Trip Reports, Nov–December 2009


  1. Speargrass Circuit
  2. Cedar Flats
  3. Parachute Rock
  4. Sawcut Gorge
  5. Devils Creek
  6. Gordons Knob
  7. Hellfire Creek Track Clearing
  8. Spooner Railway Tunnel
  9. Lake Guyon
  10. St Ronans Stream
  11. Mt Richmond
  12. Motueka Foreshore
  13. Mt Arthur & Flora

18 October 2009
Speargrass Circuit, Nelson Lakes National Park

Organiser: Andy Clark

With heavy rain on Saturday out of the way a group of four departed the Mount Robert carpark on Sunday up the Pinchgut track to the Robert Ridge. Part way up one member was not feeling the best so headed back to the car with thoughts of meeting the rest at Speargrass Hut via the normal route. The day got better and better as the morning went on and soon Julius Summit was reached, at which point we dropped down a shingle slide towards Speargrass Hut. A short walk through the bush had us at Speargrass Hut for lunch and a rendezvous with the member that had turned back part way up Mt Robert.  The trip out was uneventful with all personnel performing well. Overall, it was an interesting trip that exceeded expectations.

Those on the trip were: Jocelyn Win, Julie Marriott, Graham Davey (visitor) & I (Andy Clark).

24-26 October 2009
Cedar Flats, Westland

Organiser: Mike Glover & Dion Pont
Eight of us set off up to Cedar Flats with a fine weather forecast. The first part of the track was very boggy, then we boulder-hopped up the river before climbing through bush around the gorge. When we got there the new hut was full so some of us camped and some of us stayed in the old hut which is two bunks. We put the tents up and had a hot drink then walked up to the hot springs in Wren Creek (about a 10-minute walk.) On Sunday we went for a walk up to Adventure Bivi which is a tidy one-bunk hut on the bush edge. You can see Yeats Hut from there. The track was steep in places and quite slow going because you had to hunt around for the track and climb over fallen trees. The next day we left the hut at 9am and were out by 1pm in the afternoon, which was lucky, because it had just started raining. On the trip were: Dion Pont, Ken Ridley, Jocelyn Winn, Mike, Deirdre, Wade (scribe), Alice & Chelsea Glover.

24 October 2009 Parachute Rock, Nelson Lakes N Park

Organiser: Mary Honey Six trampers, five women and one lucky man, set off from Kerr Bay toward Parachute Rock. The track seemed longer and steeper than some of us remembered. Emerging from the bush, moving cloud offered snippets of view.
Leaving one party member to lunch at The Rock, the rest of us headed for the ridge. We lunched with our feet in the snow just below the ridge line with views of the valleys below, if not the peaks above, despite the forecast for a clear day.
Our return trip was ‘social’ as we passed several ascending trampers and parachutists. In the beech forest, the birdsong was noticeable – a joyful tribute to the trapping initiatives of the past few years.
The happy trampers were: Ruth Henry, Sue and Mike Locke, Lindsay Twynam, Julie Marriot and Mary Honey (scribe).

31 October–1 November 2009 Sawcut Gorge, Marlborough

Organiser: Dion Pont

We sloshed our way up the Ure River valley with many river crossings and short pieces of track which avoided the tricky places. This trip is a geologists delight with a great array of rock shapes, compositions and  towering walls. The plant life is quite specific to this area with fields of Marlborough Rock daisies covering rock walls, maiden hair ferns, compact kowhais and a native broom. The smell of sulphur indicated some geothermal activity and some side streams were coloured a ghostly gray, but we didn’t find any hot springs.

Sawcut Gorge was indeed spectacular. At first, all you can see is the large crack down a vertical rock face, but as you approach, the canyon widens out and you find yourself walking through a cathedral-like space with fingers of light slicing the air. From here, the valley gradually opened out until a grassy flat and Isolation Hut was reached. The majority of us opted to camp and so the four remaining trampers had the six-bunk hut to themselves. Ruth tried out her new/old japara bivvy bag  and enjoyed a night of star gazing.

The next morning, Dion led five others up the ridge toward Brian Boru Bivvy. He and Brian continued down the other side to ‘bag’ the bivvy. A feature of this section of track were some magnificent Matais with their gorgeous, distinctive  speckled bark patterns. We all wandered down the valley at our own pace, taking time for photography and basking in the sun at the gorge. Members of the Party were: Dion Pont (organiser), Brian Renwick, The Three Peters, (Wise, Syms & Marguerite’s Pete), Marguerite Verheul, Jane Dewar, Julie Marriott, Ruth Hesselyn & Jo Kay (scribe).

1 November 2009 Devil’s Creek Hut, Mount Richmond Forest Park

Organiser: Ross Price

7 November 2009 Gordons Knob, Mount Richmond Forest Park Organiser: Gretchen Williams An early start saw 11 ambitious trampers at the Church steps under the diligent leadership of Gretchen Williams.  We reached the parking spot for the tramp only to retreat behind vehicles to evade the cold wind, where consultation took place to decide whether or not to proceed.  A few fainthearted souls preferred a valley trip, but were out-numbered by stalwart, long-time trampers. By the time we got a ways up the ridge it was very hard to stand up. Sara had to turn back.  The rest of us stopped for morning tea, then crossed over the ridge and into the bush where it was more sheltered. We saw a reasonable-sized penwiper with lots of buds, spotted by Dion. When we came out of the bush it was back into that cold wind, but everyone got to the summit for lunch. The return trip was a lot faster. Congratulations to trampers: Sara Vickerman, Dion Pont, Tom Brown, Brenda Griffin, Kazu Abe, Tony Haddon, Gretchen Williams (leader), Ron Mailer, Sue and Mike Locke, (and Dan McGuire, who wanted to turn back but felt compelled to support the more ambitious trampers).

14–15 November 2009 Hellfire Track clearing, Wairau district Organiser: Dion Pont With rain forecasted for Sunday, we planned a Saturday trip instead. Reaching the swingbridge across the Wairau River, we crossed and began down the right branch with a bit of track clearing on the way. At the end of a big, grassy flat, we cleared the track of old snow damage and new windfall bush. With the last bit of bush still very snow-damaged, we used the river bank to circumnavigate the area. We had an early lunch upon reaching Hellfire Creek. Moving up the Hellfire was still good, up to the first crossing. We forded the creek to the right bank where the track wasn’t too bad (until we re-crossed to the overgrown left bank). Spending two hours on the left-hand bank, we reached the third crossing, an hour’s walk from the bottom of Hellfire Creek. By 4pm, we called it a day, trimming a bit more on the way back. It was good day. Track workers were: Dion Pont, Pat Holland & Ruth Hesselyn.

15 November 2009 Spooner Railway Tunnel Organiser: Marguerite

All 19 participants met at the tunnel entrance at 10am and headed into the dark with a guide to run us through the more interesting aspects.  Between fungi, construction details, stalactites & wetas there was enough things in the dark and at the end to keep everyone interested. The return trip back was done at an individual pace as our guide remained at the tunnel end to assist the public who had started to come through.   Our organised tour had resulted in the Spooner tunnel gatekeepers opening up the tunnel for the public also. Participants: Visitors: Alliza, Logan & Bailey Cunningham, Greg, Karen Moynagh, Pete and Veronica Mitchell. NTC: Brenda Griffin, Julie Marriot, Ken Ridley, Marguerite, Merrick Mitchell, Mike and Sue Locke, Ruth Henry, Ron Mailer, Ross Price, Sandra Lawn and Tom Brown.

21–23 November 2009 Lake Guyon, St James Conservation Area Organiser: Tony Haddon

DAY ONE : Tony Haddon, Gretchen Williams, Dion Pont and Jo Kay. We approached this trip via Hanmer Springs and Jack’s Pass, as there were no available keys for the Rainbow. On Friday night we set up camp next to the Edwards Valley where the main party were exiting in two days time. We then drove up to Fowlers Hut, where the circuit starts, and walked the steady-grade pack track up to Fowler’s Pass. The hillside was a patchwork of russet tussock and silvery green celmisia and astelia. At the pass, the outlook changed dramatically as the track zigzaged steeply down into the Stanley Valley, which was surrounded by craggy scree-covered mountains. An exhilarating wind was whipping up dust swirls off the mountains making it easy to understand why there’s little vegetation on the slopes. The route followed the Stanley River through matagouri, gradually opening out into grazing land and the pastoral scene at Stanley Vale. We turned north and after half an hour we were presented with the idyllic scene of Lake Guyon and snow-capped mountains in the distance rising from the adjacent Waiau Valley. The four-bunk hut is situated half way along the northern bank of the lake on the edge of a clearing in the beech trees, with some distinctive poplars marking its spot from a distance. Arriving in time for afternoon smoko, we were glad to have shelter as the rain started.


I saw Dion, Gretchen and Tony off as they set off down the Stanley Valley and the sandflies soon convinced me to go for a wander. I meandered down to the lake outflow and followed a 4WD track into the Waiau Valley. Staying on the eastern side of the river, I explored its banks both to the north and south where Ada Flat homestead was easily visible. Returning over Fowlers pass on Monday, I met a group of three horse trekkers who were heading into the lake and I wondered how they would manage the steep zigzags on the other side.

DAYS TWO–THREE: Tony, Dion & Gretchen.

We left Jo and headed back down the valley, stopped in at the old Stanley Vale homestead and followed and crossed the very pleasant Stanley River for many kilometres. The surrounding cliffs and valleys and rock formations were steep and interesting to look at.  The first (and last) DOC marker of the day sent us climbing up to a large flat area known as The Racecourse – it was about then that the sun appeared and we were sheltered from the constant, hot head wind. We ended up spending time looking for a way down and ush-bashing back to the Waiau River and the start of a formed farm road. We climbed up a small pass and eventually reached Scotty’s Hut where we collapsed into our tents after a very long day. The next morning, we followed the Edwards River along the farm road, up and over Edwards Pass where it changed from grass to gravel – it turned into a bit of a road-bash from then on. We reached the Lake Tennyson Hanmer Road and had time for a brew, second lunch, a dip in the Clarence, a search for skinks and geckos, then a bit of relaxation before Jo showed up.

22 November 2009 St Ronans Stream, Rainbow Valley Organiser: Jocelyn Winn Ten trampers rode in style in Ian’s double-cab ute and sheep crate, over the Six Mile ford to our track. We were grateful to take only one vehicle, to have a key, and not need to walk the road. The track has not been maintained since 1994, but most of the permolat markers remain. There were some windfalls and regrowth, but it was surprisingly easy travel. Here, where heavy snowfalls are the norm, there wasn’t the devastation of August 2008. The map track follows the true right, but in reality, it crossed the stream below and immediately above the middle slot gorge. We watched a rifleman and heard other birds. Above the bushline, the first ranunculus and some other flowers wre appearing. In the distance, we saw a chamois watching us. We lunched in sunshine, (after our cloudy start), at the tarn. While Ian made a dash to the ridge for a view of the Arnst, we photographed and botanised. Jagged rocks, shaped to inspire the imagination of some – like a whale with an open mouth – dominated much of the cirque’s skyline. From them, ribbons of rocky rubble dotted with vegetable sheep and tongues of snow, reached down to the edge of the emerald-coloured tarn. The stream draining it tumbled down to another impressive gorge at the bush edge. Returning through the bush, we unhitched the plastic-bag-strips marking our way back to the permolats. Our group comprised of: Uta Purcell, Ruth Henry, Jane Dewar, Mark & Noeleen Tullett, Jim Maxwell and Beverley Muirhead. Also, we appreciated the services and fit company of visitors Ian & Jeanette Thorneycroft.

29 November 2009 Mt Richmond, Mt Richmond Forest Park Organiser: Dan McGuire Five trampers set off from Nelson at 7am to reach the top carpark above Top Valley by 9am. Raymond had to brave the river with his Subaru as there is no longer a bridge, but we got across. We saw hordes of penwipers, the North Island Edelweiss was in bloom, and an endemic Celmesia. Uta found an orchid in bloom. There was a SW wind blowing which helped to cool down a hot day. Everyone summitted Mount Richmond, and great photos were taken, as the views were magnificent – they included Tappy and Mount Egmont. The steep descent was made without incident and we were back in Nelson well before dark. Track time was 8.5 hrs. (Return trip via Richmond Saddle Hut). Participants were: Dan McGuire (scribe), David Blunt, Christine Hoy, Raymond Salisbury & Uta Purcell.

29 November 2009 Motueka Foreshore Organiser: Alison Nicholl. Alison Nicoll, Ruth Henry and Beverley Muirhead travelled over to the beginning of the track where the estuary rushes in and out from the tidal flats. We caught up with Brenda who was pushing one child in a stroller and another walking along with the small group. The day was pleasant and views out over the sea were quite stunning. Lunch was had at the information panels where the old Motueka wharf used to be. Some interesting statistics are recorded there of the early goods grown and transported by ship from the port. We continued on to the end of the walkway and then returned the same way.  Altogether, it was a very pleasant walk enjoyed by a privileged few!

6 December 2009 Mount Arthur, Kahurangi National Park Organiser: Ray Caird, Co-organiser: Uta Purcell With a forecast of developing rain, twelve hardy souls set off up to Mount Arthur Hut with a view to making a decision there. At the hut we opted to travel along the ridge for about half an hour then return to the Flora Hut turn off and walk that circuit. We experienced increasingly heavy mist and a chilly wind so enjoyed the relative calm upon entering the bush. The dracophyllum trees were the largest I had ever seen, with the thick trunks shaped like candelabra and with the palm-like leaves as the sparkling candles. We lunched at Flora Hut and looked out for whio, but the only blue ducks we saw were Jane and Uta in their blue raincoats. The other wildlife was a wee bird, that we decided was a fat lark, and resident weka at both huts. The summit has once again eluded Ray so I’m sure he’ll be back to have another attempt. Members of the party were: Ray Caird (leader), Jo Kay (scribe), Jane Dewar, Uta Purcell, Mike & Sue Locke, Nolene & Mark Tullett, Ruth Henry & visitors Greg Harper, Rae & John Sheridan.