Tramping day trip to Ryde Falls...in the snow!I went for a tramp into Ryde Falls on Saturday last, there was a very small window of fine weather (or so I thought, more on that later) over the Canterbury Plains while the rest of the country had wind, snow and rain.
|Start of Ryde Falls Track, Mt Oxford Forest Park|
I thought it would be fine until at least the evening, well.....
Coopers Creek to Ryde FallsI started out from the Cooper's Creek car park as usual, very busy on this Saturday so I expect a lot of others had the same idea as myself: tramping in the foothills. there was a bit of hail/snow about the place, probably from the previous evening.
|Ryde Falls Track: DOC track map, Mt Oxford Forest Park|
|Track to Ryde Falls from Coopers Creek car park|
Below are the DOC track markers at the start of the track and a map of the local Oxford forest park. The trip into Ryde Falls is 2-2.5 hours according to the map, or about 7-8kms total.
|Ryde Falls Track: edge of Oxford forest|
The start of the track is across paddocks and low river terraces, then it is a long slow climb to the high point of a ridge that runs alongside the track. It is mostly very gentle, sidling slowly upwards for the next hour or so.
|Heading up Coopers Creek Track, Oxford Forest|
Ah, nice sunny looking day, or is it....?
|Blue skies on the Ryde Falls Track|
Here I am on the track, blue skies behind me but already you can see some of the weather coming in.
|Jon, day tripping to Ryde Falls|
You enter the bush proper after about 10 minutes walking, the advantage of this track especially in the summer is that it is covered by forest for 90% of the way. At this low level the bush is quite open, not much undergrowth. This is the start of the climb!
|Mixed exotic/native bush on the Ryde Falls Track|
After crossing two stiles the track begins to climb onto the ridge, this is typical of the track conditions, it was originally a benched cart track for the sawmill which once existed in the area.
|Ryde Falls Track: Climbing to Pt. 549|
Panoramic series of views of the area in the lee of Mt Oxford, Ryde Falls are at the low point of the ridge line in the middle centre of the photo below.
|Ryde Falls Track: View up to head of Coopers Creek|
That is Mt Oxford in the Centre of the photo, you can traverse the tops and walk back down to Coopers Creek along the Wharfedale - Link Track - Ryde Falls tracks. A full traverse of Mt Oxford is about an eight hour trip so a lot of trampers will walk down the back slope to Wharfedale Hut and stay overnight.
|Mt Oxford from the Ryde Falls Track|
The track to the top of Mt Oxford climbs this spur line and then moves off to the left along the ridge climbing out of the photo.
|Ashley Saddle from the Ryde Falls Track|
Below is a shot of the start of the track to Mt Oxford, it is not technically difficult but it is a good hard 3-4 hour climb to reach the top.
|View east towards Mt Richardson|
|Near Pt. 549 on the Ryde Falls Track|
Two photos of the nicely benched track, this is easy travel territory even with the odd patch of mud/swampy ground too negotiate. You can clearly see the old benching in the photo above, there is a very definite bank on the up hill side of the track. Originally the track would have been bullock cart wide.
|Nice wide section of the Ryde Falls Track, Mt Oxford Forest Park|
Here is a big wind fallen tree across the track, it is too heavy to remove, so DOC have nicely cut steps into it. There was a bit of windfall on the track from the storms we had earlier in the year, but most had been cleared away.
|Windfall on the Ryde Falls Track|
Again Mt Oxford from about 3 kms along the track from the car park, it is easy tops travel on the crest of the Mt Oxford massif.
|Mt Oxford massif from the Ryde Falls Track|
Here is a plant growing in the crown of a large beech tree just off the track. I'm not sure what it is, an orchid or clematis of some sort? This forest was once felled for timber so a proper three tier canopy is yet to develop. Eventually it will have tall podocarp trees, beech and low laying scrub.
|Native orchid in top of Beech tree|
The forest is much thicker further along the track, lots of pole beech and regrowth would make for difficult bush bashing if you went off track. This is usual in an beech forest recovering from historic native timber logging. Eventually one tree will come to dominate and the others will die out.
|Descending towards the Link Track Junction|
|Link Track - Ryde Falls Track junction|
Eventually you reach the track junction for the side track to the Wharfedale Track, its called appropriately the Link Track. There is an excellent specimen of Red Beech near here, stop and have a look, it would be at least 10-12 feet in diameter.The whole area was covered with these prior to milling, it would have been an impressive sight to see a forest of these giants on these ridges.
The Ryde Falls are 35-45 minutes away from the track junction.
The Ryde Falls are 35-45 minutes away from the track junction.
|Ryde Falls Track: Near the old bush railway|
There are some interpretive panels about 15 minutes further along the track, unfortunately a bloody great beech tree has fallen on them! There are a couple of seats here - it makes a great spot to stop and have a rest. Provided, or course, that a bloody great tree hasn't fallen on them!
|Ryde Falls Track: Interpretive panels...and big tree!|
The track descending to the river has fern groves on both sides, when you start passing these you are about 10 minutes from the valley bottom and the falls.
|Ryde Falls Track: More open bush, ferns|
With recent rain there were a few muddy spots, an example below, they don't slow you down too much. If you have ever tramped on a wet, muddy West Coast track you wouldn't even notice it, you just plough on through! I passed a group of 6-8 people near here.
|Mud patch on the Ryde Falls Track|
Eventually you reach the rest spot/camping area at Ryde Falls. As a place for lunch it is great there are some log seats, a water source for a brew up and a fire pit. As a camping spot it leaves a lot to be desired, rocky and lumpy ground and a bit cramped. See my previous trip report to Ryde Falls as I camped here for the night.
|The so-so campsite at Ryde Falls, Mt Oxford Forest Park|
|Jon at the Ryde Falls camp site, Mt Oxford Forest Park|
The falls themselves are a short walk up the side stream, follow the signs from the camping area, be warned the sandflies are vicious here, even in Spring.
|Ryde Falls: first two tiers...there are six total!|
|Ryde Falls, multiple falls in one!|
I had a nice if slightly chilly lunch break at the camping area near the falls. After packing up and taking some photos I set out to walk back to the car park. About 5 minutes up the track it started to snow, first large flakes and then small balls much like polystyrene. By the time I reached the Ryde Falls-Link Track junction there was about 1-2 cm of it on the ground.
You can only just see but in the photo below the snow has just started to fall.
|Deteriorating weather on the return to Coopers Creek|
This is the second trip in a row where it has snowed while I'm out and about, I hope it isn't a trend starting. I don't really want to be known as "Snowman Jon".
Any way...I wrapped myself up and just trudged on through the weather. I was in no real danger because I was on a good track and had a full load of warm gear with me. It just goes to show that you need to carry the right gear when tramping in New Zealand.
A bit of caution is always good idea, especially in Spring and Autumn when the weather is changeable.
|Jon wearing his jacket on the Ryde Falls Track|
The snow stopped after 30 minutes, but it remained cold and misty for the rest of the afternoon. It started snowing and hosing with rain just as I was driving through Oxford.
Lovely Trip...even with the snow!
Track Times: 2-3 hours from Coopers Creek to Ryde Falls, same return
Miscellaneous: Toilets located at Coopers Creek and Ryde Falls camp site, the camp site is rough but will hold three 2 person tents. Treat water from Coopers Creek before drinking.