Day 97 Highland Creek Hut to Rose’s Hut

21 Feb, 11km clear and sunny

I left the hut first and had climbed the first knoll when Nick had caught up with me.

This was the most demanding section of Mangatapu Track with two climbs where you gain and lose 450m on each.

The zigzag went up a crumbling spur to Knuckles Peak north west ridge then a sidle down to the side of a creek. Only to then climb again to Knuckle Peak south western side.

Then it’s all downhill along a fence line from here to Roses Hut.

The moon

Knowing there were two big climbs and descents over windy ridges made it easier to enjoy the views, take my time and aim to get there. We did, in less than the DOC time.

Pleased with ourselves to be resting early at the hut after another great day. Shortly after arriving a NOBO joined us. Then soon after Max and Bec arrived. The hut was alive with lots of common tramping stories and as usual talk about the best tramping food.

We were all tucked in before dark and the night was moonless until after midnight.

The top of the first climb with the moon in behind
Rose’s Hut

Day 96 Fern Burn Hut to Highland Creek Hut

20 Feb, 6km, 3.45 hrs a cool start to a hot sunny day.

The full hut rose to life quietly as everyone went about their breakfast and packing routine.

I said goodbye to Laura, Clo + Sien. They are skipping a hut and heading to the next hut than me and left earlier.

Ginny and Nick are heading to Highland Creek Hut the same as me. I left at 8:30 and started up the hill straight out from the hut.

It was really cold and even colder with wet socks and boots. I had my raincoat, woolley hat and gloves on to start. When I stopped after an hour Ginny and Nick had caught up and stripped off their layers as well.

A beautiful view behind with Lake Wanaka tucked into the back.

Ahead here I come into the mountains. The track is lower on the picture bottom right.

Finally I reach the top of Jack Halls Saddle 1275m.

These are snow berries. Edible and plentiful growing on the side of the track in large clumps.

The gekos were plentiful once again flitting across the track.

The climb wasn’t too bad, it was continuous as it wound it’s way through the hills. Eventually a small river was at the bottom of the gully and I thought it was a good place to stop and take a break. My GPS said 1.7km to go to the hut. I looked up and in the distance on the top of the hill I could see Nick and Ginny way up on the mountain top. I was expecting to stay on the river and than have another climb ahead.

The climb took me into another valley and up and over to where they were stopped for lunch. I walked up and joined them. Fantastic views 360° high above the valley on a peak.

We headed back to the track and meandered around the corner and saw the hut.

It was early afternoon and so we pulled all our gear out and dried it in the sun. Tent clothes bag and shoes.

We had our second lunch and relaxed all afternoon and rested the legs. Mangatapu Track was meant to be a challenge and today mountain pass one of four proved that. I’m pleased I planned to stop at Fern Burn Hut still leaving a big day for tomorrow.

Deb a local lady joined us in the hut a little later.

Come 8:00 pm TA walkers were all ticked up in bed.

Day 95 Glendhu Camp to Free Burn Hut

19 Feb, rain, 10km from Glendhu Camp, ascent 518m

The strong wind overnight made the tent shiver but it stood up to it well.

Opening my fly this morning I had neighbours who had set up next to me on both sides. They were noisy in their set-up late last night but I did get a good sleep.

Heavy rain was forecasted for 9:00am and so I woke up early and moved my gear into the barbeque covered area nearby to keep my tent dry before any rain fell.

I set out at 8:45 leaving the camp through a fence rather than walk back a kilometer to the entrance to the camp. The guides written for us are not always accurate on this type of detail.

The Motutapu track started at the end of a 3.5 km road walk, out the camp and up a gravel road. The weather up in the Fern Valley didn’t look too good. It was already raining as I walked out from the camp.

The track went through scrubland and grassy flats following Fern Burn high up at it’s source. By now it had rained in steady showers.

These unusual gates are more like a door and not on the ground, they are to keep cattle in and rabbits out

The track then followed steep sidlings through an old forest of mountain beech, both silver and red beech.

The hut appeared beyond a high climb over tussock, grass and rocky boulders.

The ridgeline

The rain fell heavily just after I arrived at the hut. My pack was soaked, the rain cover and my pack had a hole in the bottom from Richmond Ranges rock. Somehow the rain got through my rubbish bag lining.

A short pleasant days walk, lots of uphill that didn’t phase me today. The rest yesterday made the difference in energy to climb these steepish uphill sections.

Laura was at the hut having a zero day so I had company. Around 5:00pm Clo + Sien and Nick + Ginny turned up so six TA walkers in the 12 bunk hut tonight. Two other girls arrived from Wanaka for the night also. We had a fun few hours of chatter and cooking our dinners.

Sien has continued drawing the huts, here she is just finishing up.

An early night for the entire hut. Overnight the possums played with the poles and rocks left outside on the deck chewing on the handles and dropping the laundry rocks off the balcony. Laundry rocks are used to weigh down clothing drying and are often lined up along the balastrade. Juvenile possums play with them at night.

Day 94 Wanaka to Glendhu Camp

18 Feb, overcast with a cool wind, 20km from Top10

I left my cabin for the lakeside walk around past the famous Wanaka Tree.

I saw Laura ahead of me and finally caught up with her.

The gentle walk met cyclists and day walkers. I stopped to chat with a Wanaka lady as Laura walked on. Laura planned to miss the rain forecasted for tomorrow and press on to the hut.

The lady told me the first hut on Milford Track is closed due to a cleaner having Covid an today Ngaire begins her Milford walk. I planned to link up with Ngaire and do a Great Walk with next week but now I’m hesitant. I’m safer in the back country avoiding the popular and heavier walking traffic.

As I contemplated options the views were still providing excitement for me around the lakeside.

The clouds were building in the hills
Pretty rocky beaches

Closer to the Glendhu Motor Camp the walkway + cycle track became a nature walk.

I set up my tent in the blustery wind and ate the rest of my fresh food.

Feeling really cold and tired I had an afternoon nap with the loud sound of waves on the lake close by.

When I woke I set up for a wet pack up in the morning and reviewed the route.

Day 93 Zero Wanaka

17 Feb, hot and sunny.

Trail angel Steph is also in Wanaka. We arranged to meet early afternoon and have lunch on the lake front.

First thing this morning I had to cook myself breakfast of poached eggs and Vogel bread with herb butter at Top10 Wanaka.

I chatted to people coming and going catching up on world news and various views around the Top10 Village.

Steph and her friend Karen have been tramping various tracks across the area. It was great to natter about hills and mountains and options to walk and discover. An inspiration of travelling our bush tracks in the deep south.

Steph contacted me and said we didn’t get a selfie so we had an extra catch-up at the end of the day. This is the third time we’ve met since she gave me a ride in Kerikeri early October last year.

For me personally this walk has taken me well outside my comfort zone. I see fit young people walking like the ever ready battery that will never run out of energy. My energy is zapped easily in uphill sections. There are plenty of these uppy climbs.

I am constantly reminded to acknowledge my efforts and achievements from those I meet.

The lake front was pristine today in Wanaka.

Back in my cabin I finished track admin and caught up with communications. Phoned and contacted people I needed to before planning my tomorrow.

I’m all set for the next section with a heavy pack. Rain is forecast so my plan is to reach each of the three huts on the Mangatapu Alpine Track then get to Macetown to finish Big Hill Track and arrive in Arrowtown to collect my next box.

Day 92 Pakituhi Hut to Wanaka via Lake Hawea

16 Feb, hot and sunny

The downhill is the challenge after climbing for a couple of days there is a steep section today. 3 hours to complete the Breast Hill track.

The descent is 950m where we meet the Timaru River Rd very near Hawea.

The day began easily as all 5 in the hut woke in their own time around 6:30. I love the ease of taking the time for breakfast and a hot drink.

The sunset last night

We left the hut at 8:45 and headed out to do the big descent. We walked as a group of 5 doing our own thing. Steep rocky drops following the fence up and over the bluff.

A ridge climb that started in cool cloudy rain. Rainbows followed.

Tom and Saler

The sun then began to beat down on us. So much beauty and ridge walking in the open provides amazing views.

The ridge.

Good views we had at the top of the rocky outcrops where people look like they are on a high ledge but quite safe.

Finally we pop over the end of the ridge and walk down a steep descent over the other side. It was a scramble over rocky outcrops. Steep drops and steep rocky paths.

Zig zags or cross backs take us down to Lake Hawea.

We said bye for now to Nick and Ginny who wanted to do the road walk into Alberttown.

Tom, Saler and I walked down to the lake, stripped off and dipped in the cold Hawea lake. Great for the tired calf muscles.

I was dropped off to my cabin at the Wanaka Holiday Top10 and started to set up for the next section. I did my washing and placed it on the picnic table to dry.

I spent the afternoon walking into Wanaka 2.5km to replenish supplies for lunches and get some fresh food. My resupply box was here waiting for me. Walking back to my cabin from Wanaka I sat on the lake edge and ate marinated mussels and drank blackberry chia drink in the hot sun.

I made a butter chicken for dinner with a huge salad and toasted Vogel bread.

Another section completed and a satisfied tramper.

Day 91 Stodys Hut to Pakituhi Hut via Breast Hill

15 Feb, 16km, started out rain threatening, ended hot and sunny.

We agreed last night not to head out too early in the morning and so we started waking and heading into the hut around 7:30. Pip was up and packing to head northbound.

A leisurely breakfast and packed the tent away. No dew and no sandflies, a lovely spot to camp.

Finally we get to walk the Breast Hill track leaving the hut around 8:30. It’s a steep climb at first on a 4WD old farm track and then up to the ridgeline, this was a more gradual climb. I was really looking forward to this ridgeline and the views it promised.

Further on at a junction we stopped for a break before taking the steep climb up to Breast Hill. The route to the summit was high and exposed.

As the track broadened on the ridge we came across high altitude merino sheep in huddles.

Once at the top we spent the time enjoying the reward for the hard walk. The views over Lake Hawea and behind us were amazing.

The Timaru River, the narrow valley we walked through yesterday further up the valley.

Two falcons flew in the distance and finally they explored us closer at the summit. We watched them dance and fall until they flew right by. Amazing to sit and watch them. Nick tried to get photos of them in flight and did so, they were fast. This was the highlight so far of my TA walk.

Lunch at the top of Breast Hill

Lunch at the top and after 2 hours enjoying the views, birds and changes in water colour we head down to find the hut 2.5km.

A gradual climb in grass and rock following the fence line.

We arrived at the hut and started the ritual that happens at every hut or camp. Dry boots and socks and get out of walking clothes. All after a bunk has been secured of course.

Later on two hikers arrived in from town for the night. Tom and Saler, they chatted with us until we all settled in for the night.

Day 90 Top Timaru Hut to Stodys Hut 1080m

14 Feb, 14 km, 10 hours

With a full hut of 6 inside and another 6 in their tents outside the small galley in the hut was under pressure. Alarms went off at 5:30 and red lights were making criss cross beams as the keen walkers packed up. There was a lot of jiggling for space in the hot small hut. Gear was carefully packed away as people hopped in and out around me. I was in no hurry and waiting for some space to move. I had the top bunk so had to stretch over people to get to my gear.

One way or another I managed to leave the hut at 8:15, and after 30 minutes walking also managed to loose the marker. Options were to climb down a steep no track bank to the river or look for a better path down.

I quickly found the correct path and was on my way down a steep sidle to the tree line. It wove in and out of the Timaru River as well as climb up and over in beech trees sidling the bank as it meandered through to the next valley.

It amazes me how people first navigated a path through these mountains. They all look so much the same and so far away.

The track ahead was through a deep valley downstream on a track through a narrow 7km stretch with many river crossings.

Nick and Ginny caught up and we walked together the rest of the day. I was really glad of their company especially the stream and no marker areas.

The sidling walking was hard on the feet with wet feet, boots and socks.

Rock faces with great character

Lots of river crossings up to thigh deep until we came to the waterfall.

The waterfall
Timaru River crossing was low for us. This part usually turns people back. We were lucky with fine weather.
The last chance for fresh stream water before the climb and hut. It is not recommended to drink from the cloudy stream filled with minerals created from the rock dust.

The hill climb to the hut was very steep but only 2km up. It took 2.5 hours to climb it. Hands and knees at times on very steep and high rock faces.

It was here I decided I’ve had enough and wanted a quick exit from this TA gig. It is getting harder to find the motivation on these really tough climbs especially these last couple of hours. I stopped to pee, had a drink, adjusted my pack and took one step at a time. Nick and Ginny were also climbing this hill to Stodys Hut at their own pace and found the last part of the climb a challenge.

Over the top I looked back to the valley I’d just walked and climbed up from. There was still another sidle across the tops through tussock and finally into a forested area where the old Musterers Hut is. A 6 bunk hut.

We arrived at Stodys Hut having climbed the mountain separately. A very basic hut where it’s known for mice. Ladies who camped last night fed them. Grrrrr. It has a dirt floor with a tarp over it. The bunks were platform bunks with mattresses.

I chose to put my tent up. It’s a long time since I used it.

Another walker NOBO arrived soon after me and decided to stay in the hut, this was Pip. She was an inspiration with enormous motivation with a big smile. She lit a fire so we were able to dry our shoes and socks.

We all cooked our dinner and just on dark headed to our beds. For me exhausted, tired with sore feet. With her pack on the next day Pip collected firewood to replace what she burnt last night. What a legend!

Day 89 Tin Hut to Top Timaru Hut via Mt Martha Saddle

13 Feb, very cold southerly, breezy wind. 14 km

The full hut came to life at 6:30, I was last to leave at 8:00. The spare chair put outside overnight to fit people in on the floor had been shuttled back inside.

Tin Hut right on the track with stream close by

The walk started at Avon Burn stream so wet feet from the get go. It continued in a steady climb up Mt Martha 1680m. The track was a 4WD that went right over the top so an easy track to walk on, but gradual continual climb up toward the avalanche path beyond the saddle.

The track rambled on through mountains of scree and rock until the avalanche path.

The top it began to snow lightly. Visibility was poor and improved as the descent across the avalanche path.

The climb over Mt Martha Saddle
At the top the mist turned to white snow flakes

This was wonderful to walk on. A gradual downward slope surrounded by scree. Great views of the expansive area of rock.

The descent was easy along on an unmarked bulldozer track to reach tussock. This was a swamp as it crossed streams to get to Timaru Creek at the bottom.

I arrived at the hut at 1:30 so a good day finished early.

I was 6th into a 6 bunk hut. Two more arrived later, Nick and Ginny. They read the note left in the previous hut advising full huts ahead and were expecting to camp. Four more were expected and turned up just before dark. Two 74yo and two other women. Ross gathered their water from the stream across the river as they set up camp.

The next morning first light.

Warm in the hut but still a cold wind outside.

A chilly bum with the broken door.

6 inside and 6 tenting outside. There was ice on Nick and Ginny’s tent fly in the morning a cold night outside.

Day 88 Ahuriri East Hut (Quailburn) to Tin Hut via Ahuriri River bypass bridge

12 Feb, overcast, 30km

For older walkers Quailburn Hut is off the main track yet there is no track to it. No toilet, but it is better than setting up your tent. It’s 9km to the river crossing this helps shorten the day. No sandflies. Yet the concrete tiled floor was cold. The first time I have felt the cold.

I left the hut at 8:30 after sweeping and filling the bucket with fresh water for the next walkers.

This pretty alpine flower greeted me on the track first thing as I decided how to navigate getting back to the track.

With no track to follow I decided to just walk up the valley until I found the markers.

Here’s where I was headed into the mist.

Rain was forecast for today and I saw the cloud roll up the valley.

It was a pleasant easy walk up the Ahuriri Valley following the East Ahuriri River. This is looking back at the valley I’d just walked through.

These roses were fragrant as I passed them they seemed to grow well in this area.

The grass was easy to walk on and follow the track.

A new rabbit fence was installed recently, rabbit burrows everywhere. A rabbit ran out of this burrow and straight under the fence. This happened frequently.

As I arrived at the Ahuriri River I went down to have a look. Three NOBOs just came out after crossing, they looked like they had just had a fright. It was not a good crossing for them, chest high, strong current, crossed individually. However the shortest, Sarah took this photo of me with the other two.

We chatted a while before I headed off to the bypass adding 10km extra to the day. The plan was to follow the tree line on the river side of the fence. The bank had eroded in several places and so into the pines for a bit. The sidlings were steep.

And the bridge was such a welcomed sight.

The bridge was fenced off and a light traffic bridge that bridged a fast flowing gorge.

I then began the return journey up a country road. A car came along and I hitched 4km to Birchwood carpark with the station manager Scott Hunter.

This begins a new track, Breast Hill. It fits into the Otago section on an old sheep run established in 1858. I’m heading to Tin Hut a private hut 10km up the farm track.

The track wanders along the old farm tracks over a rugged country for 5 – 6 days but today it begins as a 4WD track, crosses a stream and at times swamp. The guide suggests some rugged country up ahead and not so well marked so navigation through these hills, that all look the same to me, is the challenge.

This track followed the Avon Burn stream. A 4WD track for most of the way. Climbing up and up until the Tin Hut appeared.

I was 5th to arrive to claim a bunk. 3 hut Phil arrived shortly after with Bevan claiming the 6th and the floor. They had walked from Lake Ohau and crossed the high Ahuriri.

A pleasant evening shifting and moving around the full hut. It was cool outside with a slight breeze. I left my shoes and socks outside and it rained for a short time over night. A wet feet day tomorrow.