Trip Reports, Nov-Dec 2013

> Download the printed version of the newsletter (10 pages colour) crammed full of the most recent club Trip Reports. This a small 1.2 megabyte PDF file, complete with graphics, colour photographs & hyperlinks to other sites.


  1. Diamond Lakes > Kahurangi NP
  2. Riordans Hut > Kahurangi NP
  3. Hope & Lookout Ranges > Kahurangi NP
  4. Old Ghost Road > West Coast (Private Trip)
  5. Cape Campbell Lighthouse > Marlborough

13 November 2013 – Diamond Lakes – Kahurangi National Park
Leader : Andrea Cocketeron

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocios……one word to describe another awesome time in the hills and on this occasion time spent meandering up, down, ditto, ditto, along and around the locket range.

Our weekend started on Friday afternoon, which proved to be a good call enabling us to get a full days exploration in on the Saturday.  Severn eager trampers turned to eight, as we welcomed Ginas’ company from Golden Bay at the start of the track to Lake Sylvester.

The track wound gently up through native forest guiding us to the hut after ninety minutes, whereupon shortly thereafter the first yodels of “snow” were heard. The snowfall continued throughout the night while we were snuggled in the warm cosy hut, awaking to a beautiful sunrise over Hoary Head, saddled by Mts Campbell and Crusader.

As the wind was fair whipping we elected to initially stay off the tops, instead heading for Diamond Lake.  Elizabeth had planned a more leisurely day around Lake Sylvester, taking in the ambiance and happily indulging in the local flora. Also happy, and free of cumbersome overnight packs (aside from Ray who was electing to camp at Lake Lockett), we gaily skipped up the ridge leading from the hut and head towards Lake Lillie.

Ken did a sterling job cheerfully leading the way in the absence of good route markers, setting a good pace too. We arrived in two hours, had a spot of R&R and made tracks. Ken opted to retrace our path and the rest bush-bashed just above the true right of Diamond lake stream, dropping down and then climbing North through a clearing up to Lake Lockett.

Four hours after leaving Lake Sylvester hut we had arrived at this very special place, for once outnumbering sandflies. Leaving Ray to settle in and pursue photographic opportunities, five strolled back down through the clearing, surprisingly stumbling on Sue's sunnies dropped on the way up!

This time we headed south west up to the ridge that would take us to Iron hill. More bush-bashing turned to rock climbing for those who did not heed the warning to stay left of the rocks (Basically all but Barry, who was resting easy above the ridge when the rest of the party arrived…. with somewhat more cortisol pumping around!). Just for fun, we made upward tracks in pursuit of Iron hill with Barry supplying some restorative chocolate  :  )

The hill appeared littered with giant snowballs which were in fact white marble among the rocks. Taking the usual route down from the summit, we passed by Iron and Sylvester lakes arriving safe and sound at the hut by 5pm. Gina then headed back to Golden Bay, we all enjoyed her company and route finding skills too.  After dinner and an impromptu spot of yoga, Ken impressing us with his down dog pose, we all retired feeling pleasantly exhausted.

Sunday, a beautiful dawn, blue skies, no wind and feeling refreshed (despite the antics of the late arrival of a hunter disturbing one and all, Grrrr). Elizabeth and Ken retraced our steps back up Iron Hill, others opting for the long way round attaining the ridge south of Sylvester hut and heading east.

A beautiful meander up takes you past some prime camping grounds and open grasslands and small tarns. As you climb up, the view is magnificent over the Cobb and to the Arthur and Peel Ranges. The ridge looks hairy from afar but Chris did us credit with choice route-finding and we all worked together to transverse safely, good teamwork! We came back on the tops to the north of Lake Sylvester to complete the birds-eye view of the area.

The joys of technology saw Ray Txt ahead for a cuppa, arriving shortly after the larger party, himself having enjoyed the past day. All regrouped, we lunched and headed back to the cars. The plan to slow Chris down with a covert rock, nicely tucked into his bag was rumbled after just five minutes (it didn’t work anyhow!) and he very uncharitably ditched the specimen! There will be a Plan B in trips to come…

The trip epitomised reasons for tramping with a group: high spirited good company, skill sharing, support, encouragement and fun. Thanks to fellow trampers: Sue Henley, Gina Andrews (Navigator) Elizabeth Dooley, Ray Salisbury (Navigator) Chris Louth (Navigator) Ken Ridley (Navigator) and Barry James (Navigator). Written by Andrea Cockerton ( Trip coordinator, definitely not navigator!).

9 November – Riordans Hut – Kahurangi National Park

Leader: Uta Purcell
Followers: Ray Salisbury, Dion Pont, Chris Louth, Chris Tilley, Bruce Alley, Lou Kolff, Graeme Ferrier, Marie Lenting & Elizabeth Dooley.

7am Church steps. Ten in two cars made it all economical for 1.5 hrs travel of The Hill. Last loo stop near Lindsay bridge picnic area cum reserve.

Killdevil Track: interminable zigzags up 1000m spur through regenerating ti tree to top out onto rocky bare plateau. Three relentless hours to reach rustic Tin Hut, renovated with wooden floor. Took us 4.25 hours total to Riordans Hut, restored ten years previously (2003) by Max Polglaze and John Taylor, both ex-NZFS rangers.

Riordans Hut was originally built in 1926 by brother Laurie & Fred Riordan as a musterer's hut. They ran 2000 wethers before grazing ceased around 1950. In the meantime they supplied hungry gold prospectors en route to Waingaro Forks Hut, which has also been restored by DOC.

Our entire day was cloaked in low cloud, so we enjoyed no views. However, Uta's eagle eyes discovered (& Dion shot) an unusual orchid, trackside.

Time: 7.5 hrs for the advanced party to reach Riordans Hut and return to cars.
(4 hrs up, 3 hrs back). Scribe / advanced party leader / driver, Ray Salisbury

1920 October – Hope & Lookout RangesKahurangi National Park
Leader: Mike Drake

Having successfully made our rendezvous with Mike Drake within the Tadmor CBD, our intrepid group of six began the trip by firstly leaving a car near the Tadmor Saddle; the endpoint for our trip. It was then onward to the start, at a berm area off SH6, some 5km south of Glenhope. There, an unofficial flagged track began, following a spur up onto the Hope Range. The first task was to drive our two vehicles partly up the track, then disguise them from unwanted eyes from the road. This was duly done; a sprig of broom flowers across the right rear light of Mike’s vehicle completing the job.

After a two-hour walk we had gained the ridge. The option of a side-trip to Mt Hope (about 2km SW) was mooted, but rejected due to potential time constraints (this option, with a return back down the track, would make a good day trip).

The ridge is broad with large, unavoidable areas in low bush, which probably can only be savoured by bush-bashing aficionados. We were forced to duck, dive & crawl our way along at times, quickly learning to keep a safe distance from the person in front, to avoid the whiplash from a bended branch. Dion valiantly lead the way, searching out areas of clear ground to aim for, or the path of least resistance.

As the crow flies, the distance along the ridge to our proposed camp, was some 6km northwards, & after six hours travel we reached our campsite, near a prominent rock outcrop.

With a fair wind blowing along the ridge, we found sheltered spots within the bush & settled down to our gourmet dinners, watching a distinctly orange, full moon appear courtesy of the large bush-fires across the Tasman.

The following morning we set off to a prominent spur linking to the Lookout Range.  In contrast to yesterday’s travel, the climb up onto the Lookout Range (1.5 hours) was rapid & unhindered.  As with parts of the Hope Range, the Lookout Range has an abundant number of spectacular rock outcrops, some appearing decidedly precarious. Before our return, we climbed to Pt 1577 & then north to Pt 1515 which provided million dollar views out to D’urville Island, Mt Tappy & just a stone’s throw across the Owen River valley to the two rugged, southerly aspects of Mts Owen & Bell.

After packing up our camp-site, we followed a marked trail down a spur to the Hope River (1.5 hours), crossing the dam, then following metalled road out to the Tadmor Saddle & the welcome site of the ‘champagne-gold’ gleam emanating from Ian’s waiting car.

Participants were: Mike Drake (leader), Carole Crocker, Dion Pont, Ian Morris, Wade Glover, Liam Sullivan (scribe). 

15–20 November 2013 – Old Ghost Road – West Coast
Private Trip

After all the controversy; after all the delays; after all the marketing hype; we have to go see for ourselves – this home-grown, grass-roots community effort known as The Old Ghost Road; this 80-km journey through pristine wilderness between the rugged Buller River and the Karamea highway.

In late November, a seasoned quintet of familiar faces assembles at DOC’s camp ground in the Upper Buller Gorge. Someone has remarked that the Buller is a portal to another country. I reckon that DOC’s Lyell Walkway is a portal to another time. Back to the gold rush of 1865, in fact.

Crossing the Lyell on a high suspension bridge, the original dray road follows the true right, then narrows to a pack track all the way to Lyell Saddle, some 18 kilometres distant. The climb is so imperceptible, the track so well-formed, that we are clocking speeds in excess of 5km/hour.

But I’m not one to rush, especially when the sun is smiling down and there's mother-lodes of interesting diversions along the way. The Lyell Valley is layered with human history; the pioneering past is still near the surface.

First up is the ghost town of Gibbs, barely noticeable but for the new interpretative signage erected here, revealing glimpses of the gold miners’ struggles. This wee metropolis sprung up in 1887 and lasted till 1912. Gibbs Town boasted a school, post office, the Belfast Hotel, and an assortment of prospector’s cottages.

2 hour’s pleasant amble sees us arrive at the decrepit 8-Mile Hut, formerly known as the bunkhouse, now a dishevelled A-frame slunken low in the mossy forest, surrounded by artefacts such as shovel heads and rotten boots. Andrea and Dion drop their packs to explore Alpine Hill, as a lone kaka flies through the canopy.

Further on, this pack track narrows to negotiate 2landslides. We fossick around and find an old kettle and the rusted remains of more miners huts.

Six hours’ of leisurely going sees us at Lyell Saddle Hut. Across the clearing are new twin 4-berth chalets sporting the names of the ghost towns we’d passed through, Zala and Gibbs. We watch a full moon light up the distant Glasgow Ranges and listen to kiwi whistle.

On the 2nd day, the saddle is enshrouded with mist. We are away by 8am on a mission up to Ghost Lake. Initially, a wide, metalled pathway leads along the saddle before starting a series of switchbacks up Bald Hill. Eventually, we sidle north up on to the Lyell Range. It feels invigorating to be out in the open, blown by the wind, venturing into the bleak beyond. Enchanting cloud forest gives way to dracophyllum trees. We saunter along beneath the invisible tops of Rocky Tor, the highest point on the range.

We skirt the summit of Mt Montgomery, and soon we are lighting the hut’s woodstove. Nearby is a commodious long drop, picnic table, and twin sleep-outs, named ‘Murch’ and ‘The Tor.’

I text message my wife, who relays the good news: The Road officially opens on Monday, which gives me the impetus to be 1st to 'officially' complete the track out to Seddonville. I merely have to wait out the storm, drinking tea and stoking the fire – simple. After dusk, we can spot the twinkling lights of Murchison, far, far below.

Sunday morning sees the NTC party return to their cars, and return to work in Nelson. I am using this club trip as a sort of springboard, piggy-backing off it to launch further into the unknown. That’s what adventure is about, really. Taking a gamble, with the outcome uncertain, jumping off the cliff…

Peering off the hut balcony, I gaze into the world of white. Ghost Lake Hut is built atop a 100m bluff which is, thankfully, fenced off. An exquisite panorama is revealed below: a circular tarn of yellowy-green hue materialises from the swirling mist like an apparition. The raucous cry of the weka echoes of the mountainside, its sad soliloquy amplifying my feelings of solitary confinement.

The eastern sky lightens. Small birds signal the start of a new day, while I squelch around Ghost Lake admiring the pristine purity of this natural amphitheatre.

I shoulder my swag, and commit myself to completing the Road. Within five minutes the sun stages an appearance, saturating the colours of the landscape and giving form to its features. I spend an hour making photographs of the unfolding grandeur.

From Ghost Lake, marker poles lead me down steep snow grass slopes, then across the lake outlet creek. Marked by pink tape, a light ground trail sidles onto a ridgeline. As it climbs, the bush opens up. I revel in racing along, searching ahead for poles, crashing through scrub, up to a prominent spot height on an unnamed hill. From this vantage, I gaze northward, recognising the profile of the 100 Acre Plateau, with the Haystack and the Needle vaguely visible on the horizon.

The ridge-top ramble soon loses altitude, entering a tangle of stunted beech. 2 hours after leaving the lake, I am searching for illusory track markers, my enthusiasm waning. While the route has only recently been opened up with a machete, there is no formed track underfoot. I am finding my own way over rocks, roots and rotten logs. Finally, after 4 hours of hard slog, the trail spits me out into the Stern River. Typical of West Coast waterways, huge rounded boulders line the banks, and dense forest crowds in on the river. A rough, riverside route leads along to Stern Valley Hut, well-situated on grassy flats where wild goats graze and sand-flies hover.

On Day 5, I have a quick wash in the river. With wall-to-wall blue sky overhead, I smile to myself. I set off along the pleasant path. For the first 4km my mood is cheerful, as I ascend the North Branch of the Stern, across scrubby meadows, through copses of rimu and young totara. A pair of Canada Geese dominate the valley. Route markers draw me into a corridor of bracken and bush lawyer, which lacerate my forearm. My mood is beginning to reflect the changing terrain when leave Stern River and skirt Lake Grim. I find my way through a boulder field; an ancient landslide that has created this open country.

A hard grunt up the valley wall has me cursing. A precarious sidle along to Solemn Saddle sees me feeling very, well, solemn. The vertiginous slope is slippery, offering few footholds, so my arms are over-worked as I swing from tree to tree like a monkey. No longer tramping, this is a full-body workout.

It has taken me 2.5 hours to reach the Saddle. 45 minutes of tricky route-finding on steep slopes finds me on another giant landslide. Onward through bracken and head-high scrub. Lawyer rips at my flesh. I slip and slide down onto grassy river flats to arrive in Goat Creek by midday.

I am wading through a terrace of toi toi before climbing an old spur track. After six hours on my feet, I finally stumble into Goat Creek Hut, an historic 4-bunk shanty, and recently renovated. Wilma the weka was in residence, along with …. more goats.

After signing my name of the hut graffiti wall, I force my weary body onward. This middle section of the Ghost Road is recommended for ‘fit and experienced trampers.’ I am beginning to think that I am less of the former, and more of the latter.

A 3-metre-wide mountain bike track hugs the river bank along to where an impressive swing bridge will cross the Mokihinui River … except it hadn’t yet been built. Fortunately, the water level is low. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the west bank, no markers, no signs, no obvious track. I resign myself to a slow journey down-river, fording the Mok a dozen times, staying mainly on the true right bank where flats of marram grass and thistles make for reasonable travel.  

As the sun dips below the shadowy ranges, I navigate onto the new MTB track, spook more goats, and stagger into the Forks Hut. My feet are swollen after nearly ten hours on my feet. Four track workers are using the restored hut as a base. These old-timers feed me their leftover dinner, for which I am thankful. Sleep comes quickly.

At the crack of dawn, the men depart on trail bikes. I cook up the last of my rations. then stroll along to the Forks. Here, the fertile flats were once farmed, before the earthquake flooded them, creating a temporary lake. From these picturesque plains, the Mok turns into a monumental gorge, hemmed in by rock walls, alternating between boisterous, grade-3 white-water and pools of emerald green.

The MTB track is graded at less than 5 degrees, so I am marching at my 5km/hour pace again. Reaching the hut at Specimen Point, I admire the two sleep-outs which carry the names of 1880s gold mines: Red Queen and Guiding Star. This 14-bunker has a magnificent veranda view to the Mokihinui below. It’s hard to imagine that this gorge was nearly damned.

The canyon tightens and valley walls are vertical. I cautiously creep along the old pack track until it disappears into an abyss at the aptly-named Suicide Slips. In times past, trampers had to negotiate these with a steel cable. 3 swing bridges now span the gaping void.

Hours float by and the dry, summer sun is beating down as I stagger into Seatonville, another ghost town. My legs are screaming– I’ve just walked a double marathon with a heavy pack. However, track-side marker posts indicate the remaining distance to journey’s end: 3km … 2km … 1km … nearly there. Finally, at Welcome Creek, I pass under the OGR gateway, hobbling along a 4WD road. Within another hour I am sipping ginger beer inside the Seddonville Hotel with the local cockies. By bed-time, I have hitch-hiked home to Nelson. Clean sheets and hot showers never felt so good.

17 November 2013 – Cape Campbell – Marlborough
Leader: David Blunt

It was a 6am start from the Millers carpark for 3 early risers plus 2 more from Marybank for the 2.25 hr drive to Clifford Bay 45 km south of Blenheim. At Marfells Beach camping ground we were joined by 2 more members, Gail & Graeme, who had stayed there overnight in their camper van.

Our party of 7 set off along the beach on a receding tide for what proved to be an easy 1.5 hour stroll, following the coastline south for 7 kms. It was an overcast day, ideal for walking, if not for photography and we got our first glimpse of the imposing lighthouse when we rounded Mussel Point. Some interesting rock and sandstone formations were sighted on the way, etched out by tidal erosion.

Robert managed to climb up and sit astride a slippery, pointy-capped one with the assistance of a large piece of driftwood propping as a ladder.The grey, clay-like structure was further eroded by his efforts leaving muddy deposits on his legs, but it was worth it to be 'king of the castle'. At the base of the lighthouse was the cute wee keeper's cottage with several other baches nearby. We stopped here for a break and a general fossick around then headed up the steps to the lighthouse at the southernmost extremity of Cook Strait.

The lighthouse is the main feature of Cape Campbell with its wide black bands making it more visible against the white siltstone cliffs behind it. It is a 22m high cast iron tower replacing an earlier wooden one which was first lit in 1870. The light flashes every 15 seconds and can be seen from a distance of 19 nautical miles (35 kms).In 1986 it was automated and demanned and is now controlled from Wellington. It features on a postage stamp produced by NZ Post for the Blenpex stamp exhibition from a photo taken by Ruth Hesselyn not long before her untimely death on the Mt Arthur range last year.

Peering through the windows at the base we spotted the original lens resting on the floor inside. There were some good views to be had so we clambered up the white, siltstone cliffs that stretched back the way we had come then dropped steeply down to the beach on the other side of the cape. Returning to the picnic tables outside the baches, we stopped for a leisurely lunch then retraced our steps back along the beach to the DOC campsite. Graeme raced back to the campervan to put a brew on and Gail served up a very welcome cup of tea and gingernuts while we relaxed outside and admired the view of the Norfolk Pines below and the sweep of the bay. A fitting end to the trip and a great day out.

The beacon-seeking, beachcombing bounders and browsers were David Blunt, Uta Purcell, Marie Lenting, Gail & Graeme Malinosky (hospitality), Robert Wopereis (WTC) and Bruce Alley (scribe).


Lake-Lockett-Ray1_web.jpg407.2 KB
sylvester_web.jpg53.01 KB
cape_campbell_ridge.jpg173 KB
hoperange_web.jpg53.94 KB
Riordans-Hut_BEST_web.jpg52.11 KB
OGR_Ghost-Lake-Hut-Rocky-Tor-BEST-LScape-HDR_web.jpg154.6 KB
OGR_Party-at-Lyell-Trackhead.jpg93.99 KB
OGR_Lyell Saddle Hut_Nite Landscape.jpg55.91 KB
RJS-at-Stern-Valley-Hut-MONTAGE_web.jpg148.75 KB