Showing posts with label Boyle Flat Hut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boyle Flat Hut. Show all posts

Monday, 23 February 2015

St James Walkway: 18-21st February 2015 (Day 3-4)

Tramping the St James Walkway...

Day three and four of my trip around the St James Walkway took me up the Anne River valley to Anne Saddle, then down the Boyle River valley to the outdoor education centre at Boyle Village.

Day Three:St James Walkway,  Anne Hut to Boyle Flat Hut (17.5 km's)

As usual I was up at the crack of dawn and on my way down the track, the distance to cover to Boyle Flat was 17.5 km's. For most of the day I was walking by myself,  around 11.30 several of the Te Araroa walkers caught up to me and we walked the final 5-6 km's of the track together.
Dawn at Anne Hut on day three
I was the first out of the hut, I really like to walk in the early morning as it is a lot cooler than walking in the blazing heat of the afternoon. I also find the light of the early morning very appealing.
St James Walkway: setting out towards Anne River bridge

View back towards Anne Hut from the St James Walkway:
About 3 km's down the track you cross to the true left of the Anne River. I made the short side trip to visit Anne Cullers hut near this bridge but stupidly forgot to take a photo.
St James Walkway: Anne River from first bridge
  Anne Cullers is a historic 4 bunk hut build by the NZFS for deer culler's back in the 1950's. Others close by include Rokeby, Ada Culler's and Jervois Hut.

The smaller 2, 4 and 6 bunk huts in this area existed before the St James Walkway was built and would have been quite difficult to access. The tracks would not have existed only unmarked routes up the rivers, probably rough travel if you didn't know where you were going. 

 From the hut the St James continues up the true left of the river for awhile.

Anne Cullers Hut in 2013

Nice easy track up the Anne River valley for the first couple of hours, the track is mostly on river terraces with the occasional climb over intervening ridge lines.

St James Walkway: Track up Anne Valley

View towards head of Anne River on the St James Walkway
The ridge below is the most strenuous part of the track along this section of the walkway, this one climbs above a gorge in the Upper Anne River.

St James Walkway: one of the ridges that must be climbed over

Last river flat before climb to Anne Saddle, St James Walkway
Eventually you reach the swampy head of the Anne River, this is slower going.  As you get closer to the top the track becomes steeper but nothing too strenuous.

Start of climb to Anne Saddle
As you can see in the photo below its not much of a saddle to climb, all things considered...
Anne Saddle in middle of photo

St James Walkway: DOC Anne Saddle sign

St James Walkway: Anne Saddle in centre of photo

St James Walkway: nearing Anne Saddle
Below is the steepest part of the track, this is over the last 200 meters before the saddle, it is steep and rocky and requires a bit of care.

Honestly, this is one of the easiest saddles I have ever walked over, bar Ada Pass!
Anne Saddle approaching the crest of the saddle

St James Walkway: Anne Saddle (1136 metres)
Here I am goofing it up on the saddle, it took me about 2.5 hours to reach this spot from the hut and is roughly 1/3 of the way to Boyle Flat Hut.

Jon at Anne Saddle on the St James Walkway
The descent into the Boyle is a totally different proposition, it is steep, rocky, and slippery, it would be about a kilometre from the saddle to the bottom but took me over an hour to traverse due to the terrain. My walking stick was a god send on this section of the track as it gave me that all important third point of ground contact.

Take care through here!

Steep descent into Boyle River Valley on the St James Walkway
Eventually you break out into the Upper Boyle river valley, it is really beautiful up there and would certainly warrant another visit just to camp in the area. It's all river flats and climbing over small ridge from here to Boyle Flat, about 9 km's further down the valley.

Upper Boyle River valley...nice camping potential!

River flats in Upper Boyle Valley from the St James Walkway
The track is seared into the grass of the river flats by all the passing feet. It is intersected at regular points by deer/pig/people tracks coming down from the hills. Watch for rocks and branches in that long grass, I tripped over an old rotten log walking along here.
St James Walkway: approaching Rokeby Hut
About half way along the track to Boyle Flat you pass the old Rokeby Hut, this is a small 2 bunk hut located inside a small finger of bush on one of the ridges. It is "rustic" in nature; dirt floor, sacking bunks, no lining... but in quite good condition. There is even a classic corrugated iron dog box for the mustering dogs which were once used up the valley.
Rokeby Hut in its bush surrounds

Ye olde dogge hawse...behind Rokeby Hut

Interior of Rokeby hut, St James Walkway

About 3 kilometres down valley you arrive at the swing-bridge to Boyle Flat Hut, my final destination for the day. I've stayed at the hut previously  and it is very nice, well maintained and in a prime location.   

Boyle Flat Hut, St James Walkway
The water source for the hut is normally piped from a nearby stream, but with the dry, hot weather this has dried up. If you are visiting the hut the alternate source of water is the very nice creek about 50 meters to the north of the hut. Follow the track which goes past the left hand side of the wood shed, it is easy to find.  

Approach to water source for Boyle Flat Hut
Nice clean looking water in the creek but I would still purify it as who knows what is lurking just upstream.

Unnamed side stream near Boyle Flat Hut

I spent the night at Boyle Flat hut with 2 Australian and 2 German TaT walkers, the other 10 legged it down the valley as they wanted to get to Hanmer Springs for the night.That would be a total of 31 km's of walking for the 10 of them!
Personally, I was more than happy to walk the 17.5km's and call it a day....

Day Four: St James Walkway, Boyle Flat Hut to Boyle Outdoor Education Centre (BOEC) (14.5 km's)

Another early morning as the 5 of us staying in the hut over night headed down valley to the road end at Boyle Village. I've walked this part of the track numerous times now so was well acquainted with what lay in store.

Boyle Flat Hut on the St James Walkway

Travel through this section is easy, the track is benched from the hut to the first swing-bridge over the Boyle, although there are a number of new slips on the track to be tackled. I really like the Upper Boyle valley it is dense, much like a West Coast track.

Track between Boyle Flat and first swing-bridge

Lush track side growth, Boyle Flat track

St James Walkway: Boyle River view south
Eventually you reach the old stile which separates the upper valley from the cattle flats around St Andrews. The swing bridge is about 100 meters further down the track from this spot.

St James Walkway: the stile just before Boyle swing-bridge

Swing-bridge over Boyle River
I was surprised with how dry the normally muddy track is, no rain for a couple of months will do that I suppose. The dry probably shaved at least 40 minutes off the usual time between the two swing bridges over the Boyle River. Normally you have to carefully jump from log to log, you can plough through but you will end with mud up to your knees.
Nice dry conditions on the St James Walkway

St James Walkway: near St Andrews flats
St James Walkway: half way to Boyle Village

I love catching my first view of the lower Boyle swing bridge, it means you are nearly home. Only the last fairly easy walk out to the road end left.

St James Walkway: lower Boyle swing bridge...beautiful sight!

Two of the Te Araroa walkers and I reached the road end at Boyle Village together, we meet up with the other two walkers as we pulled out onto the Highway.  I dropped them all off in Hanmer as I was going there for some lunch.

Best and worst bits of the St James Walkway

 Best part of the tramp was the whole section from Lewis Pass to the Christopher River, the Spencer Mountains are spectacular. Anne Hut is awesome, I know it is new but a lot of thought went into the design and it shows. I love those wide grass plains you walk across. I also really enjoyed interacting with the TaT trampers they are an eclectic and interesting group of people, and good value.

The worst was the 5 hours I spent walking around Mt Federation and up the Henry Valley: it was hot, dry and windy. After walking 25 km's I was goddamn happy to eventually reach the hut that day.

Why is this not a must do tramp for all New Zealanders?

Awesome trip, and much recommended to all you Kiwis out there, it is a relatively easy 4-5 day tramp so put your boots on and give it a go!

Access: From SH 7 (Lewis Pass Highway), the track starts at Lewis Pass Tarns, southern terminus is at Boyle Village.
Track Times: Day three: From Anne Hut it is 6-7 hours to Boyle Flat Hut via Anne Saddle: Day four: From Boyle Flat Hut it is 4 hours to Boyle Village
Hut Details: Anne Hut: serviced, 24 bunks, water tanks, wood burner, toilets, wood shed: Anne Cullers Hut: basic, 4 bunks, open fire, water from stream, toilet: Roxeby Hut,:basic, 2 bunks, wood burner, water from stream, classic dog box out the back: Boyle Flat Hut: serviced, 20 bunks, water from stream, wood burner, toilet, wood shed: Magdalen Hut: standard, 6 bunks, water tank, wood burner, toilet, wood shed
Miscellaneous: Some un-bridged side streams. The walkway is in a high alpine area and as such is prone to extreme weather. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Boyle Flat Hut Trip, St James Walkway 12-13 December

To Boyle Flat: A trip on the St James Walkway

Over the weekend I went for a overnight trip along the St James Walkway to Boyle Flat Hut near Lewis Pass. The hut is about 4-4.5 hours from the car park at Boyle Village.

This is yet another of my alternate plans as my first option was scrubbed by the weather. The St James is a great destination for a walk, the track has good huts and bridges across all of the major rivers. The walkway can be tramped in most conditions, except very heavy rain when some of the side streams can be impassable.

Southern terminus of the St James Walkway

Day One: To Boyle Flat from Boyle Village

This tramp is also part of the Te Araroa Trail, one day of a longer 7-8 day trip. The section consists of: Lake Rotoiti -Travers Saddle - Waiau Pass - Waiau Valley - Ada Homestead - St James Walkway - Anne Hut - Anne Saddle - Boyle Village.

St James Walkway...the southern section of the track

The road end car park is a moderately secure spot to leave your car, you can also leave it at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre if you like. It is $10 per day, they can also drop you at the northern end of the walkway for $20 NZD (call to arrange first).

Access road to St Andrews Flats and St James Walkway

As usual, I followed the 4 W/D access road which heads up the valley, it starts right next to the car park. About 1.5 km's along it you come to a track junction which leads you to the St James Walkway. Using this road will cut about 30 minutes off your time, the track itself is a series of wearing climbs and descents.

Turn off for St James Walkway from access road
There are a series of flat swampy terraces along the track, they are always alive with new flowers at this time of the year, really magical.

Open area on the St James Walkway
The first part of the track is through open red beech forest, with the river as a background soundtrack.
St James Walkway: Descending to first Swing bridge
You eventually arrive at the first swing bridge over the Boyle River, a classic sight in the NZ back country. There is supposed to be some really excellent trout fishing in the large pools around the bridge.
Boyle River swing bridge
The track meanders alongside the river for the first couple of kilometres, eventually it descends to the valley floor and heads off across it towards the head of the valley. The track is a bit rough, and also muddy, especially after rain.
Boyle River, St James Walkway

St James beech forest

St James Walkway: crossing a bush finger
You cross a series of side stream's on the way, they are usually very low, but can cause some problems in heavy rain. I noticed that they are now infested with "rock snot", a type of invasive aquatic weed, it makes for foul, slippery footing.

Unnamed side stream on the St James Walkway
The river flats along the bottom of the valley were also awash with broom/gorse flowers, that is Pt. 1271 in the centre of the photo.

St James Walkway: colourful gorse on St Andrews Flats
Here I am having a 5 minute break on my way up the valley. It was warm on the Friday, I believe it got up to 25 degrees in the area, the first really good tramping weather I have had this season.

Jon on the St James Walkway
The track meanders along, always with the river in view, along the river terraces and through some tongues of forest.
Boyle River and river flats, St James Walkway

East towards Mt Maritana and St Andrews
There were some threatening looking clouds out to the East, fortunately they never amounted to anything.
Threatening weather over the Opera Range

Crossing cattle flats on the St James Walkway
I had a New Zealand Robin following me for about a kilometre, they like to catch the insects you disturb as you walk along- they make for good company. I managed to get a couple of good shots of this one as he was very bold.
New Zealand Robin on the St James Walkway

Close-up of same robin, St James Walkway
Just before you start the descent to the second Boyle swing bridge you can see down to the clearing where Magdalen Hut sits. Normally all you would see is forest but so many trees have been blown over you can actually see down to the river in a number of places.

View towards Magdalen Hut from the St James Walkway

St James Walkway, heading down to the second swing bridge
Classic view of the second Boyle River bridge. I've been over this beauty 11 times now, mostly as I'm on my way to/from Magdalen Hut which is one of my favourites in the area.
Second swing bridge on the St James Walkway
You turn left over the bridge and start walking up hill towards the gorge of the Boyle River. The track starts to climb straight away, and generally continues for the next hour to the hut. There is a stile and fence across the track to stop cattle from getting into the rest of the Boyle Valley.

St James Walkway: stile near the second Boyle River swing bridge

I was having a short break near the stile when Chris, one of the instructors at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre, came along. He was out for a week long tramp as part of his end of year annual leave. We had a good chat for about 20 minutes about tramping and the general state of play in the area.

The start of the climb into the Upper Boyle Valley

After climbing over a spur, there is about a 1 kilometre section of track meandering alongside the river, all slightly up hill of course.If you could get over to the true right side of the river there are some nice looking camp sites.

Middle Boyle Valley from the St James Walkway

Gorge on middle section of Boyle River

St James Walkway skirting Boyle gorge area
The track then sidles slowly upwards, at one point you are about 80-100 metres up from the river itself. The track is moderately steep through here, it was certainly easier to walk downhill the next morning.
Steeper incline on the track climbing to Boyle Flats

St James Walkway, open forest in the Middle Boyle
Eventually you make it to the apex of the climb, from here you have an excellent view north of the Upper Boyle Valley. The hut is visible about a kilometre away on the true right of the river.
Apex of climb into Upper Boyle Valley, Boyle Flats

Boyle Flat Hut from the apex on the St James Walkway

Boyle Flats: view north towards Libretto Range, Anne Pass
A short 15 minute walk across the meadow like terraces will see you at the swing bridge over to the hut. There is a DOC track sign showing times to the next sections of the walkway: Rokeby Hut is 1 hour away and Anne Hut is another 6 hours distant.

Notice they mention the Boyle Flat Hut turn off on the sign. Some people probably walk right past the turn off as it is not clear where the track and swing bridge are leading.

Boyle Flat Hut, Libretto Range in Background

DOC track sign at Boyle Hut swing bridge

Swing bridge to Boyle Flat Hut: not obvious

Boyle Flat Hut was built in 1981 as part of the redevelopment of some existing herding tracks into a walkway. It is in excellent condition and is located on a very nice river terrace on the true right of the Boyle River. Lots of sun and warm even in winter time.

It has the usual amenities and bunk space for 20 people. It is the last hut on the main route of the St James Walkway- this is usually the last overnight stay for people walking the 3-5 day track.

Boyle Flat Hut (1981)
There is a large central dining/cooking/relaxation area with two 10 bunk rooms off to the side. Plenty of space in here for several large groups, on the night there were only three of us.

Boyle Flat Hut: Interior, view of bunk room
As you can see the hut is very nice, heavy on the wood motif popular with the Walkways Commission who built the hut way back when. I shared the hut with a German couple Heewes and Susanah, who were excellent company. They were on the last tramp of a year long OE to New Zealand, having set out from Lake Rotoroa 7 days previously.

On the last day I walked out to the car with them and gave them a ride back to Christchurch. Its always good to help out fellow trampers and it doesn't do the country any harm being helpful to tourists either.

Boyle Flat Hut: Interior, the dining area and fire box
DOC have recently been up to the hut to do a bit of maintenance, a coat of paint on the outside and new varnish on the interior woodwork.

Boyle Flat Hut: Interior, the gun rack and benches
Here is an interesting carving that you find in all of the older huts on the St James, obviously put in when the walkway first opened. There are similar carvings at Cannibal Creek Hut and Christopher Hut. Nice workmanship!

Boyle Flat Hut, carved map of St James Walkway

Boyle Flat Hut: Interior, the other bunk room
It is a well appointed hut with plenty of tables, a small selection of books and magazines and a very nice bay type window with cushions. Those of you that do a bit of tramping will know, the standard wooden benches in the huts are hard, so a bit of padding is well appreciated.

Boyle Flat Hut on its extensive flat area
There is plenty of space for tents around the hut, it would be easy to set up 20-30 on the immediate river terrace. Also some nice spots tucked into the forest edge nearby, it is a very good spot for a hut.

View south from Boyle Flat Hut

2017 Update: The spring feeding water into the hut water tank was dry the last time I visited in 2016. Instead you should get your water from the stream 25 metres to the north of the hut. This water will be a lot cleaner than the main Boyle River, as there are cattle in the Upper Boyle Valley.

No name stream behind Boyle Flat Hut is water source

We passed a very quiet evening, there were several red deer bellowing on the flats across the river as dusk approached. I thought we might have more company but being so close to Christmas people are probably waiting for the holidays.

No name stream behind Boyle Flat Hut: get water here!

Day two: With two to Boyle Village

Early the next morning I set out with Heewes and Susanah for the road end, it was good to tramp with some company for a change, although being very fit 20 something's they set a blistering pace. They had started out on their tramp 8 days previously at Lake Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes NP.

Opera Range from Boyle Flat Hut

Last view of Upper Boyle Valley, dawn on Saturday
The guide books will recommend that you walk the St James in a clockwise direction as it takes advantage of the generally downhill nature of the land going that direction.I can certainly see what they mean, it is so much easier to walk down the big incline than up it!

St James Walkway...heading back to the swing bridge

 St James Walkway: on way to Boyle Village

Boyle River from just above the gorge
The middle reaches of the Boyle are very attractive, nice deep pools, shear bluffs and thick forest.
Boyle River from below the gorge

St James Walkway from near 2nd swing bridge
The last big uphill slog on the way to the road end, once past this point it is mostly gentle sidles for the rest of the way out.
Climbing a spur on the St James Walkway

Beautiful sunshine on the St James Walkway
Looking fresher than I felt after walking for 3 and a half hours! 

Jon on the St James Walkway
We were basically racing the weather from this point on as there was a storm brewing over the Western side of the valley, luckily we managed to get to the car just before it began to hose with rain.

Cattle flats on the St James walkway
Here is a view of my German companions zipping around a corner of the track, we basically took turns leading for most of the last 2 hours walking out.
St James Walkway, descending spur near second swing bridge

We passed one three person group on the track who were on their way to my favourite hut, Magdalen. They were carrying fishing gear although I would be surprised if they caught anything in the pelting rain.

Back over the Boyle River swing Bridge

Another good trip and the first one this year without snow, appreciated for a change. I really like the Lewis Pass area, it is by far my favourite tramping location in the Canterbury region.

Access: On SH7 (Lewis Pass Highway), turn off at Boyle Village, follow southern half of St James Walkway to hut
Track Times: 3 hours to Magdalen Hut: 4 hours to Boyle Flat Hut, 5 hours to Roxeby Hut
Hut Details: Magdalen Hut: standard, 6 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets: Boyle Flat Hut: serviced, 20 bunks, wood burner, water from stream, wood shed, toilets: Roxeby Hut: basic, 4 canvas bunks, open fire place, water from stream, dog house
Miscellaneous: The spring feed water tank at Boyle Flat was not working on my last visit (2016) so water comes from the stream behind the hut