic Monument Hut (1957)

Closer view of Monument Hut
The hut officially holds 4 (on damn uncomfortable looking straw and scrim bunks), but I'm sure you would have been able to squeeze four more on the floor under the bunks. They must have been short in those days because the bunks are about 5'6" long.

It is still largely as built as it hasn't seen the wear and tear of a well used hut.

Monument Hut interior: straw/scrim bunks
The hut is Spartan; corrugated iron cladding, no insulation, no heating and tiny: less than 4 meters by 2 meters. You can still stay in the hut even now but it would be a cold and grimy experience.

 No potable water source in the immediate area.

Monument Hut: Spartan interior fit out

View of Monument Hut and the Monument in the background

Jon outside Monument Hut
It is about 300 meters from Monument Hut to the car park, you climb up and over an intervening hill and then descend down to the track end. 

Over the hills to Purau Saddle car park...
I probably had the best of the day on my tramp as it grew progressively cooler and cloudier as the day wore on. When I got back to my car around 1 pm the cloud had started to mask pt 806. 

It took me about 2 hours to reach the summit of 913 and about 1.5 hours to get back to the car, add an extra 30-40 minutes to reach the summit of Mt Herbert. That's 4-5 hours of tramping for the full distance.

Cloud closing in on Pt.806

Purau Bay from the road to Diamond Harbour
Another nice day tramp completed I headed off home via Diamond Harbour and Dyers Pass.

As I have said previously, there is plenty of good tramping on Banks Peninsula, while its not Southern Alps style country it certainly has its own rich rewards. For one the amazing views you get from up here even in less than stellar weather. Another is its close proximity to Christchurch.

Consider a visit some time!

Access:The track starts at Purau Saddle about 20 minutes drive past Diamond Harbour, it climbs past the Monument to join Te Ara Pataka/ Summit Walkway.
Track Times:2 hours to Pt. 913, another 30 minutes to reach Mt Herbert, 1.5 hrs return to the Purau Saddle car park.
Hut details: Monument Hut: basic, 4 bunks, no water, no toilet, no heating.
Miscellaneous:The car park at Purau Saddle occasionally falls victim to vandals, do not park your car here overnight.