Showing posts with label Parachute Rocks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parachute Rocks. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

St Arnaud Range Track - Pancake Rocks: 2 December 2016

Walking to Parachute Rocks on the St Arnaud Range

I did something new last weekend and planned a "base camp" tramping trip to Nelson Lakes National Park. In effect, I stayed at the Kerr Bay camp ground and went for a couple of day walks over the two days I spent there. At night I slept at the camp ground, this is what you do on a base camp trip. This is something I plan to incorporate into my tramping program from now on.

Mt Robert from West Bay, Nelson Lakes NP

I arrived at St Arnaud on the Friday and after booking my camp site at Kerr Bay I went for my first walk which was to the Parachute Rocks via the St Arnaud Range Track. I had a few problems with my camera so there are less photos of the trip than normal. 

Camp ground at Kerr Bay, Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes NP

LaKe Rotoiti and Mt Robert from near the entrance to the Kerr Bay campground (2018)

St Arnaud Range Track to Parachute Rocks

The track starts right next to the camp ground with a short section around the lake and then a massive uphill grind for the next 2 hours

Start of the track network near Kerr Bay, Lake Rotoiti

St Arnaud Track -Parachute Rocks route, Nelson Lakes NP
The first few minutes of this track are the same as the Lakehead Track I walked back in October, once you turn off there is about 20 minutes of mildly ascending track as you cover the forest along the fringe of the lake. Then it is a steep ascent to the bushline.

Be prepared, this track is ALL uphill!

Lake Rotoiti interpretive panel on Lakeside Track

Heading along the Lakeside track, Lake Rotoiti

About 10 minutes down the Lakehead Track you turn off and follow the northern end of the Loop Track, this eventually becomes the St Arnaud Range Track. It is well sign posted so you will not get lost. 

Turn off to St Arnaud Range Track, Lake Rotoiti

On the Loop Track heading up to the St Arnaud Range, Nelson Lakes NP

Mire or mountain swamp about 30 minutes up the St Arnaud Range Track, Nelson Lakes NP
The real climb starts after you cross Borlase Stream on the St Arnaud Range Track. This is an out-wash stream and I would imagine difficult to cross if it was raining heavily so bear this in mind if you decide to head up here in the rain. 

Crossing Borlase Stream on the St Arnaud Range Track, Nelson Lakes NP
St Arnaud Range Track: start of the climb to the Parachute Rocks

Jon near Borlase Stream, Nelson Lakes NP
The track for the next 1.5 hours is a series of switchback track sections; to start they are really long but gradually get shorter the higher you climb. The track itself is well marked but it is rough in spots and quite muddy, you also do a bit of clambering over roots, downed trees and rocks so be prepared. 

Start of the switch back sections of the St Arnaud Range Track
I left my gaiters at the camp ground and wished I had them with me because of the mud. That said, most of the people I saw were wearing mountain runners or hiking shoes so take your pick.....

Well marked St Arnaud Range Track along Borlase Stream

Resting near pole beech, St Arnaud Range Track, Nelson Lakes NP
The forest starts to thin out as you get closer to the bush line and the beech trees change into alpine tree species. You are under the forest canopy for the whole length of the track; it is only the last 100 or so meters (where you are in a tussock basin) that you get any kind of view.

Rocky, rooty section of the St Arnaud Range Track

It is hard to see in these photos but the gradient of the track is about 35-45 degrees...

Near the bush-line on the St Arnaud Range Track, Nelson Lakes NP

Eventually you make it to Parachute Rocks, which is a small rocky overhang just above the bush line. The views of Lake Rotoiti, Mt Robert and the Travers Valley are spectacular. You can even see large sections of Kahurangi National Park from up here including Mt Owen and the Thousand Acre Plateau.

There are a few bluffs around the rocks so take care where you are walking. 

Lake Rotoiti from Parachute Rocks, St Arnaud Range, Nelson Lakes NP

 The St Arnaud Range Track is STEEP and relentlessly uphill, this is not a technical track but it really wallops you. It is only 200 odd uphill meters from Parachute Rocks to the tops but I just couldn't do it, I was just too knackered! Another day, another trip.....

I sat near the rocks and had some lunch as I watched the almost non stop procession of people head on up the track. After half an hour I started off back down the way I had climbed.

Normally I find the downhill sections of a track like this more difficult than the uphill: your feet get crushed into the front of your boots but not in this case. The track quality is very nice and those switch backs make things easier on the down hill. 

Resting spot on the way back down St Arnaud Range Track

The trip down follows the same track and took about 2 hours in total, it is a slippery so I was walking slowly. This is not a place to slip and break your leg....they would need to carry you down the track as it is too dense for a helo extraction.

I stopped for a break about an hour down track and sat on a very nice log right next to the track. It was about 2 pm but there were still people passing me on their way up to the tops.

Back on the Lakehead Track, bound for St Arnaud,  Nelson Lakes NP

This is a nice wee trip but don't let its proximity to St Arnaud fool you. It is steep, alpine in nature and has a remote feeling to it especially higher up. There are a couple of hairy spots near Parachute Rocks that require care. If you are going up this track go LIGHT but prepared for cold, wind and rain. Take lots of water as there is none until you reach the tarns atop the St Arnaud Range.

The track is surprisingly popular, I must have passed close to 20 people during the day. Total time from start to finish was just short of five hours. 

Note: I later discovered that the SD card in my camera had malfunctioned so I only had the 40 odd photo internal memory of my camera to use. That is why there aren't more photos.

Access: St Arnaud Range Track can be accessed from near the Kerr Bay boat ramp, Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes NP. Travel 20 minutes along Lakehead Track, then take junction on left of track.  The track is well sign posted and marked throughout.

Track Times: It is 2-2.5 hours to Parachute Rocks, another hour to the tops.  Total tramping time 5-6 hours return.

Miscellaneous: Steep track, one un-bridged side stream, fall hazard near Parachute Rocks.