Located just off the popular St James Walkway, Magdalen Hut doesn't get the volume of traffic that the huts on the walkway receive, making it an attractive option if you're hoping to avoid the crowds, and, despite its' proximity to the popular trail, it has a lovely, remote feel to it, being nicely sited in a large bush clearing which allows visitors to experience the space of the open valley, and grants good views across to the Poplars Range, rising 1200m above the valley floor.
The tramp in to the hut is a straight forward affair, following the well maintained St James Walkway from the Boyle Village end.
From the carpark the track heads almost immediately into the bush, climbing above a small gorge in the Boyle River before dropping down to the river to cross on a swingbridge. Most of this bush section can be avoided by walking up the road from the carpark, then joining the track at a small signpost at the road edge. This, for me, is certainly a less attractive option, one in which you miss some of the joys of tramping through bush.
We reached the swingbridge across the Boyle after 30 minutes and quickly set about crossing. Set well above the river, the bridge has quite an airy feel to it, especially out in the middle, but for those who've done this sort of thing before should hold no fears.
After crossing the bridge, we followed along the true right bank of the Boyle, at times quite close beside the river, at others a little higher up. It was easy and very pleasant travel, the sound of the water engaging the senses as we made our way through the landscape. As we got further up the valley it began to open out, with wide views of the open country ahead of us spurring us on, although we were in no great hurry.
As the valley opened out, travel became a mix of track just within the bush edge and across open grassy flats. These flats are still grazed, and we caught the attention of the cattle as we trekked past.
Ahead of these flats the Boyle River swings north, while straight ahead the open Magdalen Valley leads off into the distance. This valley is on private land, and to venture east of the Boyle requires permission.
Re-entering the bush, the track then took us up onto a terrace within the bush, climbing reasonably high (perhaps 60m) above the valley floor, cutting the corner to rejoin the Boyle further upstream. A short descent saw us reaching another swingbridge. Once across, you can either turn left and follow up the Boyle on the St James Walkway to reach Boyle Flats Hut, or, if visiting Magdalen Hut, turn right and follow a decent foot trail for about 15 minutes downstream.
Magdalen Hut is a relatively new hut, built in 2008. It has 6 bunks, a cosy looking fire with plenty of wood on hand, double glazing, and insect screens - pretty nice! It's the third version of a hut on the site, each just an update of the previous.
We arrived to find we had the hut to ourselves...almost! Before she was even through the door Julia spied a mouse, and it turned out 2 were in residence. They were in fact rather cute and entertaining, poking their little heads above the fire screen, and scurrying all over the hut.
We decided to try and catch them, which proved easy enough using chip crumbs in an old fitted bed sheet that had been left in the hut. Catch and release was our preference, so we set them free outside, and waited to see if they would return! The hut book suggested their possible entry point, so we jammed that up, but come evening time they were back...and can they sure make noise at night!! It seemed we had actually jammed up their exit point, so they were now trapped inside for the night...not so cute anymore!
Aside from the mice we had a lovely evening, lying out on the grass in front of the hut watching the stars and satellites whirl past overhead, a simple pleasure but one that is lost on many who never venture out of the city.
Morning had us agreeing on a short cut home. Instead of heading back upstream to cross the swingbridge, we decided to ford the river directly from the hut then cross the nice looking grass flats to rejoin the track where we had seen the cattle the previous day. While not strictly in accordance with the negotiated land access, a check on a mapping website I often use revealed that we were still on conservation land the whole way except for where we forded the Boyle, and it is generally considered acceptable to follow flowing water. I've seen many reports of other parties doing the same, and we were on the same section of land as the track...just not on the track.
There were a few moments of apprehension as we encountered a swampy section on the flats, with flash backs of crossing the "nice grassy flat" heading to Thompsons Flat Hut coming to mind, but there were really only small pockets of swampy stuff, easily avoided, and we linked back up with the main track in quick time, saving ourselves probably around 45 minutes.
As we made our way down valley, thicker clouds were starting to spill over the Poplars Range, looking ominous enough to keep us moving at a decent pace. That, and the fact that you're generally walking slightly downhill most of the way, saw us reaching the car in around 2hr 30mins, where we quickly changed before the ever present Boyle Village sandflies found us.
|Early days in the tramp to Magdalen Hut|
|The first swingbridge across the Boyle River|
|Julia crossing the swingbridge|
|Boyle River, with the Poplars Range behind|
|Crossing an obliterated stream bed|
|Caught on the wrong side of the lens!|
|Nice spot for a snack stop|
|The open expanse of the mid-valley, Magdalen Valley straight ahead, the Boyle turns hard left this side of the bush covered hill left centre|
|Crossing the bridge to nowhere|
|Second swingbridge across the Boyle River|
|Not your typical selfie, looking down the Boyle River|
|Heading downstream to Magdalen Hut|
|Alongside the Boyle on our way down to Magdalen Hut|
|Boyle River, with Mons Sex Millia (1835m) behind|
|Negotiating a bluff on the way down to the hut|
|Arriving at Magdalen Hut, with Mons Sex Millia and the Poplars Range providing the backdrop|
|Magdalen Hut, and the view up Maritana Stream to the Opera Range, Maritana (1815m) at rear|
|Mt Schiehallion (1636m) and hut toilet, from the clearing around the hut|
|The entertainment has arrived|
|Friendly - this is taken at a focal length of 40mm, was only carrying the wide angle lens|
|Fording the Boyle River as we set off for the car|
|Mt Schiehallion (left), and Poplars Range|
|Easy travel along the track|
|Flats next to the Boyle, with the Poplars Range rising up behind|
|Looking across the Boyle towards Mons Sex Millia|
|Same place, same idea - time for a snack|
|Back across the swingbridge, almost done|
|Looking up the Boyle from the middle of the swingbridge|
|Looking down the Boyle from the swingbridge|
|Attractive small side stream - these things are there if you're looking|
|Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ|
Access: Take SH7 towards Lewis Pass and turn at the signposted road at Boyle Village.
Time: Carpark to Magdalen Hut 3hr 30mins, return 2hr 30mins
Map: BU23 Boyle Village
Hut: Magdalen Hut (6 bunks)