I was on a day tramp with 10 year old son Toby, initially planning to make the short climb onto the tops and then on to Trig M and hopefully Rabbit Hill. It quickly became apparent that being on the exposed tops wasn't going to be a great option, so in came the back up plan - a trip up to Benmore Hut, a small hut tucked away in the bush on the lee slopes, surely this would offer some shelter from the gales whipping through the hills.
We made the turn off into Ben More Station, which is situated on the Springfield side of Porters Pass, and followed along a muddy farm track to the equally muddy carpark. Being in a 2WD vehicle, it was on foot for us from here, but for those in 4WD's access is allowed for a further 3km to a second marked carpark. Be warned - do not attempt this in anything other than a decent 4WD as the track is extremely muddy!
We trudged our way along the 4WD track across farmland, following the base of the hills. As expected, once we were tucked in behind the hills we were quite sheltered, and even more so once we entered the bush.
We reached the 4WD carpark after 45 minutes of traipsing through mud, and were eager to enter the bush onto what could only be a better track!
Indeed it was, a fine bush track, typical of so many around Canterbury, well marked and maintained. From entering the bush to the hut there is very little to say, other than to expect more mud as you get further up the valley. While I did my best to keep my boots somewhat mud free (an impossible task!), I found myself being serenaded by Toby's constant call of "don't step there...or there...or there". It seemed he was seeking out the deepest, muddiest parts, just so he could tell me not to step there! A messy exercise for him, but one that kept him occupied and thoroughly enjoying himself, despite the constant uphill nature of the walk in.
In several places, ropes have been installed to help you up and down steeper, or slipperier sections - these are very useful.
After around 2hrs 15mins, Toby was starting to feel the pinch, having done superbly to this point. It felt like we were close, so I got the map and tried to ascertain our position - difficult in the bush, but with the canopy thinning I was able to make out a couple of spot heights nearby and happily announced we were close. Fifteen minutes later the welcome sight of a bright orange hut came into view and we stepped into the small clearing that is the home of Benmore Hut.
Benmore Hut is a small 3 bunk (4 if you don't mind being cosy) hut, A-frame style, located on a small saddle at around 850m. Built in 1977 by the Malvern branch of the NZ Deerstalkers Association, it's recently had a paint job and is now resplendent in a bright orange coat. Inside, there are 2 sacking bunks along one wall with mattresses, while on the opposite wall in a reasonably sized wooden platform forming the third bunk. You could fit 2 on this platform quite comfortably, but it would be cosy, and there's only 1 mattress. The logburner looks great, and entries in the hut book suggest it does a great job of heating the little hut.
Judging by the hut book log, the hut seems to be almost exclusively frequented by hunters, with only a few sporadic entries from trampers.
We hung around for around 40 minutes, eating lunch, taking photos, and enjoying the surrounds. I was mindful of the potential weather change in the forecast, so we didn't hang around too long, and set off back down the track at an increased pace, helped by the fact it was pretty much all downhill on the way out.
Toby set a cracking pace and in what seemed like no time at all we emerged from the bush ready to tackle the muddy 4WD track again.
There was a noticeable change in the air as we left the bush, and a quick glance over our shoulders told us what we were in for, as rain was starting to spill over the tops and fill the valley behind us. Donning jackets, we went as quickly as we could through the mud, and were only caught up by the heavy rain just 5 minutes from the car. We'd timed it almost perfectly!
An awesome, fun trip, one we'll both remember for quite some time.
|Starting out along the 4WD track|
|Looking across Ben More Station land to Foggy Peak (1741m), with Mt Enys on the Craigieburn Range in the background|
|Plenty of mud on the 4WD track - Toby loved it!!|
|Nearing the 4WD carpark, with Ben More (1655m) sporting a fresh coat of overnight snow|
|Nice spot to rest the legs before starting the steady climb to Benmore Hut|
|Lunch at Benmore Hut|
|Interior of Benmore Hut, a tidy, rustic hut|
|Sacking bunks, which look to be in excellent condition|
|Benmore Hut with its flash new paint job|
|Toby exploring around the hut - nice ladder made from beech saplings|
|The limited view from the hut door, down the valley all the way to Chest Peak, Puketeraki Range|
|Ready to leave Benmore Hut|
|Ominous looking weather starting to spill over the tops, with rain filling in the valley behind us|
|Did I mention there was mud?!!!|
|Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ|
Access: Follow SH73 towards Porters Pass and turn off into Ben More Station (signpost on roadside), then follow DOC signage to carpark. All land other than the route described is private, you must stick to the marked route.
Time: Carpark to hut 2hr 30mins (including 45mins walking 4WD track), return 2hr
Map: BW21 Springfield
Hut: Benmore Hut (3 bunks)