Showing posts with label Rod Donald Hut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rod Donald Hut. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Summit Walkway: Te Ara Pataka: 1-3 April

Walking the Summit Walkway from Hilltop to Gebbies Pass...

After visiting Rod Donald Hut back in November 2015 I hatched a plan to tramp the Summit Walkway (or Te Ara Pataka as it is otherwise known) early in 2016. I have been wanting to walk this track for a long time but this tramp previously entailed a 27 km, 8-10 hour walk between Hilltop Tavern and Packhorse Hut. 

This was not enticing!

With the new Rod Donald Hut you can break the trip down into 2 or 3 days with a stay at Rod Donald and an optional second night at Packhorse Hut.  This makes it a 5+7 hour trip over two days or a 5+5+2 hour trip over three days.

Pigeon Bay from the Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka

If you were fit as a mountain goat and a complete nut you could even tramp it over one day but you would be walking for 12-13 hours!

There is an article about the track in the January 2016 issue of Wilderness Magazine if you want more information.

Te Ara Pataka: Map of the track from DOC website

N.B: Both Rod Donald and Packhorse Huts are now on the DOC hut booking system and MUST be reserved if you want somewhere to sleep at night.

Day One: Friday, Hilltop Tavern to Rod Donald Hut

I used the Akaroa Shuttle to get to Hilltop Tavern overlooking Akaroa Harbour, this is the closest point public transport gets to the walkway. Then it was a five hour tramp up and along a series of ridges which stretch from Montgomery Bush to Waipuna Saddle 15.6 km's in the distance.

Hilltop Tavern, transport drop off point if walking Te Ara Pataka

The weather was perfect, cloudy with a gentle wind and mildly warm all day long...

Walking back up to the Summit Road from Hilltop Tavern

Te Ara Pataka track starts 300 meters this way...

Looking down to Akaroa Harbour from near Hilltop Tavern
The start of the track is about 300 meters along the Summit Road which links Hilltop with the outer Peninsula bays like Pigeon and Okain's. It is well marked so should be next to impossible to miss.

Map: Hilltop Tavern to Port Levy Saddle, Te Ara Pataka/Summit Walkway

Start of the Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka near Hilltop Tavern

DOC Summit Walkway sign, start of Te Ara Pataka
The track starts out gently climbing through native forest but soon becomes rougher as it climbs to the ridge line above. There are step places, some rock scrambles and mud but generally it is a benign track.

Easy uphill at the start of Te Ara Pataka
There is a spectacular Totara tree about 10 minutes up the track, it is a relic of the forests which cloaked these hills back in pre colonial times. These were either cut down for timber or burnt to clear the land in the mid to late 1800's.

Large Totara tree in Montgomery Bush, Te Ara Pataka

Jon walking through Montgomery Bush

Large Fuchsia tree in Montgomery Bush, Te Ara Pataka

Montgomery Bush: Rough and rocky track

Rougher track conditions on the Summit Walkway

Akaroa Township in the distance to left from Te Ara Pataka

Summit Road heading to Pigeon & Okains Bay

Unnamed Pt. 700 from the Summit Walkway
There are still a number of the old NZ Walkway Commission track markers along this track, they are the orange posts shown in the photo below...

NZ Walkway's track marker on Te Ara Pataka

Te Ara Pataka: nice rock steps near the top of the ridge

Just about to top the first ridge line on Te Ara Pataka
Eventually you top the ridge line and can see the terrain you will be walking over for the rest of the day. There are two significant climbs, over Mt Sinclair and Mt Fitzgerald but both are relatively easy. 

View East to Pt. 700, Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka

View of Akaroa Harbour from Te Ara Pataka

Te Ara Pataka: Birdlings Flat from thetop of the first ridgeline

Course of the Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka over the next 2 days...

Pigeon Bay from the ridge above Pt. 700, Te Ara Pataka
For the most part the ridge top trail is an old 4 W/D track that runs from near pt. 700 all the way to Waipuna Saddle, so the walking is easy for much of the day. 

Te Ara Pataka: heading North East towards Mt Sinclair

Te Ara Pataka: innovative use of a log as a fence strainer
Some long ago farmer got around this oddly placed stump by running the fence wire right through it, a lot of unnecessary effort but cool to look at....

The fence post from a stump, Te Ara Pataka

Te Ara Pataka: view back to Pt. 700 from near Mt Sinclair

Remains of burnt native trees alongside Te Ara Pataka

Te Ara Pataka: Little River and Lake Forsyth in the distance

Entering Mt Sinclair Reserve on the Te Ara Pataka track

View of Hilltop area from near Mt Sinclair, Te Ara Pataka
There is a lot of sub alpine flora on the higher points of the track including various types of Speargrass which you normally associate with the Southern Alps. Speargrass will generally grow in drier soils above 700 meters, it is almost a natural altimeter.

Speargrass alongside Te Ara Pataka
You can see the various Peninsula Bays from high on this track, including Pigeon Bay and Port Levy Bay.

Te Ara Pataka: view of Pigeon Bay from near Mt Sinclair

Summit Walkway follows these ridges to North and East

Classic sub alpine tops travel, Summit Walkway

First glimpse of Port Levy from Summit Walkway

Speargrass grove high on Mt Sinclair, Te Ara Pataka
I stopped at the saddle between Mt Sinclair and Mt Fitzgerald to have some lunch in a spot out of the prevailing NE wind. You are still about 2 hours away from Rod Donald Hut at this point.

Me having some lunch near Mt Sinclair
At the base of Mt Sinclair there are two routes to the top of the next hill (Mt Fitzgerald): the newer, official DOC track crosses a fence and climbs a spur, the alternate is an old farm track which sidles the side of the ridge. They both lead to the same spot which is a stile over a fence on the summit.

Only the old farm track is shown on the current topographic map of the area.

View back to Mt Sinclair from flank of Mt Fitzgerald

The old farm track sidling around Mt Fitzgerald

Port Levy Saddle in middle distance, Port Hills behind

Pegasus Bay from on Mt Fitzgerald
Mt Fitzgerald is a long wide ridge rather than a single peak, so it takes quite a while to actually reach the crest of the ridge line. 

Heading towards the fence stile, Mt Fitzgerald

View NW to point 717, from crest of Mt Fitzgerald

Corral high on the Summit Walkway, near Mt Fitzgerald
One of the notable features of this track are the graveyards of old bleached native tree trunks laying on the ground. Most of these were burnt in the 1890's to clear the land for farming and the charred trunks left as they fell. 

A real waste as some of the trunks are big so they are probably from +500 year old Totara, Matai and 
Beech trees.

Te Ara Pataka: last climb before Waipuna Saddle

Port Levy from the Summit Walkway

Te Ara Pataka: native forest graveyard

Waipuna Saddle, Te Ara Pataka
There is a clearly marked side track to Rod Donald Hut, it is about 10 minutes walk and 200 metres descent from the track marker on the saddle.

Turn off to Rod Donald Hut at Waipuna Saddle
I happened upon this spider as I was descending to Rod Donald Hut sunning itself on the track.  It was big, probably 4-5 cm long, that's about 2-3 inches for those of you in the US and Europe. Not likely to be poisonous but I bet it could give you a good old bite if it wanted to.

One hua of a big tussock spider...
I got to Rod Donald around 2.30pm and had the hut to myself for at least an hour, once again I thought what an awesome hut this is. I visited the hut back in 2015 and liked it immediately, it is a good example of the private/public facilities that farmers, community groups, charitable trusts and DOC have started to build together all over New Zealand.

This is probably the way forward for outdoor facilities as the government is constantly draining manpower and resources from the Department of Conservation (DOC). DOC just don't get enough to cover all of their expenses, much to the detriment of "clean green New Zealand" and our local environment. 

Rod Donald Hut (2015)

DOC notices...bunk room at Rod Donald Hut

View from my bunk, Rod Donald Hut

Dining area in Rod Donald Hut

Western Valley from Rod Donald Hut

The bunkroom at Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula
We had a full hut that night: myself, a father and son, a German couple and four women from Christchurch were the residents for the night. The hut holds 9 people but there is still a lot of space even when you have this number inside as it is an old converted two story farm house.

Mt Herbert Massif from Rod Donald Hut

Rod Donald Hut and surrounds

The next day would see me travelling from Rod Donald to Packhorse hut via Mt Herbert a distance of about 12 km's or 5 hours walking.

Day Two: Saturday, Rod Donald Hut to Packhorse Hut

It was wet weather gear right from the hut door on the second day as a front had moved in overnight bringing intermittent rain and wind to the Peninsula. It was wet but warm with the temperature around 15 degrees. 

In all honesty the conditions were nominal for continuing the tramp. Because I have good wet weather gear and a GPS receiver I decided to try to make it to the Mt Herbert Shelter where I would reassess my options.

I had bail out options at Kaituna Spur, Monument Track and the main track down to Diamond Harbour
 if required.

View of bad weather from Rod Donald veranda

Nearing the cloud layer on the climb out of Rod Donald Hut

Port Levy Saddle to Packhorse hut

It rained for the next 3-4 hours, I had to stow my camera in my pack as it is not waterproof, so there aren't a lot of photos of this section. Please refer to my Rod Donald day trip for photos of the track from Port Levy Saddle to the hut. Here is a link to Wozzawanderer's trip photos from Mt Herbert to the Port Levy Saddle.

Bear in mind, I couldn't see any of this as the cloud and rain were too thick...

 I managed to snap a photo at one of my infrequent rest stops in a finger of forest near Kaituna Spur Reserve. The other was taken in the lee of a massive rock about halfway between the Monument Track turn off and Mt Herbert.

Both times momentary lulls in the wind/rain allowed me to stop for 5 minutes otherwise it was tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp,  tramp....

Jon in full wet weather gears, near Kaituna Spur Reserve

For the most part the track between Port Levy Saddle and Mt Herbert is very easy to follow, it is a well marked old 4 W/D track. From the Monument Track turn off to Mt Herbert is a different story, not too many markers and a confusion of various farm tracks to accidentally follow.

My view for most of the day, sidling Mt Herbert

 I've walked this track before on a fine sunny day and it is steep but very easy to follow. On this day, with 3-5 meters of visibility, wind, horizontal rain and cloud I found it very difficult. 

Basically, I couldn't see a goddamn thing!

All I will say is thank god for GPS, because I got lost several times and had to haul mine out to find the track again. As an example, I lost the track and then found it using the GPS about 20 feet away in the cloud. The problem, I could not tell which way was up or down, I happened to hit one of the few flat spots on the whole track....

Luckily another tramping maniac like myself came along and I was able to confirm which way
 the Summit was.

Mt Herbert Shelter on a fine day

I went straight to the Mt Herbert Shelter as you would not have been able to see anything from the summit anyway. I had a long talk to the French guy in residence, he had spent a cold,  windy night in the shelter and we compared gear, track talk and the such.

After some hot soup, tea, crackers & pate I set off in the rain and cloud for Packhorse Hut using the track which runs along behind Mt Bradley.

On the track behind Mt Bradley

...more of the track behind Mt Bradley
It was cloudy behind Mt Bradley but much calmer as the prevailing NE wind was blocked by the mountain in the way. 

White out conditions in Kaituna Valley

Te Ara Pataka: one of the least maintained sections of track behind Mt Bradley

Te Ara Pataka: visibility of about 10 meters....

Starting to descend on the track behind Mt Bradley

The track condition around the back of Mt Bradley is not too bad and is obviously being upgraded by DOC as there is a lot of new cut back and track maintenance visible. Regardless, care is still needed as there are a couple of drop offs along here, especially treacherous in the rain and wind.

Gawd knows how, but someone has obviously ridden a MTB along here as there were tire marks clearly visible in a couple of spots.....

Bush remnant 20 minutes from Packhorse Hut

Kaituna is down there....somewhere...I think?

Groping my way through the fog behind Mt Bradley

Te Ara Pataka: final track heading to Packhorse Hut

Kaituna Pass and Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut from the flank of Mt Bradley

Track heading down to Kaituna Valley

View back towards Mt Bradley, Kaituna Spur area
If you walk the track over three days you have the option of spending a second night in Packhorse Hut, high above Lytelton Harbour and the Kaituna Valley.

Packhorse Hut is 100 years old and sits in a very picturesque spot on a saddle next to Mt Bradley.

This was my 9th visit to this awesome hut and my 2nd overnight stay. 

Be aware, Packhorse is now on the DOC hut booking system- you need to pre-book a bunk if staying overnight.

Packhorse Hut from the end of the Te Ara Pataka track

Stormy weather over Gebbies Pass from Packhorse Hut
I had my wet weather pants on for most of the day, unfortunately I managed to catch them on a wire fence near Port Levy Saddle The wind basically destroyed them from that point on as the tear ripped open and acted like a sail catching the wind.
 This is what they looked like when I got to the hut....they are stuffed!

Wind damage to my over trousers

View towards Mt Bradley, Packhorse Hut

Storm over the Port Hills from Packhorse Hut
I left Rod Donald at around 8 am and finally arrived at Packhorse at 2.45 pm, with an 45 minute break at the Mt Herbert Shelter. That is roughly 6 hours which is an O.K time given the atrocious conditions I was tramping in.

First order of business was a brew of course, I had water and both hot soup and hot chocolate as I was parched from not drinking enough liquids over the course of the day.

Brewing up inside Packhorse Hut
The weather around Mt Bradley cleared a lot by the late afternoon which allowed me to take some photos of the surrounding area.

Slightly worse for wear Jon and Packhorse Hut

Mt Bradley, Clearing weather in the late afternoon

View out to Birdlings Flat from Packhorse Hut

Still cloudy over Kaituna Spur area, viewed from Kaituna Pass
Packhorse Hut has had a bit of a make over, this is a work in progress, as DOC fix up earthquake damage and do some well overdue maintenance of this historic hut. They have changed the internal set up with a bigger single bunk room, some repairs to the ceiling and a good coat of paint all over.

There is also a brand new and bigger rainwater tank.

A totally full wood time!

For a hut over 100 years old it is looking good.

New bunk room set up at Packhorse Hut
Me working on getting the fire going in Packhorse Hut

Packhorse Hut: brewing up and the hut interior

My dinner for the night, Packhorse Hut
I shared the hut overnight with 4 young guys who had walked up to the hut from Kaituna. I had checked on the Thursday before leaving town and was expecting a full (9 bunks) hut so some people had obviously flagged their trip. I was most thankful for the company especially as they shared some of their bacon and sausages with me.

They must have had 2 kilos of bacon, 30+ sausages and 2 dozen eggs all of which they hauled up from the car-park.

It took them about 2 hours to cook and eat it all.....

Thanks for the tasty tucker lads!

Dusk with Lytelton Harbour full of cloud from Kaituna Pass

Dusk over Mt Bradley from Kaituna Pass

The next day was going to be a short one with a journey of about 2 hours to cover the 6 km's from the hut to Gebbies Pass where I had arranged to be picked up.

Day Three: Sunday, Packhorse Hut to Gebbies Pass

Day three was a short 2 hour walk out to Gebbies Pass on a nice track down and through McQueens Forest. The weather was beautiful again, sunny and not too warm, it was a pleasant change from the previous day...

The views from Kaituna Pass are fantastic, you can see most of the Canterbury Plains and on very clear days you can actually see Mt Cook far off in the distance. The rose coloured light on this morning was particularly awesome as a backdrop.

Dawn over Gebbies Pass and Southern Alps from Packhorse Hut

Lytelton Harbour covered in fog and the Port Hills

View out to Birdlings Flat and Kaituna Valley from near Packhorse Hut

Dawn over the Port Hills from near Packhorse Hut

Map: Packhorse Hut to Gebbies Pass, Banks Peninsula
I set off around 0730 just as the sun was coming up over Mt Bradley, the first section of the track sidles the ridge out to the South gradually losing altitude as you go. Although the track looks indistinct on the topographic map in fact it is obvious and well marked for its whole length.

The Te Ara Pataka track heading towards the Remarkable Dykes

Looking down on McQueens Forest and Gebbies Pass from Te Ara Pataka

Passing the Remarkable Dykes about to enter McQueens Forest
The next section was a very pleasant track into and through McQueens Forest, this covers about a 1/3 of the total distance out to Gebbies Pass. The McQueen family were one of the original settlers of this area and are well known for their forestry interests both around the turn of the century and right up to present times.

 The exotic plantation is in the process of being felled so there are a few areas where you are walking along logging roads so take care. 

Entering McQueens Forest on the Summit Walkway
I saw a multitude of native wood pigeon or Keruru eating the berries on the shrubs shown below. I'm not quite sure what this plant is but it is a native commonly found in both native and exotic forest.

New Zealand pigeon. Feeding on tree lucerne. Maud Island, September 2008. Image © Peter Reese by Peter Reese

Te Ara Pataka: the shrubs some Keruru were roosting on

Close-up of the berries Keruru were eating, Te Ara Pataka

Track marker: Packhorse Track
Every so often you have to cross wide fire breaks in the forest but the track is so well marked it would be impossible to get lost here.

Packhorse Track crossing Mc Queens Forest fire-break

Looking back towards Mt Bradley and Kaituna Pass from McQueens Forest
The track is on the leeward side of a spur for most of the way down so it is cool and shady.

On the shaded side of the ridge for most of the way, Packhorse Track

Interesting light effect on the trees, Packhorse Track
The only section of logging road you need to use is very short, probably less than 500 meters, there are standard DOC orange poles marking the route so you won't get lost. 

Te Ara Pataka: beginning of the short road walk....go left...

...past the cows...

...up the hill...

...across here!

Jon on the way to Gebbies Pass, Te Ara Pataka
Packhorse Hut is right in the middle of the V shape visible on the photo below...this is Kaituna Pass.

Mt Bradley and Kaituna Pass from McQueens Forest

Te Ara Pataka: the last 2 kilometres to Gebbies Pass

View towards Lytelton from near McQueens Forest
The next to last section of the track is down into and through a exotic shelterbelt, this climbs to the last rise near the radio tower and is about 1.5-2 km's from the end of the track. 

Heading down to the shelter belt on Te Ara Pataka

Te Ara Pataka: nice track through the shelter belt
The end of the track is about 1 kilometre past the radio tower visible on the Gebbies Pass skyline, once you pass the tower it is a stroll down the gravel road to the parking area located there.

Radio tower near Gebbies Pass

The last 300 meters of the Te Ara Pataka

Te Ara Pataka: Christchurch City Council track marker

Te Ara Pataka: the gravel road leading to Gebbies Pass

Track next to McQueens Forest Road leading to Gebbies Pass

Almost finished the Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka

Gebbies Pass Road descending to Lytelton Harbour

End of the Packhorse Track at Gebbies Pass

DOC sign warning about need for hut booking on Te Ara Pataka

Start of the Summit Walkway at Gebbies Pass
The Gebbies Pass parking area was totally deserted when I arrived at 0930, but by the time Kathryn arrived to collect me it was full of cars. I watched a procession of walkers, runners and MTB'ers head up the gravel road which leads to the Packhorse Track.

Gebbies Pass car park at 0900

I really enjoy tramping on the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula, it is right on our doorstep and was traditionally the home of Canterbury trampers back before everyone had their own car. Even though the track is mostly across farmland the views you enjoy as you walk along more than make up for the ease of the track.

Gebbies Pass car park at 1030....

If you have never walked the Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka I urge you to get out there and give it a go, the track could easily be walked in 2 days if the weather is fine.  Or spoil yourself and do the walk over 3 days and stay in the two excellent huts en route. Alternately, if time is short why not do a "there and back trip" along one of the many sections.

Access: Track starts 100 meters along Okains Bay Road from Hilltop Tavern overlooking Akaroa Harbour. Montgomery Reserve entrance is on the left, very small parking area at entry point. 
Track Times: Main route: 4-5 hours Hilltop to Rod Donald Hut, 2.5 hours Rod Donald to Mt Herbert Shelter, 1.5-2 hours Mt Herbert to Packhorse Hut, 4 hours Packhorse to Gebbies Pass
Hut Details: Rod Donald Hut: serviced, 12 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets: Mt Herbert Shelter: no bunks- day shelter only, water tank, toilet: Packhorse Hut: serviced, 12 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets
Miscellaneous: All huts on DOC Hut booking system, must be booked for overnight visit