Showing posts with label Day Tramp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Day Tramp. Show all posts

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Short Walk: Gondola to Bridal Path, August 2019

A Sunday stroll on the Port Hills

It was quite a nice day on Sunday so Karen and I decided to go for a walk. I was supposed to be walking the track from Godley Head to Tayors Mistake but instead we decided to go up the Gondola and walk back down the Bridal Path.

Mt Cavendish from the Gondola car park, Heathcote Valley

For those of you not from Christchurch the Bridal Path is an old settler track from Lyttelton Harbour to the Heathcote Valley on the Christchurch side of the Port Hills. Most of the settlers who arrived in Christchurch between the 1850's and 1900 would have used the path. It has real significance to Cantabrians...

Riding the Gondola to the Summit Walkway

The Christchurch Gondola goes from the bottom station at the head of the Heathcote Valley to the top of Mt Cavendish. Because it is at 500 odd meters it has excellent views of the whole of the Canterbury Plains as far north as Kaikoura, south to Timaru and Banks Peninsula.

View of Castle Rock, Heathcote Valley, Port Hills 

Map: The Christchurch Gondola and the Bridal Path

There is plenty of parking space at the bottom of the Gondola with several large car parks close to the terminal building. The Gondola top station and Bridal Path are both clearly visible from the car parks.

Gondola car park with the Bridal Path in the background
A one time ticket on the Gondola costs $30 NZ dollars for an adult, $15 NZ dollars for children over 13 years of age. A season pass for both the Gondola and the Christchurch Tram costs $69 so you might as well buy a year pass and then come back multiple times to ride the Gondola....

Christchurch Gondola: the interior of the bottom station

Christchurch Gondola: Bottom Station and view from car

The Gondola cars have 360 degree glass on them so the views as you head to the top station are excellent. Mt Cavendish is one of the highest points on the Port Hills so you can see most of Canterbury from the top. 

Christchurch Gondola: the Gondola winds up to the top of Mt Cavendish

Christchurch Gondola: large rocks which fell in 2010 earthquakes

Christchurch Gondola: detail of a passing Gondola car

Christchurch Gondola: half way to the top station

Passing a grazing sheep on the Christchurch Gondola

Canterbury Foothills as viewed from the Christchurch Gondola

You can clearly see the Bridal Path from two thirds of the way to the top of the gondola. There are very few trees and little vegetation along the track so it is visible as a dusty line in the distance. 

Bridal Path as seen from Christchurch Gondola

The adjacent road from Mt Pleasant to the Rapaki Track is currently closed due to rock fall danger. The focal point of the 2010 Christchurch earthquake was at the head of the Heathcote Valley and all of the bluffs, outcrops and tors in the immediate area fractured and sent huge boulders rolling down into the valley.

At present there are no plans to reopen this road as the potenntial danger is too extreme. 

Christchurch Gondola: detail of one of the gondola pylons

Port Hills: Summit Road and Bridal Path from the gondola

Heathcote Valley and Castle Rock Spur from the Christchurch Gondola

View of Lytelton from the Christchurch Gondola

The gondola ride takes about ten minutes...normally you will have a car to yourself to a maximum of four people per car.

Eventually you arrive at the top station which has a gift shop, cafe and interactive display showing the history of the Port Hills. It is well worth the money to visit the top station as there are excellent views of most of the Port Hills, Canterbury Plains, Lytellton and Banks Peninsula

Nearly at the top station on the Christchurch Gondola

Karen and I got to the top station around 12.30 so we stopped and had lunch and a beer in the cafe. The cafe has a range of cabinet food and a limited a la carte menu plus cold drinks, coffee and ice creams. Our lunch was very nice (Caesar Salad for me and open Steak Sandwich for Karen) plus they sell Kronenbourg which is my favourite commercial European beer. 

Christchurch Gondola: in the cafe at the top station

I love a Vitamin K.....Kronenbourg

There are viewing platforms around the outside of the top station and there is a nice view point from the flat area in front of the building. Make sure you bring a jacket or fleece as it can be windy and cold up here even on a warm summer day. 

There were a lot of people around taking advantage of the lovely late winter day but there is plenty of space so it did not feel crowded to me. 

Pegasus Bay to Kaikoura from the top of Mt Cavendish, Christchurch

View to west, Castle Rock Spur and Christchurch from the Christchurch Gondola Top Station

Christchurch Gondola Top Station: View to south, Sugar Loaf in middle distance

There are some excellent views out to the south and the head of Lytellton Harbour, Gebbies Pass and you can even see Birdlings Flat once you reach the Gondola top station. In the photo below you can see Quail Island which is the destination for a forthcoming trip...

The Crater Rim Walkway is clearly visible snaking down to the Bridal Path, this is also a section of the Christchurch 360 Trail which I have just about finished. 

Christchurch Gondola Top Station: Lytellton Harbour and Gebbies Pass

Lytellton Harbour and Mt Herbert (919 asl) from the Christchurch Gondola Top Station

The best views of both Lytellton and Mt Herbert are to be had from the top of Mt Cavendish. There are also excellent views out to the Canterbury Plains...the Canterbury Foothills and Kaikoura were both visible when we arrived.

Canterbury from the Christchurch Gondola Top Station
After lunch and a stroll around the top station gift shop (I brought a new baller cap for tramping....) we walked down to the Crater Rim Walkway and started out for the apex of the Bridal Path which is about two kilometers away.

Summit Walkway: the Gondola to the Bridal Path

The Crater Rim Walkway starts just down the hill from the top station, from here it is about 30 minutes to the Women Settlers Memorial Shelter at the apex of the Bridal Track. It is another 30 minutes from the apex to the end of the Bridal Path down in Heathcote Valley

Start of the Crater Rim Walkway, at Christchurch Gondola Top Station

Quail Island from the Crater Rim Walkway

The marker post shown below has track information and the symbol at the top is for the over 100 km long Christchurch 360 Trail which encircles the whole of the city. From here you head south to the Bridal Path and Dyers Pass, to the north east is Mt Pleasant, Evans Pass and Godley Head. 

Crater Rim Walkway: a Christchurch 360 sign

Gondola Top Station from the Crater Rim Walkway

The quality of the track is mixed...generally it is a bit rough...certainly not for the stroller and pram brigade. It can be muddy and slippery when wet but none of the Christchurch 360 Trail is really dangerous. Still you must make sure you are prepared for all weather eventualities as it can get cold, wet and windy..perfect hypothermia conditions.

At a minimum have a good jacket, warm clothing, water and a communication device. 

Crater Rim Walkway: heading for the Bridal Path

Crater Rim Walkway: good view of the ring of hills around Lytelton Harbour

 Crater Rim Walkway: typical track quality

Good long view of Mt Cavandish and Gondola Top station from Crater Rim Walkway

Crater Rim Walkway: view out to Pegasus Bay

Crater Rim Walkway: Mt Herbert and Diamond Harbour

About half a kilometer from the Gondola there is a nice outlook with views down to Lytelton and the Cavendish Bluffs on Mt Pleaseant. The bluffs are one of the preferred rock climbing locations on the Port Hills and on the day we could see several groups climbing the various faces. 

The Mt Cavendish Bluffs seen from the Crater Rim Walkway

Crater Rim Walkway: view out towards Lytellton heads, Purau

A typical trail marker, Crater Rim Walkway

We passed quite a large clump of Ongaonga as we were coming down the track. For those of you who haven't encountered Ongaonga before it is a type of native thistle which has a very potent neuro-toxin in the barbs. It grows widely across Banks Peninsula, but this is the first time I have seen it on the Port Hills.

The pain from rubbing up against Ongaonga is excruciating and people have been known to go into shock and die if stung too many times. How many barbs is too many I hear you ask...depends on your body size, age and general health but 50 would get a grown adult male into hospital for a couple of days.....

Please steer clear of Ongaonga if you strike it as it is seriously bad juju......

Summit Walkway: Karen carefully passes the Ongaonga patch

Lytellton Harbour is the port for Christchurch, it is not all that busy but coal, timber, milk powder, agricultural produce and manufactured goods are shipped from here. The town itself has a small village feel to it and it is a popular spot for visitors. If you want to access Quail Island or Mt Herbert there are water taxis which go the the Island and Diamond Harbour. 

View of Lytellton Harbour from the Crater Rim Walkway

Crater Rim Walkway: Summit Road heading to the south

Looking back to Mt Cavandish from the Crater Rim Walkway

We eventually arrived at the apex of the Bridal Path, back in colonial times this was the main access point for settlers. Evans Pass and Dyers Pass roads were not built until the late 1880s and the tunnel was constructed in the early 1970's. The settlers belongings tended to be landed by boat in the Estuary at several places as the colonial Bridal Path was foot traffic only. 

The Summit Road which dissects the Bridal Path was constructed in the late 1930's when Depression Era unemployed men were paid to build it using picks, shoves and wheel barrows. My maternal grandfather worked on the scheme as he could not find any other work.

Later when the war started the construction accelerated as it was seen as a vital link to the defence outposts scattered along the Port Hills. 

Crater Rim Walkway: approaching the apex of the Bridal Path, Pioneer Womens shelter

Mt Cavandish from near Bridal Path

Once you reach the apex you can either head down to Lytellton or continue down into the Heathcote Valley and the car parking at the terminus.

Women Settlers Memorial shelter

There is a shelter and car park on the apex of the Bridal Path, although no cars have been able to get here since the earthquakes as the road is closed from the Rapaki Track to Mt Pleasant. 

Bridal Path Track: car park at the apex of the track

Bridal Path Track: view of Lytellton from the apes car park

The Canterbury Pioner Womens Memorial Shelter was erected to remember the hardship faced by all settlers arriving in colonial Christchurch but especially the women settlers. It must have been hard on the women settlers...a three month sailing ship voyage followed by a quarantine period then that steep, dusty walk over the hills to their crude new home. 

As was the way of the times the women would have cooked the meals, cleaned and looked after the children on the ship while the dudes sat around talking, smoking and playing does that sound ladies???

Canterbury Pioneer Womens Memorial Shelter, Bridal Path Track

Plaque in the Canterbury Pioneer Womens Memorial Shelter, Bridal Path Track

The Bridal Path originally started down by the Lytellton docks and goes up and over a saddle to finally emerge down in the Heathcote Valley. I will be walking this section of the Bridal Path sometime in the near future so stay tuned for a post. 

Bridal Path Track: the track down to Lytellton Harbour

After a ten minute snack/water break in the shelter we started down the last section of the walk, the Heathcote Valley side of the Bridal Path.

On the historic Bridal Path

From the Bridal Path apex it is a 30 minute walk down to the car park next to the gondola terminal. You need to take a bit of care on the Bridal Path because the surface of the steep track is covered with small rounded pebbles which make it very slippery. It is especially treacherous in the rain as the soil is Loess which is super slick when wet. 

Bridal Path Track: view of Heathcote Valley and Canterbury from the apex of the track

Entrance to the MTB track that mirror the Summit Road all the way to  Dyers Pass

Bridal Path Track: track sign and rock fall warning....

I was telling Karen about the time I illegally rode my MTB down the Bridal Path back in the early 1990's....I just about filled trouser on the way down because it was lethally dangerous. Once you got up a bit of speed you couldn't really stop..if you braked the wheels just sled. 

I had to go full throttle around a couple of the corners with a knee skinning lean...just as well I didn't strike any people walking up the track. I was wearing a helmet but it would have been hospital time for Jon if I came off....

Don't do this yourself as it was seriously the most idiotic thing I did on a bike and that was at a time when I did lots of stupid stuff mountain biking. I value my skin too much to attempt a hair brained stunt like this now.....

Starting down the steep and slippery Bridal Path Track

There are some nice views from the track but make sure you keep your mind on the task at hand as it is easy to trip on the rocks jutting out of the track. 

The Bridal Path Track exits next to the Lytellton tunnel entrance 

In the steeper places I suggest you lean back into the slope a bit and walk in a zig-zag fashion across and down the track. This will minimise the chances of a trip or not run down here (as so many people were doing) as you will not be able to stop.

Obviously if you know what you are doing blaze away...this is a popular mountain running track...

Karen carefully negotiates the slippery track, Bridal Path Track

Castle Rock from the Bridal Path Track

There is a good interpretive panel about 200 meters down from the road with information about the history of the track and a photo showing points of interest in the immediate area. 

Bridal Path Track: an interpretive sign just down from the road

Bridal Path Track: Castle Rock Spur to left, My Pleasant Spur to right

Mt Cavendish from the Bridal Path Track

The photo below shows the rough, rocky nature of most of the track, with a layer of small stones on top you have to watch your footing for most of the way to the bottom. 

Bridal Path Track: it is steep, slippery and rough in places

Bridal Path Track: a large stone which fell onto the track...

Some shelter offered by pines on the Bridal Path Track

Halfway to the bottom there is a small bridge over a stream and a point where you can access the gas pipeline to Lytellton Harbour. The gas pipeline was constructed in the 1980's and is an alternate way to get up to the Summit Road. It is much more direct but very steep but well worth the effort for an alternate experience. 

Bridal Path Track: the gas pipeline to Lytellton

Bridal Path Track: a bridge over the one stream on the track

There are several rock fall danger zones on the Bridal Path and the threat is very real and direct. In the Christchurch Earthquake huge boulders the size of three story houses broke of and roiled down the sides of the surrounding peaks. One man was killed by a falling rock during the quake so this is not the place to be if there is an earthquake. As with any rock fall zone do not stop in the zone and move as quickly and safely as possible to exit the area. 

Bridal Path Track: the new Lytelton Tunnel ventilation building

The last half kilometer of the track is a lot less steep, wider and well maintained as it is an access road for the tunnel ventilation building. There were a lot of people on the Bridal Path mostly heading down but also up as it was only around 2 pm. If I lived in the Heathcote Valley I would walk up or down the track on a regular basis for fitness. 

Bridal Path Track: the last 100 meters of track...

Native planting alongside the Bridal Path Track

You finally walk off the track to find yourself next to the gondola terminus and the car parking spaces. There is a last interpretive panel at the end of the track it has information about the Bridal Path and the settlers who used it. Well worth a read before you head to your car....

Bridal Path Track: interpretive panel at base of Bridal Path

Bridal Path Track: Heathcote Valley end of the track...

It was a very nice afternoon and as the weather continues to improve I thoroughly recommend you get out and give the Bridal Path a go. Stay tuned for a follow up post where I walk down the Lytellton side of the track coming to you soon.


Bridal Path Track: end of the line at the Gondola car park

Access: The Christchurch Gondola can be accessed from the terminus at the head of the Heathcote Valley, next to the Lytellton Tunnel entrance. There is no access from Tunnel Road you need to drive up Heathcote Valley.
Track Times: 10 minutes for the Gondola ride, 30 minutes to the apex of the Bridal Path and then another 30-40 minutes to the track end.
Miscellaneous: The track is steep, rough and rocky with very slippery stones on the surface. Please take care at all times and try to control your descent speed. There are several rock fall zones and drop off points so keep small children close. There is a cafe, toilets and gift shop at the Gondola top station.