"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you" - Isaiah 55:12

18 October 2014

Peak Hill - 20 September 2014

A little jaunt up Peak Hill was originally planned to be our way of easing ourselves back into tramping after a few months of not having done anything - a warm up for the weekend trip to Youngman Stream Hut. As it played out, the trips were done the other way around, due to the necessary child-minding arrangements falling that way. So we found ourselves heading off to Peak Hill with the weekend trip already under our belts, but still looking forward to an enjoyable day out in the Canterbury high country.

Peak Hill sits at the edge of Lake Coleridge, wedged between the lake and the Rakaia River. Standing at 1240m, Peak Hill is not a big climb, but its' isolation from other peaks in the area means that grand views in all directions await those who venture to the summit.

We started off with a short walk across a farm paddock. The marker poles lead along the fence line, and the right to cross this section comes with the mandate that trampers stick to the marked route, so don't cut directly across the paddock. Once across the stile at the head of the paddock, we started the climb. The route took a direct line straight up a narrow spur that runs up to the ridge line, following poles. Scrub grows densely in the gullies either side of the spur, so best to stay on route.
After 45 minutes of steady climbing we gained the crest of the ridge. From here, poles lead up along the ridge to the summit. It's straight forward, just follow the poles. As we gained height the wind strengthened, bitterly cold coming off fresh snow, so we donned jackets and were immediately more comfortable.

We made our way over Pt 1043m, a small, rocky knob on the ridge. Here the ridge, which is generally broad, narrows but is easily traversed. After dropping down through a small saddle we made the final climb to the summit of Peak Hill, reaching the top in 2 hours.
The view from the summit was spectacular, with an unimpeded outlook over the landscape around us. Looking around, the eye roved over the Hutt, Black, and Palmer Ranges towards the upper reaches of the mighty Rakaia valley. Double Hill appeared a mere pimple on the grand vista, beyond it stretched the Mathias River. Continuing round the compass, Mt Algidus and the Wilberforce River came into view, then gave way to the peaks around Lake Coleridge and the high country stations at their feet. Words don't give the scene adequate justice - I recommend you see it for yourself.

The wind was brisk on the summit so we didn't linger, instead opting to descend to a sheltered spot lower down the final section of ridge to eat lunch. As we ate we noticed cloud building on the other side of Redcliff Saddle so we made a hasty retreat. We watched it creep closer as we made our descent, reaching the car with around 10 minutes to spare before the rain reached us - a reminder of how quickly things can change in the mountains.

At the base of the climb up Peak Hill, looking towards Steepface Hill

Southern end of Lake Coleridge, from the lower slopes of Peak Hill

On the ridge, starting towards Pt 1043m

View across the Rakaia to Steepface Hill (left), Redcliff Saddle, and Black Hill (right)

Approaching Pt 1043m, with Peak Hill (1240m) in sight

On the rocky, narrower section of ridge passing over Pt 1043m

Julia on the narrower section of ridge, with Peak Hill ahead

Looking across the Rakaia to Black Hill (2067m, left) and the Palmer Range 

Coleridge Pass (centre), with Torlesse Range through the pass, Blue Hill to the left & Red Hill to the right of the pass

Looking back down the ridge from the base of the summit ridge of Peak Hill

View into the Rakaia headwaters, from the summit ridge of Peak Hill

Ryton Station, with Mt Enys, Blue Hill, and the southern Craigieburn Range behind

Reaching the summit of Peak Hill

From the summit of Peak Hill, looking up the Rakaia valley

Northern end of Lake Coleridge and the Wilberforce River beyond

Lake Coleridge, with Cottons Sheep Range (front), Birdwood Range (back left), Mt Olympus & Craigieburn Range (back right)

Julia on the summit, with Steepface Hill and Redcliff Saddle behind

View down the Rakaia, from the summit of Peak Hill

Looking across Lake Coleridge to Kaka Hill (lakeside), Red Hill (left), and Big Ben Range (centre background)

L to R: Steepface Hill, Redcliff Saddle, Shingle Hill (rear), and Black Hill (rising out of frame)

Black Hill (left), and the Palmer Range. The manicured farmland to the right is Glenrock Station

On the summit of Peak Hill
Panorama from Peak Hill, covering around 180deg from Redcliff Saddle round to Carriage Drive
Tighter pano, focussing on the Rakaia valley

Descending off Peak Hill, looking for a sheltered spot for lunch

Descending off Peak Hill

L to R: Steepface Hill, Redcliff Saddle, Shingle Hill (rear), and Black Hill, and the storm brewing 
Peaks north and east of Lake Coleridge, from the Wilberforce round to the Big Ben Range

Mt Enys, Blue Hill, Coleridge Pass, and Red Hill, taken from near Pt 1043m

Storm building through Redcliff Saddle

Great day to be out in the hills

On the ridge near Pt 1043m

The rain reaches Redcliff Saddle - will we make it to the car in time?

Rain spilling over Steepface Hill, and our car is in sight

On the lower slopes of Peak Hill, just in time

Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ

 Access: Take SH72 towards the Rakaia Gorge and follow road signs to Lake Coleridge and Algidus Rd. Peak Hill is signposted along the way, and there is a DOC signpost at the carpark area. Keep to the marked route, all surrounding areas are private land.

Time: 2hrs to the summit

Map: BW20 Lake Coleridge

Hut: None

15 October 2014

Lake Guyon Hut - 4-5 October 2014

I had gotten wind of a Christchurch Tramping Club (CTC) trip that I liked the look of in an area I don't know all that well, so welcomed the opportunity to join their trip, which was being led by someone who apparently knew the area extremely well.

The plan, I'll call it Plan A, was to head up what's known locally as the Klondyke Valley (formally marked on maps as the Rahu River Right Branch), camp by the tarns at the head of the valley, then head out along the tops the next day. Snow was forecast for Friday, and it duly fell to low levels, but the real problem lay over the weekend - gale force southwest winds for Saturday, followed by gale force northwest winds and heavy rain for Sunday. The prospect of a high camp in such conditions was no longer appealing, and so on Friday afternoon Plan A was placed on the scrap heap.
Plan B was formed, this being a tramp up Carlyle Stream at Glenhope Station, overnighting at the interesting looking Carlyle Hut, before heading out on Sunday. Our leader found Glenhope Station impossible to contact, which meant we were faced with fording the Hope River in order to access Carlyle Stream. In good conditions this is a difficult ford, following the heavy rain and snow on Friday - not a viable option. Which led to Plan C.
Plan C involved heading up into the head of the Hope River, looking at staying at either Top Hope or St Jacobs Hut. Again the weather that struck the area on Friday was the winner, as there had been such heavy snowfall on Lewis Pass that the main highway was totally closed to all vehicles at the Hanmer Springs road junction. Plan D anyone??

And that's how we found ourselves at Fowlers Hut on Tophouse Rd over the back of Hanmer Springs - it was about the only place we could actually get to! The newly hatched plan was to head over Fowlers Pass to Lake Guyon, an easy weekend trip, but one that was now transformed into something less typical, and a bit more special, due to the covering of fresh snow all around us.
The tramp up to Fowlers Pass is straight forward, following the old pack track that would have been heavily used back in the active days of St James Station. It is well graded, almost constant the entire way up to the pass, and we were able to make good progress despite the deep snow underfoot.
As we neared the pass we were met by, at times, very strong winds funneling through the pass, winds that swept up the fresh powder snow and blasted us with some ferocity with a wall of white, forcing us to turn our backs and ride it out.
We gained Fowlers Pass (1296m) after an hour and a half, but it was no place to linger so, after a few quick photos, we dropped down into Smyths Stream. It was more direct to ignore the zig-zag track that works its' way down to the valley, instead we took a straight line down across snow and some small eroded patches and were quickly down in the shelter of the valley.

Smyths Stream was like a winter wonderland park, magnificent with its' deep carpet of snow. In any other season I suspect it wouldn't be as appealing but under snow it was quite magical. It was easy plugging through the snow, following the line of the stream to where it merges with the Stanley River. Here we stopped for lunch, at the toe of Long Spur, which proved a good, albeit cold, spot for lunch with views both up and down the valley.
After a hurried lunch we set off down the Stanley River, which also provided easy going as we made our way down river. The snow, while still present, had thinned considerably which enabled us to make good time, and it wasn't too long before we could see the old historic Stanley Vale Hut off in the distance. Although it meant making a slight detour, we decided to visit the hut and finish lunch there. As we approached we were somewhat surprised to see a horse roaming the flats in front of the hut. Curious, and not at all shy, it came right up to us, checking us over, before placing itself in front of the door to the hut as if standing guard.
We had no trouble entering though, and settled in to the rustic old hut for a bite to eat.
Fowlers Hut at the roadside, starting point for the tramp

Low on the pack track up to Fowlers Pass
Plugging our way up to Fowlers Pass
Just below Fowlers Pass, amidst a storm of spindrift
On Fowlers Pass (1296m), looks benign but looks can deceive
Crossing Fowlers Pass, with the head of Smyths Stream behind
Heading across Fowlers Pass, towards the zig-zag
On Fowlers Pass
View of the peaks at the head of Smyths Stream, from Fowlers Pass
Crossing Fowlers Pass
Looking down Smyths Stream, with Mt Stanley (1860m) in the background
Descending into Smyths Stream, the fast way
Encountering deep snow in Smyths Stream
Smyths Stream under snow
One of many attractive pools in Smyths Stream
Smyths Stream
Snow draping the bush in Smyths Stream
Snow draping the bush in Smyths Stream
Enjoying our trip down Smyths Stream
Snow draping the bush in Smyths Stream
Looking back up Smyths Stream, nearing the confluence with the Stanley River
Smyths Stream where it opens out, near the Stanley River confluence
Travel in the lower reaches of Smyths Stream
Smyths Stream in its more open section
View back up Smyths Stream from our lunch spot at the toe of Long Spur, Pt 1730m centre background
Smyths Stream/Stanley River confluence
Looking up the Stanley River, from the toe of Long Spur
Long Spur (left), as we start down the Stanley River
Nearing Stanley Vale, with Rabbit Hill just right of centre
Looking towards Stanley Vale, with the hut located near the cluster of trees above Brian, and Pts 1612m & 1596m rising centre of image
Pausing to take in the scenery during our best patch of weather
Approaching Stanley Vale Hut
Friendly resident of the Stanley Vale
Our friend heading back to the hut
Stanley Vale Hut, complete with guard!
Arrival at Stanley Vale Hut
Stanley Vale Hut
Interior of Stanley Vale Hut - note the mud walls
Interior of Stanley Vale Hut
Stanley Vale Hut has a long and wonderful history, dating back to around 1866. In the early 1860's, pastoral runs in the area were being taken up, and were all amalgamated to form St James Station. The first of these was taken up by G. Edwards in 1862, and became known as the 'Edwards Block'. Not long after, Edwards transferred his run to G. Willmer, who also had Rockhouse and St Mary's. Added to these were the Lake Guyon, Ada, Henry, and Stanley Vale runs, and this formed what is now known as St James Station.
Stanley Vale Hut is the original homestead of the run bearing the same name, and underwent restoration in 1988. Construction was with mud and timber studs, with lovely timber cladding. It has 2 bunks and a wood-burning fire, but being listed as historic I don't think you can actually stay there, a fact that one long term resident seems to have ignored. It appears that someone spends quite some time at the hut, which boasts a vast collection of books, and of course the horse. The hut log book indicates that a couple of gents have been doing some fencing in the area, and often pack in materials over Fowlers Pass using the horse.

As we prepared to depart for Lake Guyon, snow began to fall again, as another wave of nasty weather swept down the Waiau valley. We set off quickly, eager to reach our destination and settle in before it got too rough. The track led along the base of the hills, and within an hour we had reached the lake only to be met by more snow flurries. A short trip round the lake side on a wide track brought us to the pleasant clearing that houses Lake Guyon Hut, a basic little 4 bunker set a short distance back from the lake edge. It's one of those no frills sort of huts, with just the necessities: beds, heating, and a small cooking area.

It's always nice to arrive at a hut mid-afternoon, as it allows for plenty of time to just sit, relax, and chat, before having to think about cooking dinner. And sit, relax, and chat we did, watching the weather change seemingly every hour, steady snow alternating with breaks of sun.
Dinner was cooked and enjoyed, before we turned in early in the evening, another curious anomaly that occurs quite regularly in backcountry huts. At home I'm up late, but in a hut I'll often find myself with the head on the pillow at the usually unthinkable hour of 8pm.

We woke to a relatively fine day, which soon clouded over. However it appeared, with an early getaway, that we would beat the forecast nor'wester and associated rain. We were away around 8.30am and set off across the flats, bypassing Stanley Vale Hut this time and picking a more direct line towards the Stanley River. It's quite boggy and swampy across these flats but the covering of snow meant we could tread easily.
Rounding the corner and heading up the Stanley, it was obvious that a lot of snow had melted overnight, despite it being reasonably cool, which enabled fast progress to be made up valley. Even the snow in Smyths Stream has thinned significantly and, after a brief snack stop at the Smyths/Stanley confluence, we found ourselves at the foot of the zig-zag up to Fowlers Pass after only 3hrs. This time we took the zig-zag to make the climb up to the pass as it offers a very gentle gradient and is very easy. Fowlers Pass was gained but the idea of stopping for lunch was trumped by the fact we were now only an hour from the car, so we set off down the pack track which was also stripped of much of the snow we had encountered the day before.

We reached the car at around 12.45pm, in just over 4hrs from Lake Guyon so we had made quick time. We made use of Fowlers Hut to unwind and eat lunch, a nice relaxing end to an enjoyable weekend of tramping - not bad for Plan D!!

Approaching Lake Guyon as snow sweeps down the Waiau Valley

Snow in the air as we round Lake Guyon

Lake Guyon Hut

The stream running beside Lake Guyon Hut

Lake Guyon - in front of the hut looking towards Yanks Hill & Mt Moki

Lake Guyon - in front of the hut looking towards Yanks Hill & Mt Moki

Inside Lake Guyon Hut

Inside Lake Guyon Hut

Inside Lake Guyon Hut

Preparing to depart Lake Guyon Hut

Lake Guyon Hut beneath Lake Hill (summit out of shot to the right)

Preparing to depart Lake Guyon Hut

Lake Guyon on a perfect morning, with Mt Clara reflected

Rounding Lake Guyon, with Mt Clara (1945m) in the background

Lake Guyon, backed by Yanks Hill and Mt Moki

Leaving Lake Guyon, and a glimpse of Mt Una (2300m) in cloud back right

Lake Guyon and its' surrounds

Crossing the flats of the Stanley Vale, Mt Clara ahead of us

Looking across Stanley Vale towards the hut, with Pts 1612m & 1596m behind

Making our way across the boggy Stanley Vale - the snow cover certainly helped

Starting back up the Stanley River, Rabbit Hill centre and Aniseed Valley running to the right

Long Spur leading along to Pt 1730m, with Smyths Stream on the right

Looking up the Stanley River, Long Spur on the right

Snack stop at the Stanley/Smyths confluence

Jason looking comfortable, with the Stanley valley beyond

Crossing the Stanley River

Much less snow in Smyths Stream on our return

Snow can really transform an ordinary patch of bush

Smyths Stream

Nearing the head of Smyths Stream

Nearing the head of Smyths Stream, not far from the start of the zig-zag

Starting up the zig-zag to Fowlers Pass

Back on Fowlers Pass, and the view to Mt Stanley

On Fowlers Pass, with Mt Stanley in the background

Crossing Fowlers Pass, with Mt Pickett rising in the background

Heading back down the pack track to the car, with the Crimea Range in the distance

View of Eulalie Mound from the track to Fowlers Pass

Rodney and Brian on the Fowlers Pass track

Descending the final section to the car

Eulalie Mound (1444m)
Inside Fowlers Hut at the end of the tramp
Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ

Access: Drive to Hanmer Springs, then over Jacks Pass and onto Tophouse Rd. The start of the track is marked, and Fowlers Hut is an obvious landmark to look for at the roadside.

Time: Carpark to Fowlers Pass 1hr 30mins, pass to Stanley Vale Hut 2hrs 30mins, Stanley Vale Hut to Lake Guyon Hut 1hr

Map: BT24 Ada Pass

Hut: Stanley Vale Hut (2 bunks, historic), Lake Guyon Hut (4 bunks)