Trip Reports, March-April 2011


  1. Ivory Lake Hut, Westland
  2. John Tait & Cupola Huts, Nelson Lakes NP
  3. Riordan's Hut, Kahurangi NP
  4. Mount Malita, Mt Richmond FP
  5. St Ronans - Hamilton RIver, Nelson Lakes NP
  6. Blue Creek Gorge, Kahurangi NP

6–12 March – Ivory Lake Hut – Westland
Leaders: Mike Drake & Mike Glover

After lots of research and patiently waiting for a favourable weather window, four of us left at 5am on Sunday 6th March and made our way to Ross where we met Chris. We then left one vehicle in the Waitaha valley below Mount Allen as we intended to do a round trip, in via the Hitchin Range and out via Dickie Spur.

Due to a fresh dusting of snow and a cold southerly with cloud around the tops, we decided the Dickie Spur was our best entry point. We finally left the car at 2pm with extra heavy packs carrying ropes and a mountain radio along with lots of food.

After half an hour we crossed the Mikonui River and began a steep climb up to Truran Pass where we temporarily lost the track, so it was decided to stop and camp the night and let Tony catch us up.

Day Two dawned clear and calm. Tony was now with us and we had our full team of six.

As we slowly climbed higher on Dickie Spur it got steeper until we popped out of the bush onto tussock tops. After a half hour detour to Dickie Spur Hut to keep our Hut Bagger happy, it was a quick lunch and on towards the Top Tuke Hut. The rest of the day was spent negotiating steep tussock ridges and gullies, then a very slow boulder hop up the Tuke River, having to pass packs up and down several difficult sections – a longer day than expected.

Day Three was a 7am start. As we climbed higher towards the summit of Mount Beaumont, the weather slowly clouded in. It was now time to make the decision on whether to continue on to Ivory Lake.

After a short discussion it was decided to bring out the compass and GPS, and run them in tandem. This was the beginning of a long and extremely interesting navigational exercise. To add to the adventure, several places on the ridge were rugged and exposed, requiring the use of ropes. Mike and Ruth’s rope skills were much appreciated. After burning up a lot more time than expected, we arrived at the final peak overlooking Ivory Lake. While making the last bearing change, I dropped my camera and it bounced down and disappeared into the cloud below us. With only 1.5 hours until dark, we had no time to go after it.

Slowly we moved on down the ridge until we spotted the shore line of the lake from about 30 metres above. We crossed the outlet river for the lake and spotted the ghostly outline of Ivory Lake Hut after a long day.

On Day Four, we all enjoyed a lazy day under a clear blue sky looking around Ivory Lake and having turns at sitting in the armchair. The hut is loaded with fascinating old scientific equipment that was used for monitoring weather and glacier movement – a very intriguing place.

Day Five brought more fine weather, and we decided to return via the same route due to excessive cloud build up in the afternoons. We would need perfect weather all day to attempt the Hitchin Range.

While travelling back to Top Tuke Hut, we found my camera and enjoyed views up and down the Southern Alps, including Mount Evans and as far as Mount Cook. We climbed to the summit of Mount Beaumont before descending into the cloud and down to Top Tuke Hut.

Day Six dawned clear and quickly turned to rain, so it was a long wet trip all the way to Mikonui Flat Hut where we got a good fire going and settled in for a cosy night.

Day Seven: an easy one hour down the Mikonui River back to the car in nice, fine weather.

Intrepid adventurers were: Mike Drake, Ruth Hesselyn, Mike Glover (scribe), Wade Glover (hut bagger), Tony Stephens & Chris Abel.

4–6 March – John Tait & Cupola Huts – Nelson Lakes NP
Leader: Jo Kay

Nora Flight and I started our tramp from the Mount Robert Road car park and walked up the western side of the lake arriving at Coldwater Hut in time for lunch. The heavy rain earlier in the morning had not affected the crossing of the tributaries, unlike a poor German tramper who had tried to cross one the previous day and lost her pack and all her belongings.

After leaving the lake the track alternates between beech forest and open grassy meadows. The valley narrows as you approach John Tait Hut which was a welcome sight at 6pm.

The avalanche of trees that took out the toilet in the storm of 2008 was still very obvious.

A heavy deluge the next morning meant that we were tardy in setting off but still made it to Cupola Hut for lunch. The track climbs steadily on a surprisingly steady grade and passes an open meadow before becoming aerobically challenging as a steep zig-zag route. Nora carried on to explore the grassy ledges above the hut while I took in the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding peaks. It’s not hard to see why so many trampers regard Cupola as their favorite hut.

Sunday morning dawned with clear blue skies and a dusting of snow on the tops. We walked steadily down the valley, stopping to admire the surrounding mountains when we passed through the meadows. Another lunch stop and brew up at Coldwater Hut before walking the last leg down the side of the lake (on my last legs!)

13 March – Riordan’s Hut – Kahurangi National Park
Leader: Tom Brown

The highlight of the trip is visiting the skilfully restored musterers hut. With the standard Forest Service deerculler-era huts now being replaced with DoC karaka-coloursteel architect-designed ‘facilities’, it was great to see something with character still existing in the back country.

The party of seven were: David Sissons, Jocelyn Winn, Liam Sullivan, Andy Clark & daughter, Nicola, Graham Davey & Tom Brown.

27 March – Mount Malita – Mount Richmond Forest Park
Leader: Gretchen Williams

We all made an early start, probably on the only day of the month with a doubtful forecast. But the clouds were high and the day was lightening nicely – we suspected we might get away with it. We signed in at the caretaker’s house – he warned of roaring deer needing to be respected at this time of the year and asked for feedback on any pig routing sightings.

About an hour up the forestry road it started to spit and continued till we reached the top, found shelter in the trees and ate an early lunch. We ‘found’ the hut, the rain stopped and we came back down with changing, misty, cloudy views and the odd glimpse of the western ranges.

There was interesting botanising and some photographing in the native vegetation area above the exotic forestry blocks.

Trampers were: Gretchen Williams (leader & scribe), Uta Purcell, Val Latimer, Alice Paterson, John Faber, Alison Aaron, Brenda Griffin and visitors Maxine McNabb, David Sissons & Lorraine Knox.

3–4 April – St Ronans Creek to Hamilton River – Nelson Lakes National Park
Leader: Mike Drake

The weather held fine, with clear skies, until the afternoon of the second day. Whilst the temperature dropped overnight to below freezing, we were fortunate to have clear visibility over the St Arnaud Range. We were well down the valley before clouds rolled in from the west.

From Wairau Valley we walked up St Ronans Creek, following a marked track which became patchy in places. Given that the Department of Conservation stopped maintaining the track about ten years ago, it was in better condition than it might have been. Once above the bush line, cairns lead toward the lower of a number of tarns which populate natural indentations below the St Arnaud Range on the Eastern side. We selected a tarn which offered comfortable tent sites amongst soft golden tussock and the option of a room with a view or shelter from the wind, in keeping with each individual’s taste.

A relatively short climb in the morning, which was welcome for its warming effect, saw us over the St Arnaud Range tops to a different landscape on the Western side. From the sunny and soft, tawny colours and contours of tussock we entered a new world of metallic rocks, hard edged and blue/grey in deep shade.

A fresh breeze required a change of wardrobe for the descent down. Chunky rock strewn slopes led us past an impressively large and deep looking tarn, from which a pleasant creek flowed. We continued to follow this creek, making use of animal tracks and criss-crossing to avoid wind fallen trees, till it met the Hamilton River.

Once across the Hamilton a short stroll on a well-formed track took us to the Rainbow Valley Road. Then it was just a couple of kilometres to where the car was parked near St Ronan’s Well.

The trip included a few steep places, both on the uphill and downhill sections, and the need for some careful footing, where rocks and ruts were disguised by grasses, however, there seemed to be plenty of time and the pace was comfortable for those of us needing to take it gently. Despite the cooler autumn weather, both Mark and Jocelyn had unfortunate encounters with wasps and sustained multiple stings.

I had wondered along the way who St Ronan was. Wikipedia lists a historic spa named ‘Saint Ronan’s Wells’ in Scotland, where Victorians drank and bathed in the health giving waters. Sir Walter Scott frequented the spa as a boy and later wrote a novel, titled St Ronan’s Well. However, it is anybody’s guess whether this St Ronan’s Creek was named for its health-giving waters or because a Catholic passed through and named it after one of the twelve Irish saints who also bear the name.

As for Hamilton, there are likewise many possible references to choose from, ranging from English noble men, an Irish physicist, and an United States economist. However, I suspect the river was not named after Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton, the 2008 Formula One World Champion.

My appreciation goes to Mike and Mark for their excellent route finding and to Jocelyn for her hospitality. The hot cuppa and home-made sweet treats at Jocelyn’s Top House bach were very welcome.

Trampers were: Mark, Carole, Jocelyn & Alison Arron (scribe).

10 April – Blue Creek Gorge – Kahurangi National Park
Leader: Barry James

'Challenge yourself’ read the programme for this trip, and emerging from Blue Creek Gorge, some 4.5 hours after setting out, our group of five certainly felt suitably challenged.

Starting for Courthouse Flat, we had initially followed the well-defined track beside Blue Creek, encountering a number of surprisingly well-preserved relics from the 1870s gold rush in the area.

As the track began to climb away from the creek, we diverted right, onto a trapping line which linked back into the gorge proper, avoiding some inaccessible bluffs at its downstream end.

The gorge itself is flanked in places by impressive marble cliffs, some containing massive stalactites in areas where the cliffs overhung. As we boulder-hopped up the mostly dry bed of the gorge, our minds were kept active figuring out the best way to scramble up a series of small but awkward rocky bluffs.

Whilst we were enjoying ourselves, the same could not be said for a morepork spotted, whose quiet Sunday snooze on a sunlit branch was being rudely interrupted by an intimidating gang of squawking fantails. This poor fellow ended up being mobbed from one branch to the next until presumably, he had found a more peaceful hiding place.

Leaving the creek, we took a quick detour to view the Old Prospectors Hut, which now is unfortunately in ruins, then turned back along Granity Pass Hut track. On leaving the bushline and emerging into warm sunlight, we stopped to have lunch and soak up the magnificent scenery.

After lunch, a steady half-hour climb ensued, up the Staircase to a tussocked saddle at just under 1300m with a fine view of the surrounding Marino Mountains, then a descent following a well-marked track along the ridgeline back to our vehicle, around 8 hrs after setting out.

Trampers/Boulderers were: Barry James, Ray Caird, Silvano Lorandi, Dave Wheeler (visitor) & Liam Sullivan (scribe).


ivorylakehut.jpg46.03 KB
jo_cupola.jpg48.32 KB
westieshut.jpg55.84 KB
arnaudtops.jpg46.33 KB
_Mok River.jpg69.89 KB
lake_minchin_easter.jpg13.64 KB