Monday, 28 January 2013

Andrews Valley-Casey Hut -Binser Saddle loop: 16-18 November 2012

The Andrews Valley-Binser SaddleCircuit


In mid November I tramped the classic Andrews Valley-Binser Saddle route.  The track is rated as easy-moderate, which I think relates to the distance (36 km's total) rather than the difficulty of the track.  Unfortunately the weather was atrocious: rain, wind (80+ kph overnight)  and cloud  made the conditions less than ideal.

View up Poulter Valley from the rise near Petes Stream
The circuit Andrews Valley-Poulter-Poulter Valley-Binser Saddle-Mt White Road is one of the few circuit tracks in Arthur's Pass NP. It is also one which crosses no major rivers so is safe in moderate rainfall conditions. There is an excellent route guide for this track; Casey-Binser Saddle Tracks.

I had three days of "lovely" New Zealand late spring weather, in other words, the theme for the trip was "WET"!


Day One: Andrews Shelter to Casey Hut; 16 kms, 6-7 hours

The track from Andrews Shelter to Casey Hut is mostly in the bush, so this protected me from most of the rain. The weather improved day by day, it was clear and sunny weather for the last day.

Map: Andrews Valley-Poulter Valley area, Arthur's Pass National Park


Car parking area near Andrews Shelter, Arthurs Pass National Park


DOC timings for this track are out a bit, recommended time is 6 hours, I took 7 hours to get to the  hut, probably because the weather packed in and made travel more difficult.



Interior of Andrews Shelter, Arthurs Pass National Park


Andrews Shelter, at the start of the Andrews Valley Track

The car was left at Andrews Shelter, it is very basic, some bench seats, no rain water or fire place but it does have a toilet. You could sleep in the shelter if required but it would be cold and uncomfortable.


Start of the Andrews Valley track, next to the Mt White Road


Pole Beech at the start of Andrews Valley


The track starts with a steep climb onto a spur, it then sidles it's way to Hallelujah Flats at around the 800 metre mark for the next 2 hours.


Manuka scrub lining sides of Andrews Valley track




Andrews Valley Track, this is about 1.5 hours in from the Mt White Road

It would be difficult to get lost following this track, but incredibly, people have come to grief in this valley before. Personally, I found the going fine, the track sidles in a band about a hundred metres up and down for most of the way, not too strenuous.

Andrews Valley Track: A Wren that came to check me out


If you did a right turn and walked off the track I can see how you could get lost, as it is quite thick but other wise....?


One of the side streams crossing the Andrews Valley Track



Mature red beech trees, Andrews Valley Track, Arthurs Pass National Park



Start of Hallelujah Flats, Andrews Valley
Eventually made it to Hallelujah Flat, aptly named I thought ( I certainly said "Hallelujah" when I saw them!!!!). These flats extend for about 2-3 km's with the track following close to Andrews Stream for most of the way. The track is easy to follow, it obviously sees a lot of use.

Map: Hallelujah Flats and Casey Saddle, Arthur's Pass NP

Hallelujah Flat is an excellent place to camp, there is a lot of flat land, the water is clean (no domestic animal access) and there is a bit of firewood available.The best spots are at either end of the Flat, try to camp on a slight incline so you dont get inundated if it rains.

View back down Andrews Valley, Casey-Binser Route, Arthurs Pass NP


The flats took about an hour to traverse, then a stop for a soggy lunch huddled under some beech trees! Nothing quite says New Zealand tramping than a cold, wet lunch huddled under a tree with the smell of wet beech in the air. This is the point that the rain started really coming down so I packed my camera away.


Heading over Casey Saddle on the way to Casey Hut, Arthur's Pass NP



Casey Saddle, the Casey Saddle Track  sidles along the  spur to right,
photo from Scott Condron

 Past Casey Saddle you need to ford Surprise and Trinity streams which will be impassible in heavy rain. As it was they were both right on the edge of safety for me crossing by myself, if I had come through an hour or so later I would not have been able to cross.



The last 2 hours are a climb up and over a spur, once over the spur it was a long slow descent in the rain down to the river flat the hut is located on.


Rest spot at unnamed stream near Pt 869, Casey Stream Track

Finally made it to Casey Hut about 7 pm, only 2 other occupants so plenty of room in this 10 bunk hut. It was a pleasure to arrive and find an enormous fire blazing in the woodburner...

Note: Casey Hut burnt to the ground in late 2015. Current DOC plans do not include replacing the hut, instead this will be a back country camp site, possibly with a new cooking shelter. Various groups are trying to encourage DOC to build a new hut here even if it is much smaller than the original. Currently you will find a toilet and the old woodshed on site, water is from the nearby stream. 

Burnt out Casey Hut, 2016  from the TVNZ website


The closest hut is Trust Poulter about 1.5 hours further up valley, inaccessible if there has been any rain as there are three streams to cross en route. 

Take a tent with you if you are considering walking this circuit.

See my further updates at the bottom of this post...

The interior shots below are from the Tramping New Zealand website.


Interior of Casey Hut showing bench area

Bunk room in old Casey Hut, Arthurs Pass NP

The awesome firebox in Casey Hut, Arthurs Pass NP
I shared the hut that night with two Kiwi women who had come in from Andrews Shelter a couple of hours before me. They were on their way up valley to Lake Minchin but unfortunately the heavy rain scuttled their plans as Casey Stream was a swirling vortex of death.  It hosed with rain overnight from 7 pm right through to noon the next day.

I had a meal of instant mash and corned beef fried into patties, oh man it is good after a long hard day of tramping. After that it was reading and tea before a well deserved sleep.

I had a whole bunk room to myself that night.

Day Two: Casey Hut to Pete's Stream; 10 kms. 3-4 hours


I stayed in the hut the next morning drinking tea as the weather was terrible, it was due to clear in the late afternoon. Casey Hut is magnificent, it is one of the "Lockwood" style huts popular with the NZFS in the early 1980's, others include Hamilton Hut, Hope Kiwi, Hawdon Mark I, Edwards and Goat Pass.




Casey Hut, Poulter valley, Arthur s Pass National Park... morning of day two

These are far and away my favourite DOC huts. I love all that wood!

Side view of Casey Hut in 2015, From the Arthurs Pass website

The weather cleared in the afternoon so I started out at 2 pm, there were light showers on and off as progress was made down the Poulter Valley. It was quite a hike, about 10km's and took about 3-4 hours to reach the scratch camp sites near Pete's Stream.

Poulter Valley: walking through the red beech trees near Casey Hut

Because of the rain I took few photos, my camera is not waterproof so I was concerned about water damaging it.


Poulter Valley: setting off down the river flats near Casey Hut


Map: Poulter Valley...the long slog from Casey Hut, Arthurs Pass NP


There are two significant streams to cross: Mt Brown and Pete Stream's. I had no problems crossing them but they could be a problem if it was raining hard, bear this in mind when planning a trip up the Poulter Valley. 

View of the terraces at Petes Stream, near Binser Saddle from Scott Condron

My plan was to camp before Binser Saddle so a camp was selected on the river terraces on the far side of Pete Stream, around 6.30 pm. Pete Stream is the last reliable water point between here and Andrews Shelter, so fill up before you start the climb. There are a couple of scratch spots in the matagouri where you can pitch your tent, well protected from the wind.


Poulter Valley: misting rain over the Poulter river from the terraces above Pete's Stream


 I stopped here as it was at least another 3-4 hours to get back to the car and I didn't fancy walking on an unfamiliar track in the dark.

Me inside my tent on the terraces above Pete's Stream, Poulter Valley


I was frankly knackered by the time I had my tent up and ready to go in the semi darkness. After a couple of brews and some food I was feeling much better.  I heard some light rain and snow falling during the night but nothing too major...I had an excellent nights sleep.

Day three: Pete Stream to Andrews Shelter; 10 kms, 4 hours

I was surprised to wake on the last day and see snow on the trees towards Binser Saddle, but apart from the snow coating the trees it was a nice clear day.


Pete Stream, Poulter Valley from near my camp site, morning day three

When you look at a map of Binser Saddle it doesn't look that bad but it is actually quite steep on both sides of the saddle. You are either ascending or descending for the next three hours.


Map: Petes Stream to Binser Saddle,  the red cross is my camp-site on day two.


 I set out to cross Binser Saddle around 7 am, it was 2 hours to the top and 1.5 hour down the other side. I was surprised by how far it was, the track sidles up and down through the forest for quite a way but only has 600m of height gain over 6-7 km.

Binser Saddle Track, Arthur's Pass NP

The track to the top is not too steep, just long, the track condition on the Poulter Valley side of the saddle is good.


Jon resting half way to Binser Saddle, Arthurs Pass National Park


Binser Saddle Track, looking back downhill towards the Poulter Valley

Lower down you are travelling through areas of regenerating beech, kanuka and manuka...there is a bit of pole beech so I'm thinking it is regenerating forest. There are also a few stands of large red beech trees as you get closer to the saddle itself.


Nearing the top of Binser Saddle, Arthurs Pass National Park
Near the summit there were patches of old growth and also a small amount of snow on the ground. There is a small seasonal stream about 50 meters from the saddle, this is the only water supply on the whole track.


Snow on trees, Binser Saddle Track

Snow on the tree tops near Binser Saddle, Arthurs Pass National Park
There is a beautiful clearing at the top of the saddle which would be an ideal place to camp. It had about 5 cm's of snow on it as I passed, but you could see the potential there.


Binser Saddle Track just before the saddle, the stream is near here

Map: Binser Saddle to Andrews Shelter, the last 30 minutes is a walk along the Mt White Road


Half way down the other side of the saddle was an excellent view of the Mt White bridge area, as you can see the weather was great on the last day. 

View from the high point on Binser Saddle, down towards Mt White road, Waimakiriri River

The condition of the track from this point down to the Waimakiriri River flats is very poor. It is steep & rutted with a lot of wind fall, it really needs some TLC from DOC. It took me nearly and hour and a half to cover about 2 kms of ground.


Binser Saddle from Mt White road, Arthurs Pass National Park


After another hour I made it to flat ground. There was the matter of a 4 km walk back to the car on the Mt White station road, I found this to be the most difficult part of the trip because I was quite tired by this point. Next time, I would be tempted to park my car at the base of Binser Saddle and then walk back to the Andrew Shelter start point, to save this walk at the end.

Binser Saddle, doesn't look so bad....nek minit!

Binser Saddle is the V notch in the centre of the above photo, you sidle through the forest and then work your way down the ridge running left to right.

Overall a good trip, enjoyable even with the rain. I made a rookie mistake and started out with a three day tramp, really I should have worked my way up to a three day trip because I was seriously unfit. I think next time I would start at the Binser Saddle end of the track and walk out through Andrews Valley.

Access: From off SH 73 drive along Mt White Road to Andrews Valley entrance near Andrews Shelter, other exit is at base of Binser Saddle 4 kms along Mt White Station Road
Track Times: 6-7 hours to Casey Campsite, 5 hours to Pete's Stream, 4-5 hours to Andrews Shelter via Binser Saddle
Hut Details: Andrews Shelter, no bunks, no heating, toilet: DOC campsite on old Casey Hut location, toilet and wood shed, water from nearby stream: Scratch campsite on the river terrace overlooking Pete's Stream
Miscellaneous: All streams on this circuit are un-bridged and may be impossible to cross in a storm, long periods traversing flats which are prone to windy conditions.

Update 2015: Casey Hut burnt to the ground in early 2015, there is no hut on the site at this time so DOC recommend you take a tent and camp close to the site. There is still a woodshed and toilet there. 

2017 Update: DOC Canterbury did a assessment and decided that Casey Hut will NOT be replaced. This is likely to happen more often now that DOC are severely strapped for cash. 

Plans are afoot to move one of the the huts from the Upper Poulter Valley to near the old hut site. It looks like Trust Poulter (8 bunks) will be shifted sometime in 2017-2018 with a refurbishment and possible enlargement. This work is being carried out by a volunteer group with some assistance from DOC Canterbury.

Trust Poulter Hut in the Upper Poulter Valley, Arthur's Pass NP

Update 2018: A new and intriguing message has appeared on the DOC web site for Arthurs Pass. There is now a message saying that Casey Hut is to be replaced in Mid 2018 after 4 years with no hut on the site. I can find no other information so here's hoping it means a new or refurbished hut is going to be moved to this location soon...



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Tramping literature: Wilderness magazine

One of my favourite go to sources of information is Wilderness magazine. I highly recommend this as essential reading for all New Zealand outdoor enthusiasts.


This should be the bible for any tramper, mountain biker, climber and kayaker. Large format with a wealth of trip plans, gear reviews and articles about current concerns in the outdoor community. Generally available from all public libraries, or subscribe so you never miss an issue.

Welcome to my tramping blog

Welcome to my tramping blog NZ Bush Adventures!


Hi there, my name is Jonathan Moake.

Me crossing Travers Pass, Nelson Lakes NP in 2018


This is the first post for my new blog about tramping, hiking, camping, DOC huts, MTB riding, tramping food, backcountry skills, equipment, the environment, mountaineering and other outdoor concerns.

Jon Moake, at Ryde Falls in the Oxford Forest Park

 A little bit about me: Jon Moake

 I am a tramper (that's hiker/rambler to those from the US/UK) in my 40's, and I live in Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand.
Spenser Mountains, Lewis Pass SR, from the Lewis Pass Tops
I have been visiting the forests and mountains for many years, with particular attention to the parks and forests close to Christchurch, my home town. My tramping trips range from one day right through to longer periods up to a week.

One of our iconic mountain huts, Mid Robinson, Victoria FP


After an extended break from tramping I have decided to get into the outdoors again. This blog will be a record of my experiences. 

I have tramped extensively throughout both the North and South Island, from the Central Plateau volcanoes south to Fiordland.

Torrent Bay, tramping the Abel Tasman Great Walk in Sep. 2017

My main stamping grounds include Arthurs Pass National Park, the Canterbury Foothills, Lake Sumner Forest Park,  Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve all around an hours drive from my home.
I also enjoy tramping on the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula which are right on my doorstep.

Further afield I love exploring Nelson Lakes NP and the Abel Tasman NP.

Lyttleton Harbour and Canterbury from high on Banks Peninsula

Its a pleasure to have you on this journey with me.....let's see where we can go!