Trip Reports, April-May 2014

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  1. Red Hills Plateau > Mt Richmond FP
  2. Kaituna Ridges > Marlborough
  3. Johnston Peak > Mt Richmond FP
  4. Brook Waimarama > Nelson
  5. Torrent Bay Boat-Walk > Abel Tasman NP
  6. St Arnaud Ridge walk > Nelson Lakes NP
  7. Kayaking Pepin Island > Nelson
  8. Awatere Tussock Track > Marlborough

29 March 2014 – Red Hills Hut Mt Richmond Forest Park
Leader: Sue Henley

After previous damp and claggy trips to Red Hills some of us were looking forward this time to the prospect of some fine weather and views of the plateau.

We began our day with a pleasant walk through beech forest  accompanied by enthusiastic bird song, with one or two of our party keen to show off their balancing skills by walking a log over a raging river rather than get wet feet!

Continuing on a gentle incline up a four wheel drive track and some rewarding views we reached the hut, tummies rumbling. After a leisurely lunch we headed up towards the plateau, our previously gentle stroll becoming somewhat less gracious, clumsily stumbling and swearing through the tussock, asking what happened to the track? We finally reached the infamous plateau, to be rewarded with stunning views all round.

After stumbling around the plateau for an hour or so, we headed back down and finally made it back to the hut, strangely with ankles still intact. After some photography lessons and a group photo, we resumed our gentle stroll once again back the way we came, stopping to visit the old cobb cottage along the way. Eat your heart out Sarah Beeny!

Overall a pleasant and enjoyable day, a big thank you to all who came along: Bruce Alley, Chris Louth, Uta Purcell, Elizabeth Dooley, Ian & Susan from Canada, plus Sue Henley.

12 April 2014 – Kaituna Ridges Ramble Marlborough
Leader: Kate Krawczyk

The Kaituna Ridges Ramble is a community fundraiser for the Pelorus Community Preschool. It is held annually on Kaituna Ridges farm – a lovely property at the base of Pelorus Sound within the Kaituna Valley. 

The views were fantastic from the ridgelines. To the north were views over both the Queen Charlotte Sound and Pelorus Sound, and to the south looking down on the Kaituna Valley and Havelock.

This year there was a 12km course but also a shorter 7.35 km course – we chose the long course just for the exercise. The event began at a farm woolshed with some friendly folk who were running the fundraiser and we couldn’t help but stop and have a chat and a coffee before we started on the walk. We were surprised to see a few runners starting just before us, but I assured Pat and Kelvin that as soon as they were out of sight they’d fade into a walk – that’s what I’d do anyway.

There was a steady uphill climb to start on a 4WD farm track, and as we crested the top of the hill, we were amazed to see a runway high on the ridge. It would take a pretty brave and experienced pilot to land on that one.

A volunteer with lollipops was waiting for us – we could get used to this! Another unusual feature were the markings every kilometre. Even though it wasn’t a race, it was nice to know our progress.  Next on the route was a good drop before returning to the ridgeline and winding through some beautiful beech forest on a bush track where we stopped to enjoy the views and have a bite to eat. Up we climbed again before heading into thicker bush and following an old gold miner’s trail to come out on the ridge to begin the final descent back to the woolshed. Here were farm fresh pork and mutton roasting on spits for all of the participants – what a treat!  The cow pats were impressive and so was the company. We popped into the Slip Inn in at Havelock for a quick refreshment before heading back to Nelson.

I am not usually one to take part in fundraisers, but I must say that I love the creativity and the spirit of this fundraiser – which is why I decided to do it again this year. Thanks to Pat and Kelvin for joining me and enjoying some different views.

Participants were Kate Krawczyk (scribe), Patrick Holland & Kelvin Drew.

25–27 April 2014 – Johnston Peak Mt Richmond Forest Park
Leader: Kate Krawczyk


In the New Zealand backcountry there have been several notorious plane crashes. Sometimes the wreckage was removed; sometimes it is still there waiting for an adventurous tramper to discover and then reflect on how the aircraft came to grief.

Over ANZAC weekend our party of ten chose to visit the lofty heights of Johnston Peak (1647m) to search for the remains of ZK-AFE, the first commercial airline disaster in NZ.

We had made the journey from Nelson in good time and forded Armchair Stream in bare feet. We had ascended the logging road for an hour to reach the top carpark, which is really just a skid site atop the ridge. After hauling ourselves up an unforgivingly steep spur, our track through beech forest eventually evened out, as we picked our way along a knife-edge ridgeline towards Grass Knob. Light rain fell as we sidled around the headwaters to find the NZFS hut on Richmond Saddle almost full. We erected tents on any flat spots we could find, and headed indoors. The 8-bunker somehow accommodated 17 souls during an evening of swapping tales, sharing chocolate and playing Scrabble.

The first rays of dawn saw us stretching our bodies back into shape, and dusting the frost off our tent flies. Once above the bush-line, our big party spread out across 40-degree slopes of shattered scree and teetering boulders. Stopping to admire the little things like vegetable sheep and penwiper plants, the slow grind up to the summit cairn took an hour, but the views took our breath away.

This pyramidal peak was named after a prominent farming family in the Wairau. On a clear day, Mt Richmond (1760m) provides a spectacular platform to gaze at the world below. To the north, Taranaki rises defiantly from the Tasman, while to the south, a fresh dusting of snow cloaks Tapuae-o-Uenuku.

Here, our slowest members turned on their heels, while the younger and faster members pushed onward, weaving through rocky ramparts to a high tussock plateau. A short puff onto the ridge put us within striking distance of the peak, named after the pilot Keith Richard Johnston. However, to attain the summit meant leaving the poled route, and scrambling around a number of rocky tors.

From here, we began searching the tussock slopes between Johnston Peak and Mt Fell for signs of the airplane crash site. Without accurate co-ordinates, it took us more than 30 minutes until somebody sighted a metallic object shining out of the brown-green tundra. Our joy in finding the Kereru was mixed with sadness at the unfolding tragedy, as we found a plaque cemented into a rock wall, right at the point of impact. Tiny fragments of the nose-cone were still embedded into the rock. Several metres below were the pilot’s foot pedals; below this was a propeller; then the landing gear; then a section of the fuselage, contorted and melted in the ensuing fire. For 72 years, bits and pieces have been scattered downhill by melting snow and shifting scree in a direct line from the plaque to the tree-line.

It was on 7 May 1942 the twin-engine Lockheed Electra departed Wellington for Nelson, but was forced off-course by poor visibility and strong winds. A nearby farmer in Canvastown heard the sound of a plane ‘battering against the storm’ and ‘two bangs’. Hundreds of Nelsonians searched for days for the missing airliner, including members of our tramping club, until a plane from the Woodbourne airbase discovered the burnt-out wreckage. There were no survivors – five people perished.

The body recovery lasted 10 days, in freezing temperatures and formidable terrain. Bodies were doused in disinfectant, placed in sacks then carried out on make-shift stretchers. During one evening, the bodies were tied in trees so wild pigs couldn’t reach them.

Unfortunately, the rocks of the mineral belt rendered army radios useless. Instead, each team of volunteers were issued with a pair of homing pigeons which proved to be more efficient. The birds were carried in cardboard boxes, and party leaders were instructed how to attach a message to a pigeon’s leg with rubber bands – how times have changed! On a previous trip here, a member of our party damaged an ankle, used a cell-phone, and was choppered back to Nelson within hours. 

One of the deceased passengers, Pamela Ruth Fell, had a nearby mountain named after her, as she was a keen local tramper. After an abandoned attempt on Mt Fell, we made a second traverse over Mt Richmond during the golden hour. Near the top, the setting sun cast our shadows onto the swirling clouds below us. We had witnessed the Spectre of the Brocken – our giant silhouettes were circled with a round rainbow, like a ring of protection. Once the magic show ended, we descended through a darkened forest, dribbling into the hut after nine hours’ glorious exploration.

Aeronautical Adventurers were: Kate Krawczyk, Barry James, Andrea Cockerton, Ian Morris, Annette LeCren, Birgit Klingbein, Rodney & Carole Lewis, Pat Holland & Ray Salisbury (scribe).

Further reading: Impact Mount Richmond, The Last Flight of the Kereru, by Philip Coote.

Click here for more photos of the wreckage

3 May 2014 Brook Waimarama Sanctuary Nelson
Leader: Elizabeth Dooley


Eight people met in the Brook Sanctuary car park. We had heard a variety of reports about the state of the track but decided to head up Koru Track where we met Arthur, a long-time member of the club and now a volunteer track worker in the Brook. Arthur was pretty sure we would get up to Third House without too much trouble.

After Corkscrew Crossing, we came to a choice of tracks and chose Kakariki Ridge where we enjoyed the company of many fantails, bellbirds and finches and one inquisitive robin. We continued on the ridge until we linked up with the Toutouwai Track which we followed to Third House where we had lunch at a handsome new picnic table in beautiful sunshine.

While there, we met mountain bikers and other walkers who had come via the Dun Mountain Track without any windfall problems. We discussed possible return routes and decided to return on the Toutouwai Track. We met considerable windfall on this particularly steep track and concluded that we were very glad we had avoided it on the way up.  We did, however, come across an extraordianarily large patch of the orchid Dendrobium Cuninghami – growing on the ground (it usually perches in a tree).There were still a few flowers blooming.

At Totara Crossing we had a choice of continuing down via Koru or making a stream crossing on slippery rocks. Bruce, Richard and Brendan decided to stay on the Totara track and the rest of us came back to the Brook Visitor Centre on Koru, arriving back in time to spend and enjoyable half an hour at the Visitor Centre before heading home.

We all enjoyed the walk so much we wondered why we didn’t visit the Brook more often.

The nominal leader was Elizabeth Dooley, accompanied by Chris and Lou Kolff, Graham Ferrier, Uta Purcell, Bruce Alley, Richard Talbot and visitor Brendan Silcock.

10 May 2014 – Torrent Bay Abel Tasman National Park
Leader: Brian Renwick

On a bright and clear autumn morning, seven of us assembled at Rod and Carole’s home at 7.15am and piled into their spacious people-mover for the drive to Marahau. We strolled off into the N.P. at 8.30am, enjoying the easy-graded and well-benched track.

At Appletree Bay we paused for morning tea and basked in the sunshine. More pleasant bush-walking followed with suberb views of all the bays below us. Bruce, Graeme and Will decided to venture down to Watering Cove where the French explorer Dumont D’Urville watered his ship, a corvette called the Astrolabe, in 1827.

Half an hour later we arrived at Anchorage Bay to the welcome and picturesque sight of Brian’s 30 foot catamaran glistening on the sunny shoreline. He had made good time from Nelson that morning and anchored just before we arrived. It was lunch-time and his son Kim was kept busy rowing two trampers at a time in a small dinghy across to the cat.

Skipper Brian welcomed us all aboard then invited those interested to take the helm. Kathy stepped up and under instruction from Brian set sail for Bark Bay. Once she sorted out her port and starboard sides and avoided some grief on the reef, there was no stopping her. Brian and self-appointed First Mate Rod commented that she had now qualified for her Coastal Skippers Ticket.

The rest of us lounged about on the deck and soaked up the sun and the awesome scenery. Brian tried hoisting a sail but with virtually no wind it made very little difference to our speed, so down it came after 10 minutes. Thank goodness for an engine which can rescue you when becalmed.

No tots of rum in the hold but down below there was a galley where Debbie kept herself busy serving up tea and coffee to all the land-lubbers above. We headed further north to Tonga Island and cruised in close to the southern end to view the odd seal pup cavorting on the rocks.

Then it was all the way back to the Astrolabe Roadstead to the larger of two islands, which D’Urville named Adele Island in honour of his wife. It was close by here where he had found safe anchorage all those years ago. He is considered  to be the true discoverer of Tasman Bay and its coastline even though he arrived 185 years after Tasman.

A few of us were keen to make the short climb to the top of Adele Island so once again Kim ferried us across. Good views were to be had all around from the summit and Graeme remarked that the bird-song was the richest he had heard for a long time.

On returning to our vessel, Brian made the short trip down to Coquille Bay which was named after the original name of the corvette Astrolabe. She was called the Coquille (Shell) on her first voyage to NZ under Duperrey, but did not visit this area then. Here, we disembarked, waved goodbye to Brian and Kim (who spent the night anchored back at Adele Island before sailing home next day), and a 30-minute walk from there saw us back at the Marahau carpark right on dusk. We all enjoyed the different kind of tramping experience and would thoroughly recommend it to others. Many thanks to Brian for his generous offer, time and seamanship. He expressed a wish to repeat the experience some time in the near future for other NTC members, so keep an eye on the Programme.

Competent old seadogs, laid-back landlubbers and nautical nymphs on the voyage today were Brian & Kim Renwick, Rod & Carole Lewis, Kathy Smith, Debbie Petterson, Graeme Ferrier & his neighbour Will McKee & Bruce Alley (scribe).

11 May 2014 – St Arnaud Ridge Nelson Lakes National Park
Leader: Andrea Cockerton

With the promise of good weather and fine views, the small matter of the 1200m precipitous climb did not deter eleven eager trampers destined for the Lake Rotoiti ridgeline. Eight months prior, several of us had attained the ridge via the Gruntline Trapline. On this day we meandered further around the lake for 5km, before taking the more appealing sounding Duck Pond Trapline. General consensus determined it was more grunty than the Gruntline and not a single duck was observed. A gruelling, unrelenting two hours later, all was forgotten as we topped out. 

Ken opted to sunbathe and then head back down, not before he was duly issued with a mobile phone and given his first lesson in text messaging.  Ken stepped up to the challenge. A blank txt was soon received – progress indeed. He was getting the bug, and I bet $10 he’ll be reading this on his new Blackberry!

It had taken three hours to get to this point and we were justly rewarded. The ridgeline needed care taken on some rocky sections, but it was not difficult to travel along. The highest point reached was 1796m. A quick calculation restricted well-construed thoughts of dilly–dallying, as time was not on our side. We made the turnoff to Parachute Rocks at 4pm, the sun low in the sky casting orange hues as we made our way back down through the forest. It was a delightful end, with a great crowd who shared in this energetic and breath-taking day.

Travelling companions joining me were Sue, Kate, Chris (navigator), Ken, Barry, Graeme, Bruce, Mike, Don and Nicola. Penned by Andrea (scribe).

18 May 2014 – Kayak Circumnavigation of Pepin Island – Nelson
Leader: Barry James

In a new world of acronyms and txt talk, it was ASDIP (another sunny day in paradise) and the destination was Pepin Island.

An eclectic collection of boat colours brightened up the horizon in forest green, sunflower yellow, brick red, burnt orange and ocean blue boats. And so it was that we glided our way, slicing through the water, some on, some in, rudder or rudderless; we shared a common appreciation of the sea and love of the outdoors. It was physical too – you gotta love that.  A very light breeze reflected diamonds and the expectant sou’westerlies did not give rise to a chop – much to the disappointment of some.

Starting from Cable Bay, the fascinating rock sculptures can be admired, some very close up, for those willing to run the gauntlet on rising swells though the caves and arches. At low tide a more relaxed approach can be taken. Just as you approach the Northern end of the Island on Maheipuku Point, a seal colony inhabits the rock. A quick head count revealed 13 evidently slothenly creatures. A nearby rock was adorned by gulls; shags too made their unexpected appearances by diving and popping out the water some distance ahead. Stingrays can also be observed, though not on this occasion.

On the far horizon lies Hori Bay, D’urville Island and French Pass and back towards Nelson, the 13km Boulder Bank snakes its way out to sea. Along the skirt of the island, secluded pebble beaches with backdrops of high cliffs and natural vegetation invite the weary traveller, each an adventure in itself.

On the east side of the island, nikau palms can be observed amongst the vegetation. Out party of nine pushed on, a little cautious of the rip tide on the east side, gliding past Maori Pa Beach, though it was easily navigated and we rested up along the beach a short distance on.

Feeling refuelled, we negotiated the last hour around Lagoon Point and back to the Causeway.With everyone safely ashore, some took off again, over the causeway and into the sea for a vibrant, refreshing and surprisingly warm swim – just ASDIP. Thank you to everyone for a fun day Monique, Pat, Barry, Jo, Lawrie, Kaye & Andrea (scribe).

April 2014 – PRIVATE WALK – Awatere Tussock Track, Marlborough


by Ray Salisbury

In early April, accompanied by club members Uta Purcell, Marie Lenting and Bob Janssen, I embarked on a self-guided quest in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley.

A relative newcomer to the plethora of private walks in New Zealand, the Tussock Track was opened for business in 2007 by Simon Harvey on the steep hill country of Glen Orkney station.

Leaving behind the rows of vines and wineries, we arrive at the road-end late in the afternoon. Simon and Lynda are both present to give us a warm welcome. When we’ve settled into The Cottage for the evening, the couple return to give us a briefing. We make the most of their rural hospitality.

Next morning, after a hot shower and hot breakfast, we don day-packs and make a sluggish start strolling along the road. We soon find ourselves sweating up a steep spur, throwing off excess clothing, gulping down cold drinks. This is no walk in the proverbial park, I realise. The rude awakening sees us follow more marker posts, ever upward. We’re trudging through rolling tussocks on a bearing due south, over saddles, sidling ridges of golden grass. Chasing rabbits, scaring hawks and herding frightened flocks of woolly sheep.

Eventually, a lonely 4WD track snakes up a secluded gully, past an iron dunny, to top out at the lunch shelter – minimalist in design but sufficient to provide much-needed shade. Bob is a generous gentleman, and breaks out the Bundabergs, one for each of us! We quietly sip ginger beer, drinking in the breath-taking vista beneath our feet; an endless Grahame Sydney canvas.

Dropping down a 4WD road into the headwaters of a creek, the autumnal sun is raking over the scorched earth like a searchlight. We are fugitives, hiding from the heat in a scrap of regenerating bush to a thoughtfully-placed a bench seat. Bellbirds serenade us while fantails frolic overhead.

Another farm road cuts through rugged ridges of bleached tussock, diving in and out of narrow gullies, meandering onward until we reach Cregan Hut at 650 metres altitude. Our chillybin and packs have ‘miraculously’ been deposited here by unseen hands.

Our hosts haven’t cut any corners in constructing a first-class luxury lodge in a sun-drenched basin at the back of their property. Cregan Hut is the crème-de-la-crème of tramper’s huts, sporting a barbeque area, north-facing balcony, twin bunkrooms and a fully-equipped kitchen. Solar power provides electric lights and heating. The cabin is built from macrocarpa and gum trees milled on-site; the rough-hewn timber contrasts with a minimalist, modern aesthetic.

Full of praise, we indulge in the decadence of hot showers and cold beer. Gazing out the window at a postcard-perfect panorama of blue and gold.

Dawn heralds another perfect day as we prepare for the adventure ahead. It’s a tough, uphill grind, hauling leaden legs up relentlessly steep tussock slopes toward our distant objective: the 1203-metre Twin Peaks. Cabbage trees punctuate the terrain, the Marlborough rock daisy, along with the odd snow totara. We peer upward, searching  for the next marker post which leads us along little ledges, up rocky staircases, weaving a precipitous path through towering bluffs . We reach the top, then, timidly step over the edge, sliding down scree toward Billy Goat Saddle.

Above us looms the shattered face of Mount Malvern. Morning has morphed into midday when we sneak along the eroded northern slopes of the mountain, our nerves tested on unstable scree.

Dancing through a mine-field of cowpats, we discover Top Hut and dive inside to enjoy the rustic atmosphere. A large teapot is boiled. It is a pleasure to imbibe the rare beauty of unbroken quiet.

There are yet more tussocks to traverse; this time it’s a sidle under the shadowy walls of Big Cregan, through a pocket of podocarp, to complete the circuit.

Our fourth day sees us depart ‘our’ hut, squinting into sunshine as it breaks out above Big Hill, firing the tussocks into golden glory. A shearing shed is explored, then we arrive at a musterer’s hut for morning tea; this place reeks of human history.

Ducking into a gully of second-growth natives that’s protected by a QE2 covenant, the abundant birdsong is evident. Uta and Marie are revelling in the identification of native plants endemic to this region. It’s a botanist’s paradise.

Grunting onto the tussock tops, we sidle along sheep trails for an age. Farm tracks take us back to the homestead where the Harveys are waiting.

In conclusion, we heartily recommend the Tussock Track to any battle-hardened tramper or seasoned adventurer who isn’t too proud to relinquish their heavy swag for a light day-pack; to swap dehydrated food for a chillybin of fresh food; to trade boring beech forest for open tussocky tops; to be a pampered tramper, if only for three blissful days of living the high life.

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