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

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Seven ways to Mt Herbert, Banks Peninsula

...Mt Herbert, 919 meters of tramping fun...

At 919 meters above sea level Mt Herbert is the highest peak on Banks Peninsula. While not a giant of a mountain by New Zealand standards it is still high enough to provide some degree of challenge combined with the fact that is is conveniently located close to Christchurch. 

Mt Herbert from the Crater Rim Walkway, Port Hills

Mt Herbert is probably the most climbed peak on Banks Peninsula and every weekend over Spring-Summer-Autumn you are bound to find a plethora of outdoor folk visiting it in some fashion. From the top you have expansive views of of Canterbury from Kaikoura to Timaru and out to the Southern Alps. 

View of Lyttelton, Port Hills and Canterbury from the summit of Mt Herbert

Personally I try to visit Mt Herbert at least once a year and I enjoy using alternate routes to get to the summit. Each of them have positive and negative points but all are worthy tramps in their own right. I have walked all of these tracks at some point in the past...

Jon on the summit of Mt Herbert back in 2015...

I thought it might be useful to have a look at the various tracks you can follow to get you to the top of Mt Herbert. There are seven established routes to reach the summit these are:

1. Diamond Harbour-Mt Herbert: the Mt Herbert Walkway

This is the main and best known route to the top of Mt Herbert, from the wharf at Diamond Harbour walking up the long spine of a spur to the Summit. Otherwise known as the Mt Herbert Walkway this track is 16 km's return and will take 6-8 hours to tramp.

Map: Mt Herbert Walkway, Diamond Harbour to Mt Herbert

The track is a series of old farm tracks and tramping track mostly in a good state of repair with some more developed track sections on the lower slopes close to Diamond Harbour. The gradient is steep-moderate-steep as there is a plateau about half way to the crest that evens out the climb.

Diagram showing the various tracks to Mt Herbert

If you are taking this track you need to start out early in the are looking at a 6-8 hour return trip and even if you are super fit your times will not be much faster. This is an exposed track so make sure you are ready for all conditions including the sun...6-8 unprotected hours in the sun will roast you like a chicken dinner!!!

Pegusus Bay is clearly visible from the Mt Herbert Walkway

Mt Herbert Walkway....plateau half way to summit clearly visible...

Not my favourite access track..I have walked up/down one time and down from other access points a couple of times. The advantage is can catch the ferry across Lyttelton Harbour to Diamond Harbour, walk up the track and then catch the ferry back to Lyttelton at the end of the day.

A great tramp of nearly 20 km's all in one day. 

Mt Herbert Walkway: view down the long spine of the spur you follow

Jon on the top of the Mt Herbert massif....

...there are people walking up the track...Mt Herbert Walkway

One advantage of this route are the fantastic is the least forested of the various tracks so you can see most of Canterbury as you walk.  

There is a lot of climbing from Diamond Harbour to the summit of Mt Herbert

Mt Herbert Walkway: the track starts from Diamond Harbour and goes........up!!!

If you do not have transport or just want a seriously good blow out then this is the option you should choose. It is easy to follow from wharf to summit and this is the route probably 60% of trampers will use. 

2. Te Ara Pataka: Hilltop Tavern to Gebbies Pass

Te Ara Pataka is a 2-3 day tramp from Hilltop Tavern overlooking Akaroa to Gebbies Pass at the head of Lyttelton Harbour. You can use public transport to get to the Hilltop Tavern so this is potentially a car-less trip if you catch the ferry from Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton.

Map in Rod Donald Hut of the Te Ara Pataka Walkway

Day one is from Hilltop to Rod Donald Hut along the spine of the intervening ridges. The second day of the track will take you up and over the crest of Mt Herbert and then round the back of nearby Mt Bradley to Packhorse Hut. Day three takes you down to Gebbies Pass and the end of the track. 

Te Ara Pataka: view down to Akaroa from Montgomery Park Reserve

Pigeon Bay from the top of Pt.70, Montgomery Park Reserve

I personally think every Canterbury based tramper should have a go at Te Ara Pataka, it is a cracker of a track following the path of an old paper road. If you do it as a multi-day tramp you get to stay at Rod Donald Hut and Packhorse Hut. These are both in my top ten list of favourite huts as they both have masterful views and a ton of character.

Te Ara Pataka: Rod Donald Hut, Western Valley

Te Ara Pataka: Packhorse Hut, on Kaituna Saddle

 The views from right along the track are magnificent on a clear day and make the walking worth the effort. 

Lake Forsyth from near Montgomery Park Reserve, Te Ara Pataka

Pigeon Bay from Mt Sinclair, Te Ara Pataka

Gebbies Pass is a problematic spot to end the track...there is no public transport and it is not a safe location to leave a car overnight due to the hoon's aka 'car enthusiasts' who drive up and down the Summit Road. What you can do is take a bus to Hilltop and then walk down the Mt Herbert Walkway to the ferry at Diamond Harbour.

You can do the section from Gebbies Pass to the Packhorse Hut as a day trip....4-5 hours return.

Port Levy from near Mt Fitzgerald, Te Ara Pataka

Blue sky day for Jon on Te Ara Pataka in 2016

Te Ara Pataka visits a number of reserves and covenanted land which feature large native trees (Halls Totora, Matai, Hinau and Fuschia), thick bush and a host of native birds. The section from Hilltop to Mt Herbert can also be ridden on a would be a good ride.

Massive Halls Totora tree in Montgomery Park Reserve

Native bush in the Mt Sinclair Reserve, Te Ara Pataka, Banks Peninsula

Large native tree in Kaituna Spur Reserve, Banks Peninsula

If you are looking for an awesome multi-day tramp close to Christchurch that includes Mt Herbert then this is the option for you. Just note that both Rod Donald and Packhorse are on the DOC hut booking system and they are super popular so book well in advance.

Little Mt Herbert (Pt.913) and Mt Herbert...from Te Ara Pataka

On the last haul up to the top of Mt Herbert

On the summit of Mt Herbert (919 asl)

If you do all of the track in one go you will enjoy the last day as it is about 90% downhill from Kaituna Saddle to Gebbies Pass. It is a mixture of tussock tops, exotic forest, farmland and the last kilometre is down a gravel access road.


First view of Packhorse Hut from the flank of Mt Bradley, Te Ara Pataka

McQueens Forest and Head of the Bay from near the Remarkable Dykes, Te Ara Pataka:

Heading down towards Gebbies Pass, Te Ara Pataka

I walked Te Ara Pataka back 2016 and I would rate it highly, in my top 15 tramps of all time despite the miserable rainy weather I had on day two of the tramp. This is a fine example of just how good tramping on the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula can be...

3. Port Levy Saddle to Mt Herbert

A sub route of the larger Te Ara Pataka Walkway....instead of walking the whole walkway one starts at Port Levy Saddle and follows the route of the track north along a couple of ridge-lines and then up onto the slopes of Mt Herbert.

Track sign at the start of the Port Levy Saddle to Mt Herbert route...

Climbing up the first section of the Port Levy Saddle to Mt Herbert route

Approaching Kaituna Spur Reserve on the way to Mt Herbert

This is the easiest route to the top of Mt Herbert although the track from the Purau Saddle is shorter. The route is mostly along farm tracks with a short section through remnant native forest at the Kaituna Spur Reserve. The reserve is the point where the track from the head of Kaituna Valley meets the track up to the top of Mt Herbert. 

Map: Port Levy Saddle to Mt Herbert

The ridge-line the Port Levy Saddle-Mt Herbert track follows
View down to Birdlings Flat from above Kaituna Valley, Te Ara Pataka

Pt. 761 and Little Mt Herbert...Te Ara Pataka

The track starts at Port Levy Saddle and climbs up onto a ridge above the exotic forest then it sidles to a junction with the track over Pt. 913 (sometimes called Little Mt Herbert). From there you follow a disused 4 W/D track from Little Mt. Herbert up to the top of the main summit. 

The long climb up to the summit of Pt 913, Little Mt Herbert

On the track across Pt. 913 (Little Mt Herbert) looking at main Mt Herbert summit

It is relatively easy walking the only steep parts are right at the start and on the final hump up to the summit. It can be very muddy as sheep and cattle are constantly walking along the tracks so the best time to visit is in early summer when things have dried out a bit. 

View of Mt Herbert from the saddle with Little Mt Herbert, Pt. 913

On the last section of climbing to reach the Mt Herbert summit

As with all these tracks on Banks Peninsula it can be very exposed so make sure you are fully equipped for all conditions. I've walked this track before on a fine sunny day and it is very easy to follow. When I walked Te Ara Pataka back in 2016 it was not so pleasant...3-5 meters of visibility, gale force wind, horizontal rain and cloud. 

...Mt Herbert is in there somewhere...Rod Donald Hut veranda

Basically, I couldn't see a goddamn thing!

All I will say is thank god for good wet weather gear & GPS, because they kept me alive. I got lost several times and had to haul my GPS unit out to find the track again. For example...I lost the track and then found it using the was 20 feet away in the thick zero visibility cloud. I couldn't tell which direction was uphill or down as I happened to hit one of the few flat spots on the whole track....

Jon in the rain while walking Te Ara Pataka in 2016 near Kaituna Spur Reserve

....I got lost near here on Mt Herbert back in 2016.....

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

Be prepared folks......!!!

Back in 2016 I followed the junction that joins Te Ara Pataka to the Monument Track and Purau Saddle. The first part of the track is fine as it is well marked...but later on there is a maze of old tracks and farm paths to negotiate. It would be easy in good weather as you could see where you need to go but in clag it is very difficult to navigate. 

Mt Herbert: view of a clagged in track in 2016.....

....Same area on Mt Herbert on a clear, sunny day.....

Note: this track is closed from mid August to the 15th October each year for lambing as the route crosses a working farm. Please stay on the marked track and close all gates you pass through so that access can be maintained. It is about 12 km's return and will take you 4-6 hours to complete. 

4. From the Orton Bradley Estate

The Mt Vernon Walkway from the Orton Bradley Estate to the summit of Mt Herbert is my favourite of all of these tracks. Orton Bradley Estate is a historic farm on the south side of Lyttelton Harbour that is part working farm and part recreation park. The walkway starts at the end of the Estate access road where there are toilets and a carpark. 

The start of the Mt Herbert Track, Orton Bradley Estate

Mt Herbert Track, Orton Bradley Estate: farm tracks in mid sections

The track is in forest for about half of the total distance and the rest is on an old farm track across long grass and tussock. There are a wealth of shorter tracks up this valley but they are really well marked so it is difficult to get lost...just keep heading uphill.

Orton Bradley is a cattle farm so be careful around the cattle beasts they are generally big hunks o' meat and sometimes do not take kindly to your presence.

Mt Herbert hour from the start at Orton Bradley Estate

Map: Orton Bradley Estate to Mt Herbert Summit

You can see the top of Mt Herbert for most of the way up the is out to the east of you on the far side of the valley. The track can be popular over the summer months...less so in autumn/winter/spring so sometimes it seems a bit remote.

Climbing up to the shelter, Mt Herbert Track, Orton Bradley Estate

You pop out of the forest and bush after about an hour and a half and the views just keep getting better the higher you climb. At first the Port Hills block your view of Canterbury but eventually you get high enough to see over them and the Plains open out before you.

View of Quail Island from the Mt Herbert Track, Orton Bradley Estate

One of the last sections on the way to Mt Herbert shelter is a series of switchbacks which deposit you on a saddle between the high points of Mt Bradley and Mt Herbert. If you follow the track off to the south you will go in behind Mt Bradley to eventually reach Packhorse Hut. If you head to the north you will reach a shelter and eventually the short track to the summit.

The switchbacks up to Mt Herbert shelter, Mt Herbert Track, Orton Bradley Estate

Mt Herbert-Packhorse-Orton Bradley track junction

Mt Herbert Shelter is an open sided three walled shelter hut on the saddle between the two high points. It can be a life saver and an oasis in bad weather as it provides protection from the sometimes wild weather you get up here. The shelter is not for overnight stays but it does have toilets and a roof fed water tank.

Mt Herbert shelter in middle distance, Mt Herbert Track, Orton Bradley Estate

View of Lyttelton from inside the Mt Herbert shelter...

DOC sign outside the Mt Herbert shelter

From the shelter it takes about 10 minutes to climb the last section of track to the top of Mt Herbert. The top of Mt Herbert is a kilometre long ridge which slopes down to the surrounding valleys...there is a trig, some antennas and a radio repeater station on top and that is about it.

Mt Herbert the final climb up to the top of Mt Herbert

View due south from the top of Mt Herbert, Banks Peninsula

Excellent views in all directions of course...north to the Canterbury Plains, east to Port Levy and the outer bays, south to Lake Ellesmere and west to the Southern Alps.

Port Levy and the Monument from the summit of Mt Herbert

Lytellton and the Canterbury Plains from the summit of Mt Herbert

From the top you can drop off to the north along the Mt Herbert Walkway, east to the Monument and Port Levy Saddle and back to the west along the track you followed.

Jon atop Mt Herbert, Banks Peninsula

This is actually my favourite way to get to the top of Mt Herbert, it is certainly the most interesting. I like the forest and bush down on the lower slopes and the views certainly help to motivate you to get to the top. While it can be busy over summer most of the time it has a very quiet remote feeling to it as if you are the only person in the world. 

Back at the Orton Bradley Estate at the end of a long day....

I quite like that really.....

5. Monument Track on the Port Levy-Purau Road

Another option for reaching the summit of Mt Herbert is along the Monument Track which starts on the Purau-Port Levy road. This is one of the lesser known tracks but it should get more use as it is a very nice tramp.

Carpark on the Purau-Port Levy Road for Monument Track

There is a small car-park near the Purau Saddle and the track heads off across farmland in the general direction of the Monument a well known rock pinnacle prominent on the nearby ridge. There are poles across the farmland which eventually lead to an old farm track which will take you the rest of the way to the top.

Start of the Monument Track...the rocky tor is the Monument
Map: Monument Track from Purau Saddle to Mt Herbert

Monument Track: heading down towards Monument Hut

Total distance for the track is about six kilometers one way or 2 hours is a 4-5 hour return trip. The track quality is fairly good as it is so seldom used...grass, tussock and rocky 4 W/D track. There are a number of fences and gates to cross as this is a working farm...please make sure you close them behind you.

Monument Track: the track slowly climbs along the side of the Monument

The track sidles alongside the flank of the Monument well known to Canterbury rock climbers as it is used by that fraternity. The slope is have to drive up here from time to time to service the repeater stations on Mt Herbert and Pt. 913. Once it passes the Monument it has a couple of switch backs to a junction with the main route of Te Ara Pataka.

Monument Track: climbing to the saddle between Mt Herbert and Pt. 913

Mt Herbert from the saddle with the Monument, Monument Track

On the eastern end of the Mt Herbert massif heading to the highest point...

Once on the saddle between Mt Herbert and Little Mt Herbert it is just the last short section up to the crest of the main ridge. there is a track right up the side of the main peak of Mt Herbert.

Godley Heads and Pegusus Bay from Mt Herbert

Wind has knocked over the Mt Herbert summit sign

The track will deposit you on the eastern end of the massif...once on top you can walk the kilometre along the crest to the western end checking out the varied views as you go. I like to sit out of the wind by the repeater station and contemplate life for a while. 

Mt Herbert repeater station...sitting in the sun having a snack...

It can be nice siting on the summit if it is sunny but Mt Herbert is notorious for the strong wind which usually blows across the top. The strongest wind ever recorded up here was over 220 kph during a monster southerly front in 2016....

View towards Port Levy Saddle from Pt.913, Monument Track

View towards Mt Herbert from Pt. 913, Monument Track

Be careful about striking out off track across the side of the hill. There are bluffs on the Monument side of the mountain that are not very obvious from up slope...they are only 3-4 meters high but that is plenty to mess you up....

Excellent view of the Monument and surrounding area, Monument Track

A curiosity you will pass on this route is the historic YHA Monument was built just after the war when there was a lot of tramping activity on Banks Peninsula. Unfortunately once the cheap night train to Arthur's Pass started trampers went there instead ...the hut was hardly used!!!

Monument Hut close to the Purau Saddle....

It is still largely as built inside with two sleeping benches with kapok mattresses, a small table and an old and broken water-tank outside. It used to have an open fire but that was removed long ago. You can still stay here but it would be cold, dirty and not very pleasant. 

Monument Track: the YHA Monument Hut

Interior of the historic YHA Monument Hut, Banks Peninsula

I like the Monument Track I have been up here a couple of times now...I think it is probably my second preferred route to the top of Mt Herbert. Why I hear you ask....the track is cool, its not that difficult a climb and where else in Canterbury are you going to find a hut from the 1950's with the original kapok mattresses......

Monument Track: the YHA Monument Hut...Jon outside the hut in 2017

That is just too cool for school....

BTW: Kapok is a fluffy seed fibre from the Kapok tree and looks a bit like coarse un-spun was often used in sleeping bags and bedding up to the 1950's....

6. Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut -Mt Herbert

The second longest route to the top of Mt Herbert starts in the Kaituna Valley. The Kaituna-Packhorse Hut Track starts at the end of Parkinsons's Road mid way up Kaituna Valley Road. This is a year round access point to Packhorse Hut which sits in its excellent position up on Kaituna Saddle. 

Start of the Packhorse Track in Kaituna parking here!!!

Georgia unnecessarily crosses a river on the Packhorse Track

The track mostly follows old farm tracks up to Packhorse where it changes into a rough track up and along the southern flank of Mt Bradley. It is steep climbing up the first two kilometers from the hut but after that it evens out into a slightly overgrown but easy to walk sidle track.

Map: Kaituna Valley to Mt Herbert summit

Mt Bradley dominates the horizon for much of this route the hill is another long flat massif and it is only 50 meters lower than Mt Herbert to the east. Mt Bradley is a fine tramping destination in its own right I have been up to the top before and the views were superlative.

Mt Bradley from the Packhorse Track, Kaituna Valley

Looking down on Kaituna Valley from the Packhorse Track

Packhorse Hut is now on the DOC hut booking system and it is the second nights accommodation if you are walking Te Ara Pataka. There is now a rough and ready camping site tucked into the tussocks to the east of the hut. 

You could break the trip down into two days...stay in Packhorse Hut and go for the summit on the second day...then walk back to Kaituna Valley at the end of the second day. Alternately someone could drop you at Kaituna Valley and you could walk up and over Mt Herbert to Diamond Harbour.

Lots of choices when you start thinking about it.....

Packhorse Hut, Kaituna Saddle, Banks Peninsula

On Te Ara Pataka climbing up Mt Bradley from the Packhorse Hut

The track around the southern side of Mt Bradley is sporty to say the is rocky, narrow and a bit overgrown at least until the start of summer when DOC always go through and clear the track. You have to take a bit of care as there are some places with high bluffs right next to the track, it is also horribly exposed to any southerly front coming up the South Island. 

Te Ara Pataka Track sidles the southern face of Mt Bradley

....on much of a track behind Mt Bradley...

In the mist on Te Ara Pataka, Mt Bradley

There are a couple of small patches of native bush along the flank of Mt Bradley...mostly under-story but there are some sizable examples of Halls Totora, Fuschia and Hinau as well. It makes a change from the tussock and also gets you out of the wind....

Bush section, south face of Mt Bradley, Te Ara Paraka

More of the Te Ara Pataka track on Mt Bradley

Eventually you arrive at the saddle between Mt Bradley and Mt Herbert it is about half an hour to the top of Mt Herbert from here and the Mt Herbert Shelter is 15 minutes along the track. Great views of Kaituna Valley and Lyttelton from along the saddle....

Mt Herbert from the top of the Orton Bradley Track

Te Ara Pataka sidles along the southern side of Mt Bradley...

Kaitorete Spit and Lake Ellesmere from near Mt Herbert shelter, Banks Peninsula

The Mt Herbert shelter has a water tank and toilets and is the best spot to stop for a break if it is cloudy, windy or wet on the day you visit Mt Herbert. This is a day shelter overnight camping is allowed. 

Mt Herbert Shelter, Mt Herbert, Banks Peninsula

Christchurch and Sugar Loaf from near the Mt Herbert Trig point

This is the second longest of the various routes up Mt Herbert...the main Mt Herbert Walkway from Diamond Harbour is marginally longer. It is certainly the most varied of the routes with farmland, tussock covered hill sides, forest and bush. Total distance is about 12-13 kilometers return or 6-8 hours. 

7. Kaituna Spur to Te Ara Pataka: Monument Track (South)

The last option from Kaituna Valley to the Te Ara Pataka Walkway via Kaituna Spur this route is known as the Monument Track (South). It is by far the least known of all routes to the summit of Mt Herbert and is usually only used by tramping clubs looking for obscure tracks.

Looking down on Kaituna Valley from neat the Kaituna Spur Reserve

Junction of the Monument Track South and Te Ara Pataka above Kaituna Valley

It is a pity as there is fully mature forest along sections of the first half of the track.

Monument Track (South) information in the DOC Te Ara Pataka brochure

 At the head of Kaituna Valley there is an old farm track that sidles up the the ridge between Port Levy Saddle and Mt Herbert. Once on the top you follow the route from Port Levy Saddle to the summit following the route of  Te Ara Pataka.

Map: Monument Track (South) in the Kaituna Valley

I saw a person coming up this track when I recently walked in from Port Levy Saddle...first time I have actually seen someone coming this way....

View down to the top section of the Monument Track South route...
Great view of Kiorete Spit from above the Kaituna Valley

Here is the information contained in the DOC brochure;

Monument Track (south) from Kaituna Valley to Te Ara Pātaka 

Time: 1 hr 30 min Distance: 2.7 km Track is closed for lambing 8 August to 15 October 

Getting there: Take SH75 to Kaituna Valley Road. Monument Track starts at the end of Kaituna Valley Road. Park by the sign at the farm gate at the end of the road. Walk past the yellow farmhouse, and follow the marked track to join Te Ara Pātaka. Note: The property to Te Ara Pātaka belongs to the Parrs, who live at the farm and recently retired it from grazing to facilitate native forest regeneration. It is now under a Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust covenant to protect it for the future. 

View down to Kaituna from the Monument Track (South), image from WozaWanderer website

Have a look at this blog post from Woza Wanderer for photos and information about walking the Monument South track....

Can I ride a MTB up Mt Herbert?

So...can I ride a mountain bike to the summit of Mt Herbert?

Actually,  yes you can ride a MTB up there but only by following a particular route.  All of the tracks except the one from Port Levy Saddle to Mt Herbert are walking tracks and MTB's are officially excluded. Mostly this is because riding a bike on the trails would be dangerous both to you and any walkers. 

...evidence...a MTB on the top of Mt Herbert....

If you are a cyclist and want to ride to the summit start at the Port Levy Saddle on Western Valley Road and follow the track north. It isn't much of a ride...most of it is along an old farm track and several sections will be too steep to ride up. Downhill would be much better but for pity's sake keep a good eye out for trampers.

Step slopes on Te Ara Pataka..not great for MTB riding....

Do not try cycling around the back of Mt will end up dead. It is narrow, rocky and there are some big drop offs. I say this because I have seen MTB tracks in the soil and mud around the back of Mt Bradley and idjiots....!!!

The track around the back of Mt Bradley is not suitable for mountain bikes!!!!

The non track from Mt Herbert to Packhorse Hut...dangerous on a MTB!

Plenty of scope for adventures climbing to the top of Mt Herbert...get out there and start ticking them off your 'to do' list...