Wednesday, 19 February 2014

You Tube videos of the Great Walks of New Zealand

The Great Walks...on video!

I have stumbled across a series of You Tube videos made by some Canadian trampers who came to New Zealand to specifically tramp the Great Walks.

The Milford Track 'Great Walk' video page on YouTube

 What are the Great Walks?

The Great Walks consist of 10 iconic tramping tracks/routes located around the country.

The tracks include the following, listed north to south:

Lake Waikaremoana Circuit
Tongariro Northern Circuit
Whanganui River Journey
Abel Tasman Coastal Walk
Heaphey Track
Pike 29 Memorial Track (under construction in 2017)
Routeburn Track
Kepler Alpine Track
Milford Track
Rakiura Track

2017 Update:
There are also a number of Great Day Walks and two new Great Walks (plus the Pike 29) planned for the DOC estate. They have been highlighted in the 2017 government budget but wither they are built or not probably depends on if the NZ National Party returns to power.

An orgy or gorgeous scenery...

 I recommend you check out these videos if you are thinking about walking one of these tracks. It gives you a taste of what you can expect as well as providing our glorious scenery it all its glory.  

A selection of their other Great Walk videos

It really makes you want to get out there and walk some of these tracks.
Here are a couple of links to some of the videos:
Milford Track: 

Some other information about the Great Walks

You should buy or borrow a copy of Craig Potton's book: Great Walks of New Zealand, the photos are awesome and the book as a whole is gorgeous.

Awesome book on the Great Walks, updated in late 2016
The book was revised in 2016 and features new photos and more up to date track/hut information. 

My Great Walk Roster

I'm working my way through the Great Walks roster, Im about half way. So far I've tramped/MTB ridden the Heaphy Track, rafted the Whanganui River Journey, tramped the Lake Waikaremoana Circuit, Tongariro Crossing and parts of the Abel Tasman Coastal.

I would really like to hike the Fiordland tracks: the Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Track. They can be hard to book, as they are so popular. Places in the huts usually go within a couple of hours of becoming available in late May each year.

Milford Track Hut booking- totally full for 2017-2018

I have plans to tramp the Rakiura Track as part of my Te Araroa Trail walk, possibly early in 2018 if I can arrange it. get to saving that $$$$ Jon.... 'cause its damn expensive to stay in the Great Walk huts now (2017: $100 per night for some of the huts)! If I was to just walk the Milford Track all up it would cost in the region of $900 including transport, accommodation, hut passes, food etc.

That's more than I spend on 5-6 non Great Walk tramps. Choices ehh!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

My Tramping Gear: Vaude Brenta 50 pack

Brenta 50: my short overnight and day trip pack

 I splashed out just before Christmas and brought myself a new light  pack to wear on day trips or for lightweight overnight jaunts. I had tossed up a variety of various sizes, brands and types and was really undecided about which one to buy. There are a lot of packs available
in the 35-60l range and prices range from less than $100 right up to $500.
Then I saw this pack on an end of line sale at one of the local outdoors stores.

Vaude Brent 50 litre pack 

This is a Vaude Brenta 50 pack. I am a fan of Vaude gear, they are a German outdoor company with a wide range of packs, tents and outdoor clothing. The thing that especially attracted me was the great price of $120 (down from the usual $190).
Vaude Brenta 50l pack

The Brenta inside Lagoon Saddle Shelter, 2014

I would never buy gear solely based on price, but this pack was already in my top 5 list anyway. I call that fate, or a message from the God's if you like.
Harness system on a Vaude Brenta 50l

Using the Brenta on the way to Hope Halfway Hut, 2017

The Brenta's vital statistics...

The pack is a light (1200 gms) double compartment bag made of medium grade rip-stop nylon. It has a volume of 50 litres. It has a removable top lid, hydration port and expandable side pockets. The colour is the light blue above. The waist strap is more light weight than a full on tramping pack, but more than adequate for lighter loads.

Detail of the Brenta's hip belt, on the Harpers Pass Track, 2016

I was surprised by how roomy it is, it almost holds as much as my 75l pack. I would probably keep the load below 6-8kgs so as not to overly strain it.

Jon and the Vaude Brenta 50 up the Otira Valley in 2016

Ive used the pack for both day hikes and overnight tramps and have always found fit for the job, it is still comfortable even with 10 kg's of gear stored in it.

Jon and the Brenta 50 at Rod Donald Hut in 2016
NB: I used the Brenta successfully on a three day trip on the Te Ara Pataka Walkway in 2016. I was using this as my over night pack as it can easily accommodate all the gear I needed to carry for a 1-2 day trip. Another overnight trip was to Nina Hut in April 2017. 

This role has now been taken over by my Osprey Atmos 50.

The Brenta at the Nina River foot bridge, 2017

 I'm hoping to do some tramping with my daughters in the future and in fact Georgia used the Brenta 50 when we spent 5 days working as the Packhorse Hut warden in March 2018. The pack fits her well so she will be using it when we go out on trips from now on.

My daughter Georgia wearing the Brenta en-route to Packhorse Hut, 2018

I was really impressed with how effective my Vaude packs have been so when I was looking for a dedicated day tramp bag I immediately went with Vaude. I have replaced the Brenta 50 as my day pack with its smaller cousin the Vaude Brenta 40. This is a better size for day trips and has saved me another 200 gms on the weight I carry.

My new day pack the Vaude Brenta 40


Monday, 3 February 2014

Wharfedale Track & Hut- 31st January-1 February 2014

A visit to Oxford Forest and Wharfedale Hut

My latest trip was a weekend jaunt into the Wharfedale Hut in Mt Oxford Conservation Area, it was a good trip despite some rain I had on the way out on Saturday morning. It is a bit of a long walk as Wharfedale Hut is 14.6km away from the car park. Luckily the track is mostly flat,  as it sidles gently
 along the side of the ridges in the area. 

Wharfedale Hut, Mt Oxford Forest

Day One: To Wharfedale Hut from View Hill car park


View to South from View Hill car-park
Wharfedale Track: View Hill car park to Wharfedale Saddle

I left the car at the View Hill car park which is accessed up a long gravel road to the West of Oxford township. Here is a view from the car park to the South West. There were low lying misty clouds on both days, it was also 20 degrees on the Friday. Muggy! 

The red beast at View Hill, Oxford Forest
Here is the trusty Honda parked at the View Hill car park, the access road is fair, there are two fords that can become flooded with heavy rain. There are a number of farm gates to open on the way...make sure you close them behind you. They caused no problems during my trip.

Access road leading to View Hill, Mt Oxford Forest

View to the East showing the access road leading off to the left of this photo. 

Start of the Wharfedale Track at View Hill car park

Here is the beginning of the Wharfedale Track, the track rises slowly to a saddle at 750m, 10 km's distant from the car park. The Wharfedale Track is widely used by the MTB fraternity, the bikers ride out for day & overnight trips.

Oxford Forest track map, View Hill car park

A closer view of the DOC sign at the beginning of the track, this is the access point for a number of huts/tracks in the area as well as several forested valleys.  

Wharfedale Track: 4w/d section

 The track climbs very gradually from the car park, first along a 4WD track, later the track assumes the usual back country form (rocks/roots/overgrown etc.).

Wharfedale Track: In the beech forest

Here I am about 1 km in, the track is fairly wide and clear at this point, the Wharfedale was originally surveyed and benched as a possible road into the Lees valley. Ultimately the route proved too costly and rugged to fill this purpose.  

Wharfedale Track: Junction to Ryde Falls, Coopers Creek

The first DOC track sign, as you can see this is an access point for a lot of tracks. 

Jon on the Wharfedale Track

Here I am near the track junction, it was an overcast day and slightly cool, great weather for a tramp.

Wharfedale Track: Sidling the ridges

It is a great track, it would be good on an very hot day as it is shady with a border of beech trees on both sides. The track is well maintained for the most part, packed gravel and small stones reflecting its primary use as a MTB track.

View Hill carpark from further up the Wharfedale Track
A view back towards the car park, about 2 km's in, the car park is at the base of the exotic forest in the centre of the photo. 

Wharfedale Track: One of the foot bridges
You cross a number of small bridges built on the track, they span deeper gullies, here are two photos above and below of different bridges.

Wharfedale Track: Another footbridge

Below are a series of photos showing the track and surrounding area. The forest around Oxford is infested with wasps, all you hear all day is the drone of them. You have to be careful where you stand/sit/touch to save yourself from a sting.  I carry antihistamine tablets in case I or someone else has a reaction to them.

Wharfedale Track: Nice easy gradient

Wharfedale Track: Slightly rougher conditions

A view out towards the Canterbury plains, no visibility that day.

To towards Christchurch from the Wharfedale Track

Wharfedale Track: View down into the Forest

Below is a view up towards the saddle and part of the Mt Oxford Massif from a point about 1.5km's away, the saddle is just to the right of the rise in the centre right.

Wharfedale Track: View of Mt Oxford from the track

Below are more views of the track, the condition and maintenance of it varies along its length.

Wharfedale Track: Just before the saddle

At Wharfedale Saddle, Mt Oxford Forest Park

After about 3.5 hours you arrive at Wharfedale Saddle, the high point (750m) on this particular trip. The track descends from this point down to the Dobson creek, in the Lees Valley catchment.

Wharfedale Saddle, you could camp here- no water!

As you can see there is plenty of room for a camp near here unfortunately there is no water source, so you would need to fill up before you reach this point. The closet water source would be the creeks about 1 km either side of the saddle. Lots of wood for a fire because of all of the windfall laying around. It would a nice sheltered spot for a camp.
Jon arrives at the Wharfedale Saddle, Oxford Forest

 Hey fashion Jon changes his outfit!
(Actually the sun came out and it got too hot so I changed into short sleeves).

Jon at Wharfedale Saddle

Map: Wharfedale Saddle to Wharfedale Hut, Oxford Forest Park

Dobson Creek from the Wharfedale Track

A view down into the valley from close to the saddle, the hut is still 2 hours from this point (but it is all downhill). The West side of these foothills are more densely covered than the Eastern side, the turn of the century timber milling never reached this far.

On the Wharfedale Track: half way down Dobson Creek

The hut lies at the mid point between these two descending ridge lines, in the centre of
the above photo.

Crossing a side creek 5 minutes from Wharfedale Hut

There is a track junction about 2 km's from the saddle with one track leading to Wharfedale Hut and the other climbing to Black Hill Hut

First view of Wharfedale hut as you step out of the forest

Wharfedale Hut (1965?)
Eventually you arrive at Wharfedale Hut, it is a 8 person hut with wood fire, bunk platforms and bugger all space around it. Your water source is the Dobson Stream which is down a short track to the right of the hut.

Back view of Wharfedale Hut

 There is limited space around the hut for tents, you would be far better to camp down by the river (Dobson Stream) as you would be closer to the water source and it is quite picturesque. 

Track down to Dobson Stream, near Wharfedale Hut

There is a fine deep swimming hole just downriver which makes for a great clean up spot at the end of the day. (Obviously, I indulged ;)

The swim-able pool in Dobson Creek, near Wharfedale hut

Dobson Stream in winter from Backcountry Bibles

Here is a view of the track heading down to the river. Below are two views of the hut surrounds, the balcony and a view to the North East of the hut.

Wharfedale Hut: The porch

View of the Black Range from the Wharfedale Hut porch

The hut is tidy but could use more ventilation (there are no opening windows in the hut). Because of the enormous number of wasps and sand-flies in the area you have to keep the door closed. I cooked my dinner (steak/peas/mash/gravy) outside to save myself from the fumes.

Interior of Wharfedale Hut: Sleeping platforms, benches

Interior Wharfedale Hut one of the two cooking benches

The hut has one of those superb fire boxes (really hot once you get them going), not needed the night I was there. The hut sees a lot of use, both for day trippers and overnight. I had the hut to myself but there were 10 people there the previous Saturday.

Flowering beech tree, Wahrfedale Hut area

There is a beech mast on this year, so all of the beech trees are covered in seed heads like the above.
(About every 10-15 years the beech trees produce seeds which fly away in the wind, sometime in later February/early March there will be billions of these seeds flying around, it is spectacular to see. Unfortunately, there will also be a massive population explosion of rats/mice/possums because of this food source.

DOC have already started intense poisoning programs to try and mitigate the problem, that's why you don't import exotic animals into a pristine environment (you colonial dopes!).

Below are various views of the hut interior.

Reading material in Wharfedale Hut, my cook stove on bench

Hey folks, s'up!!!
Jon inside Wharfedale Hut

View of Black Hill from the Wharfedale Hut window

I spent the night at the hut, it was very warm inside, the hut really needs better ventilation to make it more habitable.

Day two: Back to the Wharfedale carpark 

I set off home the next morning at around 4:30am, there was light rain falling and I was worried about possible rising creeks you must cross on the access road. In the event, they were only marginally higher than the previous day.

My sleeping position in Wharfedale Hut in the morning

Usual DOC warning signs inside Wharfedale Hut

I walked in the dark for about an hour and a half until day break; it's interesting walking at night as your senses work differently. You have the cone of light from your head torch, other than that all is black your ability to see is diminished. Sounds are amplified and your sense of smell is better. You rely on touch/feel/sound & smell a lot more. I really enjoy it, the distance just seemed to fly past.

On the Wharfedale Track at first light, near Wharfedale Saddle

Sunrise was just as I reached the high point at the saddle so it was mostly downhill to the car from there. There are not many photos from the second day, because of the rain I left my camera in my pack.
(rain+ digital camera= pile of worthless junk)

View Hill car park on the second day

This is what the last day was like (misty drizzle) but still good tramping weather when you are heading home to a warm shower and real food!

View down access road from View Hill car park

I enjoyed this trip especially walking out in the rain and dark (adventuresome!). I shall be back but next time I will take the other track up to Black Hills Hut and stay for a night.

Access: From Oxford- Depot Rd to Woodstock Rd, turn into Ingrams Rd, turn into Limeworks Road, turn into Wharfedale Track Rd.
Track Times: 4-5 hours to Wharfedale Hut Hut via Wharfedale Track from car park
Hut Details: Wharfedale Hut: standard, 12 bunks, wood burner, water from stream, wood shed, toilets 
Miscellaneous: Some un-bridged side streams, access road has two fords, these can be impassable in rain