Showing posts with label East Hawdon Hut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East Hawdon Hut. Show all posts

Monday, 10 June 2013

East Hawdon River: Arthurs Pass National Park: 22-23 Feb 2013

The East Hawdon Valley: A route less travelled...

In February I went for an overnight trip up to East Hawdon Biv, on a tributary of the Hawdon river. The first part of the trip is the easy 4 W/D track going up the Hawdon valley. Once you reach the East Hawdon confluence the real fun begins. There is no official track up the East Hawdon, it is a route using the riverbed and short sections of bush track cut by members of the Permolat group. 

Mid way up the East Hawdon Valley, Arthurs Pass NP

Permolat are a group of trampers who maintain seldom visited tracks and huts in the South Island. 
The Department of Conservation or DOC is strapped for cash, they lack the  resources to maintain every track and hut in the back country. Individuals and volunteer groups have started to assist with this task.

Hawdon Shelter to the East Hawdon confluence

Day One: Start in the Hawdon Valley

As with all trips here you start at the Hawdon Shelter, make sure you sign the intentions book before you go, and for gods sake sign out when you are finished. Don't linger or the sand flies will carry you off!
I'm not kidding......they are HUGH, vicious and love the human have been warned!

Hawdon shelter near the campsite
Once over the Hawdon River and Sudden Valley Stream look for the old 4 W/D track for the fastest travel up valley. It really is worthwhile to find this track as it will save you a good 30 minutes.

Over the Hawdon River, Arthurs Pass NP

Approaching Sudden Valley Stream in the Hawdon Valley

Hawdon Valley, 4 W/D track

You eventually pass through a patch of re-generating bush just before the Hawdon - East Hawdon River confluence.

Hawdon Valley, just before confluence with the East Hawdon

 Officially there is no track from this point, this is a route so you set your own course. You follow the river bed from this point, there are some short sections of track mostly on the true right of the valley, keep an eye out for these as they make the travelling much easier.

East Hawdon marked track, make your own!

View up East Branch Hawdon river, rocky!
After the first shingle flat the valley narrows, you will need to find the best line up the valley. This may be impossible if there has been any rain as the East Hawdon is prone to flooding.

There are several points where you MUST cross the river, they were all easy crossings on this day. I ended up crossing the river 17 times going up, a lot less coming back as I found all the short sections of track.
 Believe me, I wasn't crossing the river just for fun but because I needed to!

East Hawdon gorge..river crossing 1-3...

It is a very beautiful valley, quiet and tranquil, I only saw one hunter the whole day, although there was another woman working her way up the valley ahead of me. I never actually saw her, only her boot prints here and there.

Beautiful East Hawdon Valley
The valley is alternate shingle flats, bush and gorges, with the occasional rock clamber, it is rugged but not too technical.

East Hawdon: river bed travel prevails for most of the day

Because I missed some of the short track sections I ended up climbing over some rocky areas I could have bypassed. The tracks seem to have been cut from the top of the valley down, so are more visible when going down valley.

Look for the tracks- mostly on the true right!

East Hawdon: more boulders, oh joy!
This large shingle flat is just beyond the halfway point, it is the widest part of the valley.
East Hawdon- river flat, half way point

Half way point, East Hawdon..nice camp-site over the river

Break time, and boy did I need it by here as it was HOT.. about 25 degrees on the day. There is a nice river terrace behind me which would make a good camping spot if you only wanted a taste of this valley. Large flat area, well away from the river and some vegetation to protect you from wind.

East Hawdon: Jon says...Howdy!

Below is a scree slope which reaches from the top of the Blackball Ridge (near Pt 1695) all the way down to the river. You must walk on the side nearest to the slide as there is a series of deep pools on the true left. Don't stop here as there is absolutely no cover if a rock decides to come down. I took this photo while moving!

Scree slide East Hawdon, 3/4 way to biv- Don't stop here!

This point is about 1 km from the bivy, there is just the one last gorge before you reach it.

East Hawdon, second gorge near the biv

Look for the sidle track on the true right, it completely avoids this whole second gorge.The biv is about 20 minutes up valley from this gorge.

Second East Hawdon gorge, sidle track on true right of valley
N.B: (2017) I slipped over near here- I landed on my leg and it hurt like hell. I thought it might be broken but was not. It got me to thinking about how long I would be stuck here if I had broken my leg. As a result I first borrowed then brought my own personal locator beacon, I now carry one on every tramp.

View down valley from near East Hawdon Biv
Eventually you will reach the East Hawdon Biv, which is a fine example of the new 2 bunk bivs that DOC are building. Upper Poulter and Sudden Valley are of the exact same design.

East Hawdon Biv (2007)

East Hawdon hut details

East Howden Biv with fire pit to right
East Hawdon biv has two bunks with enough space for another person on the floor. There are no seating benches (use the bed) but there is a cooking bench and a good supply of reading material. There is a toilet- water comes from the nearby river. There are some small tent sites near the biv, but they are rocky and not well protected from the wind.

East Hawdon Biv: Interior, typical 2 person biv
Make sure you open the windows while you are here, especially when cooking. These small spaces build up moisture and carbon monoxide really fast. There are bug screens on the windows so you can open them and not get eaten alive. 

Interior of East Hawdon Biv, quite tidy.

The view out of East Hawdon Biv window
I spent a very quiet night by myself at the bivouac: dinner was steak, spuds, peas with gravy and a can of beer. I heard several kiwi calling during the night, one quite close to the biv so there must be a few in the area.
Jon at East Hawdon Biv...tea in hand. Cheers!
I also saw a herd of 4-6 deer on the opposite slope of the valley, they moved back and forth grazing for about an hour in the late afternoon.

Deer were on this slope opposite East Hawdon Biv

Day Two: Heading back to Hawdon Shelter

The next day was also beautifully sunny, I rose early and set off back down the valley to the car. It was a glorious morning and I made excellent time as I discovered all of the sidle tracks I missed on the previous day.

River terrace next to East Hawdon Biv, looking down valley

East Hawdon Biv sitting on its river terrace

There are some big mountain ranges in this area, the surrounding peaks are in the 1600-1800 metre range, this tends to make the valley a bit dark and intimidating.

I have heard it is perishingly cold up here in winter.

Savannah Range, head of East Hawdon

The East Hawdon, a scree slope you have to get past
There is a sidle track to the true right of this gorge that runs through the forest down valley for about 1 km from here, it is worth following it to speed your journey home.
East Hawdon Gorge from above, track to right of picture
Eventually you reach the last gorge in the valley, from here there is just the slog down the last shingle flat and then onto the trusty Hawdon Valley 4 W/D track.

View back into East Hawdon Gorge at the valley end

East Hawdon, view down to the Hawdon River confluence

The trusty Hawdon Valley 4 W/D track

Hawdon river looking towards the Pyramid (1608 metres)
I really enjoyed this trip, the valley is beautiful, the route rugged without being dangerous, the biv is excellent. I would totally recommend it for a small group or individual, provided you realise that this is a route, not a track.  I would not go here if it is raining as I can see that several of the river crossings would be difficult if not impossible with any rain.

 I would wear heavier tramping boots next time.  Walking over the rocks will give you sore feet unless you are wearing good boots. I had my light Hi-Tecs on and my feet were feeling the pain by the end of the second day.

My lightweight Hi Tec boots in the Hawdon Valley

I will be back again, this is a great location!

Access: SH73 to the Mt White Road turn off, once over the Mt White bridge head left to Hawdon Shelter. From Hawdon Shelter follow the track crossing the Hawdon River and Sudden Valley Stream, follow the 4 W/D track up valley. Turn right up East Hawdon and make own route.
Track Times: 4-5 hours from the Hawdon Shelter
Hut Details: Hawdon Shelter: day shelter only- no bunks, no water but does have open fireplace. There are plenty of rough camp-sites here: East Hawdon Biv; basic, 2 bunks, space for a third on floor, water from stream, outside fire pit.
Miscellaneous: Hawdon River, East Hawdon and Sudden Valley Stream susceptible to flooding in heavy rain, none of the rivers or side streams are bridged. Numerous required river crossings. This IS NOT a wet weather destination.