Extended Trip- Wednesday 27 December 2017 to Wednesday 10 January 2018 (15 days)
Location: Douglas Range and Arthur Range, Kahurangi NP
Number of Days - Fifteen Grade - Fit
Start Location: Aorere Valley Rd, Bainham
Finish Location: Baton Valley Rd, Tapawera
Members: Robin Houston (Leader), Mark Wilson & Garry Williams
Transport: Maxi Cabs based in Takaka, contact Theo 0221370684.
Trip 1 - Classic Dragon’s Teeth Trip from Aorere Valley to Cobb Valley - 7 Days
Dec 27 12.30pm pick up by shuttle, to cottage Cater Road, Kaituna, Aorere Valley.
Dec 28 Travel to South off Quartz Range Rd, cross farm to start of track. Find way through bush to peak 920, continue up ridge line to Lead Hills, and drop north of Lake Clare to Boulder Lake Hut. 11 km, 10 hours.
Bad weather option - James Rd Right Branch to Boulder Lake via Brown Cow Ridge. 18 km, 7-8 hours
Dec 29 Boulder Lake to Adelaide Tarn via Green Saddle and Needles Eye. 9km, 5-7 hours
Dec 30 Adelaide Tarn Hut to Lonely Lake Hut via Anatoki River, Drunken Sailors. 8 km, 8-10 hours
Dec 31 Lonely Lake Hut to Fenella Hut via Kakapo Peak. 12 km, 6-8 hours.
Jan 01 Fenella Hut to Ruby Lake. 7 hours
Jan 02 Ruby Lake to Lake Sylvester. 5 hrs
Trip 2 - Roaring Lion - Karamea Bend - Batton River - 8 Days
Jan 03 Lake Sylvester to Cobb Dam (2hrs), meet Margaret for food pick-up, shuttle to Trilobite Hut back to Fenella Hut (4hrs)
Jan 04 Roaring Lion via Cobb Lake track, Round Lake, peak 1352, down spur to stream from Island Lake, to Roaring Lion River camp (8-10hrs)
Jan 05 Roaring Lion River to Roaring Lion Hut (8-10hrs)
Jan 06 Karamea River to Karamea Bend Hut (6-8 hrs)
Jan 07 Flanagans Hut via Baton saddle (6hrs)
Jan 08 Flanagans Hut to Baton Valley Road end (4hrs)
Jan 09 Extra day
Jan 10 Shuttle to Nelson Airport, mid-afternoon flight to Auckland.
Bad weather options include Tablelands route to Flora carpark, Ellis River route to Baton Valley Road.
Maxi Shuttles picked up Garry Williams, Margaret Law, Kay Willcoxs and myself at Nelson Airport at 12.30pm. Mark Wilson had flown down earlier to do some tramping around Rolling Junction and was picked up in Motueka on the way through to Takaka. Margaret and Kay were dropped off at the Anatoki Track Road end to begin their trip. Maxi Shuttles then dropped the three of us off at a very nice little cottage for the night in Kaituna at around 3.30pm. Mark, not one for sitting around, promptly set off to explore the area. Garry and I followed a few hours later, meeting Mark returning along the road after finding an old goldmine near the start of the Kaituna Track. The mine was quite small but did contain a population of cave wetas jumping around for our amusement.
Unfortunately low cloud was beginning to settle over the high ridge line and finding our way along the ridge became more difficult, and so views of distant mountains and valleys were not to be had this day. From peak 1600, we descended to Lake Clara from the north and then back up over an eastern spur and down to Boulder Lake Hut, passing it on the southern side.
Time and approximate distance travelled, 8 hours / 8 km.
Shelter - Tents near hut as hut was occupied. Water is sourced from the waterfall behind the old hut.
We tramped across freezing cold tussock (head high in places) which stung any exposed skin it touched and then up the open spur to Green Saddle. By the time we reached the saddle, the day had cleared and we were rewarded with wonderful views back to the Lead Hills and forward to The Needle. Getting to the Needles Eye required siding through bush somewhat below the ridge line and then climbing back up over the Eye, before dropping to Adelaide Tarn and the Hut. We lunched at the Hut and then decided to go onto peak 744 on the Anatoki River as we believed the large group from the previous hut was headed this way and we still had half a day to fill. We climbed up to the saddle between Mt Douglas and peak 1435, then dropped down through steep bush to the river following a GPS track I had downloaded off the net. The going along the Anatoki was quite slow as we often lost the ground trail. We arrive at our camp site at 5.30pm very pleased we had continued on from Adelaide Tarn, as tomorrow’s climb back up the spur to the Drunken Sailors.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 9.75 hours / 9 km.
Shelter - Camped in bush just east of peak 744 by river. Water is sourced from river.
We awakened to the sounds of a healthy and strong bird population, which is not something often experienced in North Island bush these days. This is probably due to recent 1080 poison drops, which seems to have divided the locals down here as there are valid arguments for both for and against. Personally, I side with DOC and the use of 1080 until convinced there is a better alternative. The track up to the Drunken Sailors is about 500m east from peak 744 at the stream that flows down from it. It’s marked by a large cairn near where the stream meets the Anatoki. We followed the stream a short distance before the trail ran cold, so I consulted my GPS track to Lonely Lake which indicated the track should be up on the spur east of the stream. After a bit of bush bashing, this was confirm by a good ground trail leading up the spur which seemed to get steeper the higher you climbed. Garry enjoyed it so much that he let his backpack roll back down again so he could go down and climb back up again. With great relief, we exited the bush on top of the ridge line leading to the Drunken Sailors and the going became much easier all the way to Lonely Lake Hut, passing the Drunken Sailors on the north side. Lonely Lake Hut has been recently painted bright yellow with a blue roof and the interior relined with new bunks and sink bench. It can sleep four at a squeeze, but as the weather was good Mark chose to sleep outside leaving the hut to Garry and myself.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 4 hours / 4 km.
Shelter - Lonely Lake Hut. Water is sourced from stream signposted from hut.
We were greeted with another fine morning, starting the day with a short climb to get up onto the Douglas Range proper and a fairly straightforward tramp siding peak 1610 to the east and Kakapo peak to the west. It was then over Waingaro Peak before the long descent to Fenella Hut at the head of the Cob Valley. Fenella Hut was empty when we arrived at 12.30pm, so after lunch we began to make ourselves comfortable by lighting the fire to dry our damp clothes. Mark knew the site and offered to chop some firewood, and so Garry and I followed him down to the woodshed to carry the chopped wood back to the hut. As the day drew on, more and more people arrived resulting in around 10 -12 people for the night. It was New Year’s Eve and there was good company, card games and some alcohol for those who had carried it in from the Cob Valley Road end. But as most had similarly done a fair share of tramping during the day, we were all snugly rugged up well before midnight.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 5 hours / 8 km.
Shelter - Fennella Hut. Water is sourced from hut tank.
We awoke to a cloudy day with rain and high winds forecast. However, as there was a small patch of blue sky, we decided to tackle the Locket Range (presently hidden by cloud) as planned. So back up the track we had come down yesterday to the saddle between the Douglas and Locket Range. Part way up, Garry realised he had left his pack rain cover behind, and so while we slowly proceeded up the hill, he ran back to get it. After regrouping on the saddle, we proceeded along the range in reasonably clear conditions with cloud hovering around the ridge higher up. Between peaks 1390 and 1503, there was a tricky bush section to find our way through, followed by a steep siding around peak 1503, leading to a steep scree slope climb up to peak 1672. Up around Mt Benson, the ridge become more difficult requiring some further siding. However, the forecast rain and winds had not arrived resulting in good progress overall. Because of our good progress and the threat of bad weather, we decided not to camp at Ruby Lake, as planned, but continue on to Diamond Lake or possibly Sylvester Hut if time and energy allowed. We arrived at Sylvester Hut at 5pm in thick cloud and shared the hut with a DOC couple, their two young daughters and their friends (another couple with two more young daughters) which provided pleasant conversation and amusement for the evening.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 9 hours / 13 km.
Shelter - Sylvester Hut. Water is sourced from hut tank.
A rest day resulted from not stopping at Ruby Lake as planned. Mark decided to set off in thick cloud shortly after breakfast to find a bush route through to Diamond Lake that we had been told about by a couple we met the day before on the Locket Range heading to Fennella Hut. Garry and I looked at the cloud cover and decided we would take the rest day. After lunch, the cloud had cleared so we decided to take a stroll around the lake in the general direction Mark had taken. On gaining the ridge line north of Lake Sylvester, the ground dropped steeply through bush before rising again above the bush line in the direction of Diamond Lake. We decided that excursion was not for us and proceeded up to the ridge where we were able to take in the views over Lake Sylvester, Iron Lake and Lake Locket to the north. Later, noticing Mark heading back and the cloud creeping in again, we scurried back down, hut bound. On returning to the hut, we met a guy with a fully charged phone and, as we had mobile coverage, we were able to get an up-to-date Metvuw weather forecast for the next five days. Unfortunately the forecast was not good for the days we were planning to negotiate The Roaring Lion River (deep pools & narrow gorges) and so I decided to go to my wet weather plan B as follows -
Jan 03 Lake Sylvester to Cobb Dam, meet Margaret for food pick-up, shuttle to Trilobight Hut then up over the Peel Range to Balloon Hut.
Jan 04 Balloon Hut to Mt Arthur Hut via Cordons Pyramid.
Jan 05 Mt Arthur Hut to Ellis Hut.
Jan 06 Ellis Hut around the Twins to campsite near peak 1541 on the Arthur Range.
Jan 07 Peak 1541 to Baton Saddle before dropping to Flanagans Hut.
Jan 08 Flanagans Hut back up to Baton Saddle and along Arthur Range to Cowins Spur camp site.
Jan 09 Cowins Spur camp site to campsite at base of spur Baton Valley.
Jan 10 Campsite the Baton Valley Road end for shuttle pick up by 10am.
The above provides for easy travel across the tablelands, staying in huts each night during the worst of the forecasted bad weather. Unfortunately Mark was not interested in this revised plan and chose to make his own way out. Later he realised that in order to get out, he might as well accompany us to Mt Arthur hut where his friend from Ngatimoti would be able to pick him up from the Flora Saddle carpark.
Began with an easy stroll down to the Cob dam where we met Margaret Law, Kay Wilcocks and Terri-Ann Scorer who arrived by rental car for a weekend of hiking around the Locket Range. After dropping Margaret and Kay off, Maxi Cabs transported Mark, Garry and me down the road to Trilobight Hut where we changed dirty clothes for clean and resupplied our food bags for trip 2. After a short ride back up the road, we commenced our climb up Lake Peel Track to the top of the Peel Range, down to Lake Peel and then up onto the tablelands for morning tea. We decided to take a short side trip up to the top of Mt Peel to take in the views of where we had been - Douglas and Locket Ranges, where we were headed - Mt Arthur and the Twin Sisters, and the seemingly never-ending mountain ranges of the Kahurangi National Park.
After an easy stroll down the mountain, it was a short tramp to Balloon Hut arriving at 4pm just before the rain arrived. Later that day, a couple of hardened Tararua Club trampers arrived after failing in an attempt to tackle the Roaring Lion River due to a knee injury sustained while descending Kakapo Spur.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 6 hours / 10 km.
Shelter - Balloon Hut. Water is sourced from hut tank.
We awoke to a fine morning and quickly got underway. On passing a family headed for Karamea Bend Hut, we were advised that 100mm of rain was expected that night, confirming I had made the right decision in not proceeding down to the Roaring Lion River as originally planned. As Garry has an interest in caving, we elected to take Potholes Track and check out Sphinx Valley Cave. Unfortunately Sphinx rock lost its head during an earthquake some years back, but it is an interesting track with the cave and multiple potholes. The track links to Gordons Pyramid Track, so it was up and over Gordons Pyramid and onto the Horseshoe Basin at the foot of Mount Arthur for lunch. After lunch, it was a short climb up to the Mt Arthur track intersection where we decided to go straight to the hut rather than summiting Mt Arthur. This decision was due to the summit being in thick cloud and we would have an opportunity to summit it tomorrow hopefully in better conditions. We arrived at Mt Arthur hut at 1.30pm. A group of 15 day hikers arrived soon after us and parked themselves outside the hut for lunch. After they had departed, we got the fire going as the rain had started and settled in for a cosy night while it hosed down outside.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 6 hours / 11 km.
Shelter - Mt Arthur Hut. Water is sourced from hut tank.
It was still raining and, as Ellis Hut is only 4 hours away, we decided to delay our start until after lunch hoping the weather might improve. We unfortunately had no such luck, and so it was on with full wet weather gear for me and bear legs for Garry who is obviously made of tougher stuff. Heading back up the Mt Arthur Track, it was wet and windy with thick cloud. Arriving at the turnoff to the Mt Arthur Summit, Garry was keen to tackle the summit. I had already caped this one and so was less keen, but as I carried the PLB thought it best to accompany him. We arrived at the top to no views as expected, though Garry was happy to have ticked it off. Fortunately the track across Mt Arthur and down into the Ellis Valley was well poled, as it would have been difficult in thick cloud to find the way down without them. By the time we reached Ellis Hut at 4.30pm, the cloud had cleared and the sun was shining, so it was looking good for tomorrow.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 3.5 hours / 5 km.
Shelter - Ellis Hut Water is sourced from stream down from hut.
We rose full of anticipation as today we would have to find our way around the Twin Sisters to get back up onto the Arthur Range to continue our trip south. Heading down Ellis Hut Track, we quickly came to a cairn making a track through the bush. I’d been told about a track through the bush, but I only had a way point for where it came out, not where it started. This may have been a track to caves as read about in the hut visitor book. We decided to continue on down Ellis track to make sure there were no other tracks entering the bush further down, and as there wasn’t, we returned to the cairn.
The track was marked with orange ribbons but we lost them about half way through and had to bush bash the rest of the way to reach the other side as marked on my GPS. The bush opened out into a Karst area of limestone ridges running around the base of the Twins. The cairns we followed took us up high into some steep terrain we did not favour, so we abandoned this route for a more midway course. (I believe the ATC took a lower route around in 2015.) We were keen to climb the South Twin and so wanted to get onto the ridge line just south of the Twin by the first reasonably climbable spur possible. After achieving this, we dumped our packs and had a reasonably easy climb up the South Twin to its summit. The view from the top was amazing, the weather was perfect with just a slight breeze, and so we spent at least an hour up there enjoying what was to be the best day of the trip. Eventually we had to get down and find our campsite for the night. I had been told about good camping with tarns just south of peak 1541, which we found without any problem, arriving at 4pm. (The tarns were all recently refreshed by the previous day’s rain.) That evening, we watched the clouds creep up the mountain towards us and wondered what the morning would bring.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 8.5 hours / 8 km.
Shelter - Tents just east of peak 1541. Water is sourced from nearby tarns.
Thick cloud and strong winds greeted us on what was to be our most challenging day. We made good progress over peak 1520, but on crossing peak 1601 we tended to the left of the ridge and soon came to a rocky drop off. I remembered Terry Chubb mentioning having to sidle a rocky outcrop along this ridge and thought this might be the one. It was a very steep sidle and we were not happy. As we got below the cloud, I noticed the valley rising to my right and instantly knew we were off the ridge and on a spur. So we turned around and climbed back up to the top again. In doing so, we notice the correct ridge line appearing to our left and were soon back on track. (I later worked out we would have ended up in the Taylor Creek valley if we had continued down the spur.) Just before Batton Saddle, we came to another rocky drop-off we had to saddle and realised this possibly was the one Terry mentioned. Just below Baton Saddle, we stopped for lunch out of the wind and discussed whether to camp next to the tarn just below or continue all the way down the valley to Flanagans Hut. Garry had found a can of tuna at Ellis hut and, as he was running low on food, was keen to check out Flanagans for anything edible. It turned out to be a mistake as the steep, two- hour trip down was smothered in Spaniard Grass and uneven going through the tussock in the valley and all Garry found in the hut was salt. I even suggested not going back up again, thereby abandoning the rest of the Arthur Range and walking out via the Baton River track. Garry wouldn’t hear of it and so I agreed to wait to see what conditions would be like tomorrow. We arrived at the Hut at 3pm.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 7 hours / 8 km.
Shelter - Flanagans Hut. Water is sourced from hut tank.
We awoke to a beautiful clear, sunny day. With no excuses, we set off back up the valley, through the boggy tussock toward the steep climb up to Baton Saddle, through the prickly Spaniard Grass, and two hours later we were on the saddle again. The ridge line between Baton Saddle and Cowin Spur looked formidable. Peaks 1580 and 1542 were crossed without much fuss, but peak 1563 was strictly for climbers and so we saddled it on the eastern side. We got back up on the rocky ridge line heading to peak 1497 but abandoned that too on reaching a section with poor grip and possible serious consequences. I had also noticed that the sidle around on the northern side to the ridge leading down to Cowin Spur was quite achievable. Reaching Cowin Spur was a personal achievement for me as it completed the Mt Arthur Range after three previous attempts since 2014. We camped at the first tarns we came to at 3.30pm just east of peak 1497. It was fairly exposed, but as the sun was shining and we seemed sheltered from the SW winds, we settled down for a peaceful evening and hopefully a restful night. How wrong we were. During the night, the winds came up and were hitting us from all directions. Due to the slightly uneven ground, I had not achieved the perfect pitch and so had to endure considerable flapping all night, resulting in very little sleep. Perhaps we should have pitched in bush cover further down the spur, as originally intended, but then we did have a very pleasant evening on the top before the wind came up.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 8 hours / 8 km.
Shelter - Tents Water is sourced from nearby tarns.
Rain the next morning meant breakfast in bed as no one wanted to leave their tent. We packed everything possible without going out - I even got my boots and gaiters on before exiting. On exiting, the tents were quickly collapsed and stuffed into the top of our back packs. Garry had over-trousers on and I had exposed legs - who was the tough one now? We rapidly set off down the spur to get warmed up, and by the time we reached the bush line, we were removing the wet weather gear. The Cowins Spur track is clear and well-marked with orange triangles, a little steep in places perhaps for those with complaining knees, but easy going compared to what we had already been through. We arrived at the bottom of the spur at 12 noon and set up camp on flat grass. Shortly after, Margaret and Kay arrived from their camp downriver with the idea of checking out an historic bridge just slightly upriver from our camp.
Time & approximate distance travelled, 3.5 hours / 7 km.
Shelter - Tents Water is sourced from nearby stream.
Showery start to the day again, there was no need to rush and plenty of time to reach the road end. Back at Ellis Hut, I had asked Margaret to delay the shuttle pick-up to 12 noon as I figured this would give us another day to reach the Cowin Spur if needed. (It takes about four hours to walk from the Cowin Spur Bush line campsite to the Baton Valley Road end.) We arrived at the road end at 10am and found Margaret and Kay camped slightly upstream enjoying their morning tea. To finish off a highly successful trip, Theo from Maxi Cabs arrived early at 11.30am and we were on our way home.