Monday, 29 April 2013

Ryde Falls: Mt Oxford Forest Park: November 2012

An overnight camp at Ryde Falls, Mt Oxford Forest Park

In late November I went for an overnight tramp to Ryde Falls, in Mt Oxford Forest Park. There is not a hut near the falls, so I took my tent and pitched up in a clear space provided for this reason. It is a 2.5-3 hour trip each way, following a track through regenerating bush and scrub.

Ryde Falls, Mt Oxford Forest Park

 I started out at the car park at the end of Mountain View Road and started walking in. 

Tramping the Ryde Falls Track, Mt Oxford Forest

The area around Mt Oxford was once heavily forested, timber felling in the area decimated the native bush until only remnants remain in steep inaccessible spots. There are a network of tracks leading towards Mt Oxford, Wharefdale hut and the Black Hill range.

DOC sign, start of the Ryde Falls Track, Coopers Creek entrance
There is quite a big car park at the beginning of the track. This photo was taken on the Sunday morning, a lot of people do the track as a day walk, I passed numerous people on both days.

Ryde Falls car park at Coopers Creek
You start on river flats and gradually ascend into exotic and native forest. The track is clear and easy to follow for its whole length, reflecting its front country location.

Ryde Falls Track: Ascending through broken scrub, Mt Oxford Forest

Mt Oxford and Coopers Creek area, Mt Oxford Forest

Looking down on Coopers Creek and the Mt Oxford Massif
The track leads to both Ryde Falls and the Wharfedale track, there is a turn off point about an hour and a half after starting out. As you can see the travelling is easy, it is well maintained and the gradient is relatively flat. I noticed a lot of mountain bike wheel tracks, this is not an official mountain bike track but that obviously doesn't stop anyone.

Descending the Ryde Falls track towards the Falls

Ryde Falls Track, travelling along the first rideline

Mt Oxford Forest: junction of Wharfedale/Ryde Falls track

The track to Ryde Falls descending to Coopers Creek

Area of old growth forest, Ryde Falls Track, Mt Oxford Forest

There was an old tramway for moving the timber out of the area, this is mostly overgrown now but there is an option to explore the area near these information panels. The Wharfedale Track turn off is close to this point, it is all down hill to Ryde Falls from this point.

Info board at site of old tramway, Coopers Creek, Mt Oxford Forest

Descending towards Ryde Falls on the Ryde Falls Track

Ryde Falls Track: just before the descent to Ryde Falls

You pop out at the bottom of the Ryde Falls Track right on coopers Creek, a quick stream crossing and you are at the Ryde Falls camp-site. In the photo below the Falls are behind me, end of the track back to Mountain view Road is on the right.

View down Coopers Creek from the end of the Ryde Falls Track

When you reach the bottom of the valley you are surrounded by a suprisingly thick area of bush, it is really quite beautiful. There is a small amenity area with cut up logs for seats, a concrete fire pit and flat camping area next to the river. You follow this sign up a side stream to visit the Falls.

Visiting Ryde Falls from the campsite

 Ryde Falls have seven steps, the flow at the time was very low as it has been so hot and dry in Canterbury for the previous month. There is always water flowing just not a lot at certain times of he year

Next to Ryde Falls camp-site, Mt Oxford Forest

The area immediately in front of the Falls is sand fly hell, when I stopped to take these photos about a thousand of the sods attacked me at once.

Be warned, cover up before you come down to the falls.

Ryde Falls in Oxford Forest Park

View of Ryde Falls, Mt Oxford Forest
The camping area doesn't look very promising, but it was actually very nice, with the dark forest, the sound of the river/wind and a cosy fire to keep you company. There are sites for about 4 tents, a couple of small fire pits and a toilet, water is from the stream right next to the camp-site.

I had my lunch here and after the day trippers had left set up my tent, had dinner and settled down next to a fire with a brew before turning in early.


Camp site near Ryde Falls, Mt Oxford Forest

Coopers Creek passes right in front of the camp-site, the water is potable as there are no farms, forestry or industries upstream but I would still treat it before drinking the water. There is a nice shallow pool about 50 meters downstream from the camp-site.

View upstream of Coopers Creek, this is next to the camp-site

Here I am sitting in the picnic area, it is on a river terrace about 10-20 feet up from the river. There are a lot less sand flies near the camp-site, they must all be hanging out with their buddies up near the falls. There were two other groups here when I arrived all having lunch after the trek in.

Jon at Ryde Falls camp-site

Tent set up in the small camp site at Ryde Falls, Mt Oxford Forest

Small campfire at Ryde Falls for some night ambience
There isn't a lot of firewood in the immediate area, but if you go down river there is a lot more in the forest along Coopers Creek. I managed to find enough and just snapped it over rocks so it would fit in the existing firepit.

Home via the Korimako, Wharfedale and Connector Tracks

The next day, I was up early, packed up, had breakfast and headed back out to the car park. On the way back I followed the Korimako Track up to the Wharfedale track, there were a lot of ferns growing alongside this trail, a fire a couple of years ago cleared away the competition.

Map: The relationship between the Korimako, Link and Ryde Falls Tracks

Lots of ferns on the Korimako Track, Oxford Forest Park
 There were several more open areas where the ferns predominated.

On Korimako Track: ascending track towards Wharfedale track, Mt Oxford Forest

Korimako Track: Ascending track towards Wharfedale track, Mt Oxford Forest
When you get to the Wharfedale Track, you travel along for 10-15 minutes and then join the Link Track to get back to the Coopers Creek/Mountain Road car park.

On the Wharfedale Track heading for the Link Track to Coopers Creek

Track sign at the Wharfedale Track - Link Track junction

On the Link Track heading back to Coopers Creek, Mt Oxford Forest

I passed some examples of windfall on the track heading back to the car park. This beast was at least 2-3 times taller than me (I'm 6'3") I'm glad I wasn't in the forest when that wind storm came through. There was a whole area of windfall and all of the dead trees were the same size. 

Big Wind!!!

Massive windfallen tree, Connector Track, Coopers Creek

All in all an excellent trip, next time I will do it as a day trip as the whole trek could be done in about 5 hours.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula: 12 April 2013

A trip to an old favourite: Packhorse Hut

A planned trip to Arthur's Pass was postponed because of rain in the mountains. As an alternative I decided to do a day trip up to the historic Packhorse Hut on Banks Peninsula.

Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

The track to the hut starts mid way up the Kaituna Valley, 4 kms in length with a 700 metre altitude gain. The advised time for the track is 4 hours return, I finished in about 3 hours total, and I am sure that fitter people could do it in a much shorter time frame.

Kaituna Valley to Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

On the Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track

You start the Kaituna to Packhorse Hut Track mid way towards the head of Kaituna Valley. Follow Kaituna Valley Road to Parkinson's Road and travel down it to the obvious parking spot near the farm buildings. There are signs on both Kaituna Valley Road and Parkinson Road to direct you.

Kaituna to Packhorse Hut walk- not 4 hours, 2 up, 1 down

The track crosses farmland for the first 1 km, and then starts to climb up a steep bulldozer track over the middle reaches. The final part of the track is over grassy (and steep) fields.

Kaituna Valley car park, start of the Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track

Here is the sizeable car-park close to the Kaituna farm buildings, I think cars would be quite secure here overnight.

Crossing farm land on the Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track

Most of the track is on a farm track winding over the fields and up a spur rising to the hut location.
'A mighty torrent', unnamed stream on the Kaituna-Packhorse hut track

This is one of the small creeks you cross on the way up hill, there are three crossings in total. The flow is very low at this time of the year, but I have seen a picture of trampers fording this stream and the water is halfway up their thighs.

While walking up the track try not to touch this plant, this is Ongaonga a native thistle with extremely potent neurological toxins in it. It is prolific along the tracks and in the bush on Banks Peninsula.


Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track, view of Kaituna Valley

The track about half way up the hill looking back towards Kaituna valley, you cannot see how steep this path is but the angle would be at least 45 degrees at this point, so STEEP!
Bush remnant climbing flank of Mt Bradley, Banks Peninsula

Many of the side gullies have remnants of the native bush, this one was mostly under story but with some truly magnificent trees at least 40 meter high as well. I could hear what sounded like hundreds of native birds singing, these hill side pockets are a refuge for Tui, Bellbirds and Keruru (native wood pigeons).
Massive native tree in bush remnant near Kaituna Saddle

The tree above was probably a hundred plus feet tall, with two fat pigeons sitting on the top branches.
First glimpse of Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula
First glimpse of the hut as you reach the summit, the track continues on to Mt Herbert,at 926 asl it is the highest peak on Banks Peninsular.

View of the upper reaches of Lyttelton Harbour from Kaituna Saddle

From the top you have expansive views to Lyttelton harbour, Gebbies Pass, both coasts and the Southern Alps (when they are not clouded in).
View towards Gebbies Pass from Kaituna Pass

Lyttelton harbour from near Packhorse Hut

The Port Hills and Sugar Loaf in distance from Kaituna Saddle
Packhorse Hut was built in 1916 as one of a string of huts along the crater of Lytelton harbour. Eventually they were meant to be linked by a road but this was never fully completed. It is one of only a dozen rock built huts managed by DOC, two others are the Mt Aspiring Hut and one on the Tongariro Crossing, so it is in good company.

Historic Packhorse Hut

The Packhorse Hut, attractive stone exterior on Kaituna Saddle

Entrance to Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut from the front...

Cosy interior of the Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

Packhorse Hut, the Dining area
Jon brewing a hot drink, as you do, I would love to do an overnight trip here, it is very popular because it is so close to Christchurch. On the previous Saturday there were 12 people in this 9 person hut.
One of the bunk rooms in the Packhorse Hut

Look at that view, it would be magical sitting here with a meal in front of you, a brew and a roaring fire warming the interior, how could you resist.

Excellent view from inside of Packhorse Hut down to Lytellton

Packhorse Hut from the rise next to the hut

View down to Kaituna Valley from high on the Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track
After an hour I headed back down to the car park following the same route, there are 2 other ways to visit the hut; from Gebbies Pass and also over Mt Herbert, both take about 3-5 hours

Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track, on the way back down to the car park

Very steep slope on way down  Kaituna-Packhorse Hut track

Above is a very steep part of the bulldozer track with at least a 30 degree slope, thankfully it is only this steep for about 300 meters or it would be a total gut buster.

A very pleasant spot to visit in its own right, a great spot if it is raining in the Southern Alps. 

Access: Via a track over farm land from Kaituna Valley, some seasonal restrictions.
Track Times: 3-4 hours return from the carpark, 2 hours up- 1.5 hours down
Hut Details: Packhorse Hut; serviced (booking required from2017) 9  bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed
Miscellaneous: 2017: Packhorse is now on the DOC hut booking system and MUST BE booked before an overnight stay. It has been reconfigured as a 9 bunk hut. It is part of Te Ara Pataka (The Summit Walkway) track from Hilltop Tavern overlooking Akaroa to Gebbies Pass.