Monday, 16 December 2013

Nina Valley - Nina Hut 13-14th December 2013

A visit to the Nina Valley, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

For my latest tramping trip it was back to the Lewis Pass area, specifically the Nina Valley. The valley, its tracks and huts are accessible from the swing bridge across the road from the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA) Palmer Lodge. I walked up to Nina Hut on the Friday and then back out to the road the next day, total distance would be 7-8 km's each way.

NZDA Palmer Lodge and the red beast

Day One: NZDA Palmer Lodge to Nina Hut

There is a large flat area at Palmer Lodge for parking vehicles, be aware that car break ins and thefts are common all along this highway. The best bet would be to park at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre and either get them to drive you to the track end or hitch to this point. I had no problems, and in fact there were 12 cars parked here on the Saturday.

Nina Valley: Palmer Lodge to Nina Hut

Nina Track entrance on SH7

There is a sign on SH7 the start of the track there is a more informative notice just inside the bush edge showing all of the tracks and huts in the area.

Swing Bridge over the Lewis River, Nina Valley Track

DOC track board near Lewis River swing bridge

The Nina Valley intentions book box

You cross the bridge over the Lewis River right at the start of the track, it is a very scenic area, but the sand-flies are vicious so I didn't tarry long.

Nina Valley Track on the true right of Lewis River

The track slowly climbs onto an old river terrace, passing through areas of beech forest, there is a heavy layer of moss on the ground which is very attractive.

 View down the Lewis River from the Nina Valley Track

You have a great view down to the Lewis River from the beginning of the track.The bush is open at this point, with several detours to avoid places where the track has fallen into the river. You would be about 30 metres above the river at this point.

Nina Valley Track: Climbing a river terrace

You gradually climb through beech to an area of more open forest on the top of an old river terrace. The track climbs and descends through a narrow 100 metre band all the way from here to the hut. It is a bit swampy on top of these terraces as the water drainage is poor.

Nina Valley Track: The swamp

The track was a bit muddy in spots, due to recent rain, you need to carefully pick your route to avoid the worst of the mud and swampy areas.

Crossing unnamed side stream on Nina Valley Track
On the way to the hut you cross several un-bridged side streams, this is the largest of them.

Nina River and the scratch DOC camp site

At one point the track drops down to the river for a short while, loads of great camping spots in this valley, if that was your interest. This is now (2017) a very basic back country camp-site: i.e.. no toilets, fire pit or other structures.Just space!

Looking downstream on the Nina River

Above is a view of one of the gorge areas on the Nina River, the track basically follows a route which avoids these impassable areas.

At the foot bridge over Nina River

Here I am at the track junction at the suspension bridge over the Nina, turn right and cross the bridge for Nina Hut. If you stay on this side of the river you will continue to the Lucretia Valley Track and the Upper Nina Biv (2 person) at the head of the valley.

The track to Upper Nina is a lot rougher, with three un-bridged stream crossings, it does not get the same amount of traffic as the track to Nina Hut.

Nina River foot bridge

The suspension bridge over the Nina is in a lovely spot with very deep (and I'm informed really cold pools under it). The bridge is relatively new (2002), previously travel to the Nina Hut or points up valley would have required a river crossing higher up the river.

Nina Gorge from the bridge
Really deep pools under the bridge (at least 10 metres deep), the Nina is a well known trout fishery so I'm sure there are fish down there.
Down stream of Nina foot bridge

That pool looks so tempting, but even on a 27 degree Celsius day I bet it is perishing cold!

Heading up the true right on the Nina Valley Track

Once on the other side the track sidles along the lower flank of the Sylvia Range, the forest is some of the nicest I've travelled through. The river is within view or at least hearing distance almost all the way to the hut.

River flat along Nina Valley Track

There are a few of these wide grassy terraces which would make ideal camp sites.

Start of climb to Nina Hut on the Nina Valley Track

The track starts to gradually climb up the ridge on which the hut sits. From the flats you are about 1 km away from the hut, although it seems further.

Nina Valley Track: Goblin Forest 20 minutes from the hut

The track passes through areas of beech forest and more open areas like the one above.

The Grand Duchess and Duchess Stream

Above is a view from the track up Duchess Stream, it is possible to use this valley to access the tops but there is no track so it would be a hard bush bash to get there.

Two minutes from Nina Hut

The track ascends the ridge line through goblin forest, you almost expect an Elf to jump out and brain you at any moment. The gradient is very gentle, but it was hot as the sun was out and fully
ablaze by this point.

Nina Hut (2002)

Eventually you arrive at Nina Hut which is perched on the ridge crest in a natural clearing. This hut was built in 2002 to replace the old and cold hut on the other side of the river. Apart from the resident sand-flies it is a fantastic spot; warm, sunny with views to all the surrounding mountains.

Nina Hut and its ridge top clearing

Another view of the hut from the far end of the clearing, the views are very nice, unfortunately you are a distance from the Nina River, a trip to the river would require a moderately long trip. Plenty of space for a tent if the hut was full but the sand-flies would eat you alive.
Having a brew inside Nina Hut

Above is Jon having a tasty brew once I arrived at the hut. I passed only one other person the whole time I walking to the hut.
Nina Hut: the sleeping platforms

The interior of the hut is in excellent condition given the number of people who visit. There are no bunks in this hut, instead there are two sleeping platforms to maximise capacity, the hut will sleep 10, with a couple more on the floor if needed.

Looking down Nina Valley from near Nina Hut

Here are several views of the surroundings, first the view east down valley to the road. Spot the lovely composting toilet in the centre of the photo.

Bold, artistic, such composition...yes, yes!

Nina Hut: View east towards SH 7

Another view to the north-east from the hut clearing, you can just see Mt Boscawen in the middle of the frame between the trees.

The Grand Duchess Massif from near Nina Hut
And a view to the north towards the Duchess Range...

Nina Hut wood shed and track to Devils Den Biv

..west towards the valley head, the track to Devils Den Bivvy and Mt Boscawen...

Mt Norma Range at end of Nina Valley
In this shot SH 7 (the Lewis Pass Highway) is next to the single peak in the far distance, in the centre right of the photo.

Nina Hut: the kitchen area, table, fire box

Another view of the hut interior, good firebox (not required as it was 27 degrees) and the cooking bench/table. The big blue box contains Hurunui High School equipment: traps, bait etc. for the trap lines they run up this valley.

Nina Hut: Not enough seating for 10 people!

There were only three of us in the hut overnight, myself and an older couple (late 60's) who came over from the Doubtful Valley via Devilskin Saddle (6-7 hours). They were hardcore: the next day they were going to Maruia Springs via Mt Boscawen and the Rough Creek Route (about 8-9 hours walking).

A very quiet night, with Morepork and Kiwi calling out to each other across the valley. There is a kiwi recovery program in the Nina, DOC,  Hurunui College and a local wildlife group have reintroduced kiwi to the valley after a more than 20 year absence. 

Day Two: Return to Palmer Lodge

I was up and off down the track at 7 am, I really enjoy walking in the early morning light. I followed the exact same route as the previous day.

Nina Valley Track: heading for SH 7
 I had contemplated crossing the Nina River and following the old track out down the true left of the river, but the water level was a bit high for my liking. I'm very cautious about river crossings, that is how most people come to grief in the NZ bush.

Nina Valley Track: Interesting light in the forest

There is a very different light in the forest early in the morning, the photos from the Friday and Saturday are quite different because of the light.

Crossing one of the larger side streams on the Nina Valley Track:

This stream is about 500 metres from the hut, if it was raining heavily this is the one that would stop you getting to the hut. It is shallow in this photo but has an obvious and LARGE flood plain either side of it. I imagine in a really big deluge it could be a raging torrent.

Nina River from the Nina Valley Track

There is a lot of power in the Nina River, I would think long and hard before trying to swim in it or ford it. The above rapids have squeezed the river from 50 metres to less than 20, it was really loud!

Nina River foot bridge

Back at the trusty suspension bridge, the return trip always seems to take a shorter amount of time, I suppose because you know how far you need to go.

I struck a group of 8 (very ill equipped) Brazilian tourist's near here who were going up to the hut for a day trip, the only people I saw the whole way.

Nina Valley Track: crossing no name creek

My final stream crossing about 1 km from the track end, from here there is a small rise to climb and then the final flat track back to the Lewis River bridge.

On the Nina Valley Track, looking down on the Lewis River near the track end

The Nina Valley is quite beautiful, I would recommend it to anyone as a great place to visit. My reservations: that you realise the track is a bit rough (expect mud and roots/rocky terrain). Also there are a couple of stream crossings, they were fine this trip but could be problematic if it was raining hard.

Access: Entrance to Nina Valley is via swing-bridge opposite NZDA Palmer Lodge, SH7 about 5 km's past the Boyle Village turn off.
Track Times: 1 hour to Nina back-country camp site, 3-4 hours to Nina Hut
Hut Details: Nina Hut: standard, 10 bunks, firebox, woodshed, water from tank
Miscellaneous: Some side streams may be impassable in heavy rain. Check the intentions book at the Lewis River bridge to see how many are at the hut.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Mt Bradley - 30 November 2013

Visiting Mt Bradley via Kaituna to Packhorse Hut Track

The weather has not been cooperating with my tramping plans this year. I had planned to visit the Robinson Valley last weekend but because of rain and high wind forecasted decided to try a trip closer to home.

A day trip to Mt Bradley, Banks Peninsula

I was walking to the summit of Mt Bradley, via the Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut track. Mt Bradley is the third highest peak on Banks Peninsula and a worthy destination in its own right. I was out for 8 hours on the day and didn't see another person the whole time.

The 'beast' parked at the Kaituna Valley car park

Kaituna Valley - Mt Bradley area

I parked my car at the Kaituna Valley track end, and followed the familiar track across farmland and up to the saddle the hut sits on. This is the 5th time I have walked this track, 3 times in the last 2 years

Mt Bradley is the ridge in the far distance

The track passes over the local farm and along a 4 W/D track right up to the hut, it is located on the saddle between the two peaks in the centre of this photo.

On the Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut track

Lovely lush greenery as there has been a bit of rain recently, the track cuts through the occasion patch of brush and bush as it ascends.

On the Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut track

Lots of native bush to left and right of the track through this section, also a couple of very small streams.

View west towards the Remarkable Dikes area

This is a substantial area of regenerating bush in a gully to the south of the track. The peaks at the top of the photo are the rear of the Remarkable Dykes, a  bluff like volcanic up-welling. There is a short track from Packhorse Hut if you would like to visit the area.

Mt Bradley from the Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut track

Above is the view of Mt Bradley as you see as you ascend the track.

View SE towards Kaituna, Birdlings Flat and ocean

Here I am halfway up the Kaituna valley track, the car park is located near the trees in the middle of the photo.

Packhorse Hut atop Kaituna Saddle

You get a good view of the hut as you top the last rise in the track. If you are thinking of staying overnight in the hut you should collect some dead fall wood in the patch of bush you pass near this spot. The hut is warm but there has been no firewood the last two times I have been there, it can get cold if the weather is bad.

This is a great location for an overnight trip - even in winter - the track is easy to follow, you are only an hour away from the bottom of the valley.

Note: Since 2017 Packhorse Hut is on the DOC Hut booking before you go to secure a spot. 

A view to the South-West from near Packhorse Hut

Gebbies Pass from Kaituna Saddle

Another view showing the antenna farm near Gebbies Pass, this is an alternate route, you ascend through the forest to the hut.

Lyttleton Harbour, Sugar Loaf and the Southern Alps

Looking North down into Lyttleton harbour, with the Sugar Loaf and the foot hill of the Southern Alps in the background.
Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut, it is a great for a lunch stop overnight stay. It is also the closest DOC hut to Christchurch so it can be busy in the weekends.

From the hut you continue east on the Te Ara Pataka Walkway which starts next to the hut. The track moves through mixed tussock, gullies and bush remnants until you reach the side track to Mt Herbert. The track slowly zig zags up the southern flank of Mt Bradley until you reach a point where it sidles eastward. You leave the track at this point and make you own way uphill to the summit.

Below are several shots taken as I followed the track, you can see Packhorse Hut for most of the way.

On the Te Ara Pataka Walkway- back side of Mt Bradley

On the Te Ara Pataka Walkway

The track sidles upwards through the tussock, around rocky tors and over low shrubs.

View due South from flank of Mt Bradley

Packhorse Hut is situated in the middle of the saddle, with the Remarkable Dykes behind.

On the Te Ara Pataka Walkway- heading towards summit

Here we can see the valley from near the top of the mountain.

The Port Hills and North Canterbury from Mt Bradley

I finally made it to the top of the mountain, the views from the top are spectacular. Here is a view from the summit looking north over Lytellton, the Port Hills and out to Kaikoura.
The forest around Gebbies Pass from Mt Bradley

The view down towards Gebbies pass, and South West to the Alps.

View South along the apex of Mt Bradley

 This is South along the ridge line, you could walk along here and make your own route down to  Packhorse hut, you would need to watch out for bluffs. and other hazards
 It was just possible to make out Aoraki/ Mt Cook when I first reached the summit  it was soon covered by an approaching front. I didn't stay for long on top as the wind picked up and the cloud drifting over the mountain made me worry about visibility on the way down.

McQueens Forest from Mt Bradley

Heading back down,  this is Lake Ellesmere, South Canterbury and in the extreme distance the Southern Alps. You can see the front that was making its way up the South Island.

Te Ara Pataka Walkway- Mt Herbert 45 mins that way

This is the track heading towards Mt Herbert, it would be another 1 - 1.5 hours away from this point. It is a rough route, following the base of these bluffs: it is exposed to the weather, steep and there is a big drop on one side to contend with. Not for the faint hearted.

The Te Ara Pataka Walkway runs along those distant hills

Here are the distant ridges at the top of Kaituna Valley, an extended traverse is possible along these tops.
The secondary ridge down to Kaituna Valley

View down the ridge line to the Kaituna valley and ocean in the distance. Once you leave the track you basically follow this spur all the way to the top.

My rest spot on flank Mt Bradley

I stopped for a rest on the way down: it was quiet and peaceful laying in the tussock out of the breeze. Below are shots to the right and left of my resting area. I was quite comfortable here in the lee of the mountain with a great panorama all around me.

The Remarkable Dikes in middle distance, Lake Ellesmere behind

Native bush regeneration - Mt Bradley

There are significant areas of re generating bush in the steep sided gully's on the sides of Mt Bradley.

Mt Bradley: An old Walkways Commission marker

The marking of the track to the Mt Herbert is ludicrous: these are examples of the markers used. The track is distinct but there are no signs/maps/notices etc. to say that you are on the correct route. I had to get the map out and triangulate my position on the climb up as I was concerned I might be following the wrong track.

The track is very basic (it is actually a route: this is the most basic category of trail in NZ), this is typical of the conditions you face while accessing this area. This is a proper tramp.  If you were under equipped and struck bad weather you could get in a lot of trouble. I was carrying all the gears as a safety measure: wet weather/thermals/bivy etc. as I had heard how rough the going was.

Southerly front approaching from South

View to the South again, here is the front coming over the Alps in the distance.

Mt Bradley Massif- native bush in the gully

This is a beautiful wooded gully on the south flank of Mt Bradley, there is always a tremendous amount of birdsong coming from this area. Small pockets of bush like this are slowly regenerating across Banks Peninsula, in 40-50+ years a goodly percent of the peninsula will be forested much as it was before Europeans arrived.

I wont be here but I like to think about how my kids will be able to enjoy it.

Heading back to Kaituna on the Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut track

It was a great trip, I will come back early next year and walk all the way around to Mt Herbert.