Showing posts with label Te Araroa Trail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Te Araroa Trail. Show all posts

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Tramping food resupply point: St Arnaud General Store: Nelson Lakes NP

Resupplying in St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes NP, South Island.....

One of the places you will need to resupply fuel and tramping food while on the Te Araroa Trail is at the beginning/end of the Richmond Ranges and the start/finish of Nelson Lakes National Park.

This is at the settlement of St Arnaud on SH 63 close to Lake Rotoiti.

Entering St Arnaud from the Blenheim end of SH63, general store on the right

St Arnaud is located between the Richmond's and Nelson Lakes National Park. It is roughly 7-10 days in both directions to the next resupply point. If you decide to forgo a drop box, then your only resupply option here is the St Arnaud General Store. 

St Arnaud near Nelson Lakes National Park

The St Arnauld General Store

I was up in St Arnaud recently tramping the Travers-Sabine Circuit. While there I stopped off at the St Arnaud General Store to buy a sandwich and drink, and thought it might be interesting to discuss it as a possible TA resupply point.

St Arnaud is a small settlement on SH 63 half way between Murchison and Blenheim. There are less than 50 permanent residents but it is often busy as it is the gateway to Nelson Lakes National Park. 

The St Arnaud General Store, cafe and petrol station

There is only one store in St Arnaud, the General Store on the main highway through the settlement. Calling this a store is a misnomer as it is basically a small grocery selection attached to the local NPD petrol station.  

The St Arnauld General Store

A place to resupply tramping food...

 The grocery selection is limited but you can certainly buy enough supplies here to get you through to either Havelock (drop box at Pelorous Bridge...), Hanmer (off the trail) or Arthur's Pass (with a drop box at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre...). 

I heard that the price were expensive, but a quick peruse of the shelves showed that they were only marginally more expensive than in a larger town. 

St Arnaud General Store: chiller and bread selection

The cafe attached to the store has a decent selection of cakes, slices, pies and sandwiches/rolls which can provide you with treats and lunches for the first day at least. They also do coffee and light meals if that is something you are interested in. 

St Arnaud General Store: the inside of the store

The store had methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) and a limited selection of screw type gas canisters for sale. There were very few of them so it might be best to contact them before you arrive to see if they have any available. 

St Arnaud General Store: toiletries and hardware

All the usual suspects are present: bread, rice, noodles, pasta meals, mashed potatoes, soup, canned tuna, cereals, Nuttela, peanut butter, dried fruit, crackers, milk and milk powder, sugar, tea/coffee etc. etc. They have a limited supply of pre-packaged meats in a chiller including ham, bacon and salami.

I didn't spot any freeze dried meals, tortillas/wraps or anything similar in the shop.

St Arnaud General Store: general food groceries

The store also sells alcohol: they have wine, beer, RTD's and a selection of spirits for you to choose from. As always you need to be 18 years old to buy alcohol in New Zealand. 

The St Arnaud General Store sells alcohol....

I love that they have my favourite beer Kronenbourg (Vitamin K) in stock..must be all the tourists from France/Germany who drive the demand...

RTD and beer selection at the St Arnaud General Store and...Kronenbourg!!!!

There is a small selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, enough to restock for the next section of the trail. I saw apples, oranges, bananas, onions, corn cobs, potatoes, garlic, capsicum, carrots, parsnips and tomatoes. 

Fruit and vegetable chiller at the St Arnaud General Store

So...not a supermarket but at least a possible resupply option as you pas through.

Incidentally, if you are catching the Nelson Lakes Shuttle to the Mt Robert car park (if doing the side trip to Angelus Hut) the shuttle collects you from the kiosk in front of the General Store. That's why I was visiting the store in the first place.

 Bookings are essential and best made several days before your day of travel, it only cost me $30 as there is a regular scheduled trip to that destination each day during the summer months. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tramping Equipment: Osprey Atmos 50 AG pack

More new tramping gear for 2018...

....more weight lightening going on here. I brought a new multi-day pack for my short trips of 1-3 nights. I needed something lighter than my current 75l Vaude Ascent pack but with more capacity than my 50l Vaude Brenta pack. 

My Vaude Brenta 50 on the Nina Hut Track in 2017

 I would love to buy an ultra-lite pack from one of the US based manufacturers (like Z-Packs) but those run to $600-$800 NZD and I just cant afford that. After much consideration I went with the Osprey brand who have a solid niche following in the thru hiking community.

Z-Packs Arc Haul: 62L, 700gms but $299 USD ($420 NZD + postage)

Osprey Atmos 50 AG pack

Osprey have built a good reputation with hikers over the years. While their gear is not ultra-lite they have taken notice of that movement and have begun to gradually lighten all of their packs.

I went with the Osprey Atmos 50 AG, specifications for the pack are:

Weight:1.4-1.6? kg (I have seen three different weights quoted)
Capacity: 53+ litres (I think it is closer to 55-58 myself) 
Harness: Size specific (S/M/L)
Material:210D Nylon, poly coating inside
Cost: $297 NZ dollars in the Bivouac summer sale

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: left hand front view

I heard good things about the harness system on Osprey packs and they were right.  The harness is light, breathable but sturdy. The hip belt is excellent, it is firm around the waist and holds the pack very steady.  The mesh back section dissipates heat more effectively than the more solid/rigid type. 

The backpack looks unusual but the bottom section is actually the generously sized pockets (one on each side). It is shaped almost like a climbers pack (curved), this is a feature of most Osprey packs.

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: view from the side

Osprey packs tend to use size specific harnesses, this bag has a degree of adjustment range but is tailored for people with a long to over long frame like myself. There are also small and medium sized packs in the range. 

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: detail of the harness system

The pack has an orange pack cover, I will probably discard this as I use a pack liner and the pack has a polyurethane coating on the inside.  Your average pack cover can weigh up to 300 gms so this is not an insignificant amount of weight to lose.

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: the integrated pack cover

The Atmos is only available in two colours the absinthe green and a dark grey colour (graphite).  I went with the green as I think it will stand out a bit better than the grey in your typical beech forest.

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: the alternate color- graphite

If required you can remove the top lid compartment and close the bag using a handy integrated fold away flap. This allows you to use the lid as a day pack or to lighten the main bag even further. There is a pouch and a strap for hanging a hydration bladder, the port for the hydration tube is centrally located.

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: view inside the pack

The Atmos 50 AG in use:

I took the pack up to Carrington Hut at the head of the Waimakiriri river over the weekend and it performed very well. The weight, fit and comfort of the pack are awesome, and I managed to get all my gear into the bag with room to spare.

The Atmos 50 inside Anti Crow Hut, February 2018

The new Osprey on the Carrington Hut veranda, February 2018

If I use it for a multi-day tramp my tent will need to ride on the outside but I see no reason why this bag couldn't easily carry 3-7 days worth of gear.

Me wearing the Atmos while crossing Turkey Flat, Waimakiriri River Valley
My Vaude Breta 50 is now being used by my daughter Georgia as we have started going on some tramping trips together. While not perfect for her, it will suffice until I can afford to buy her a pack specially tailored to her size and frame.

Georgia checking out a side stream while wearing my Vaude Brenta pack

I used the Atmos on the Milford Track in 2018, it is just the right size for a 3-4 day Great Walk because you dont need to carry a tent or sleeping pad internally.

The Atmos 50 on the Milford Track, December 2018

I will add some more photos as I use the Atmos over the next couple of years.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Magdalen Hut: 5-7 May 2017

Return to Magdalen Hut, 2017 style

I was once again looking for a tramping location, my first thought was back to Nelson Lakes NP, but a bit of an iffy weather forecast did not bode well. A peruse of this blog showed that I haven't been into Magdalen Hut since 2013. I love this hut, it is relatively new (2008) and is a very nice 6 bunk hut about 3.5 hours along the Boyle River section of the St James Walkway.

So that was the destination I chose to visit, this marks my fourth visit to this hut.

I did something unusual for me, I stayed in the hut for 2 consecutive nights. I've never deliberately done this before, I have been hut bound by bad weather a couple of times though.  

Sunrise from just west of Waipara,SH1

Day One: Boyle Outdoor Education Centre to Magdalen Hut

Because it is such a short trip into the hut I left a bit later than normal: 7 am as opposed to 4 am. It was a beautiful sunny day, the same weather I experienced for the next couple of days.

On SH 7 just past Hanmer Springs
Map of the Boyle end of the St James Walkway

I left my car parked at the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre (BOEC), they offer a variety of services to trampers including secure parking, accommodation and a track shuttle service (in your own vehicle). Parking here is a much safer options than at the track end.  There has been a 200% increase in car break-ins up here since the Kaikoura earthquakes re routed all the Christchurch - Picton traffic over Lewis Pass. 

The Silver Surfer parked at Boyle Education Centre

Boyle Outdoor Education Centre buildings
First part of the trip is up the St Andrews access road, about 2 km's up the road there is an obvious junction down to the St James Walkway. I always use this route as the official start of the St James has a lot of irritating up and down.

The St Andrews access road
Be aware that DOC land ends at this track junction- do not go further up this access road as it is private property.

Entrance to St James Walkway from the St Andrews access road

Frosty grass, St James Walkway
The St James Walkway is easy walking for the most part, it is occasionally muddy but generally it is easy and safe in all weathers. From the access road it is about a kilometre to the first swing bridge over the Boyle River.

Moving through Manuka/Kanuka regrowth, St James Walkway

Descending down to the first Boyle River swing-bridge

First swing bridge over the Boyle, St James Walkway
The Boyle is a well known trout fishery, in season you will often see anglers trolling the pools of the river, especially around the swing bridge. Once over the bridge you are on the true right of the river for the next two hours.

Boyle River gorge from the St James Walkway

NZ Wren on the St James Walkway

Jon en-route to Magdalen Hut

This could use some board walk...St James Walkway
I see that there is now a horse trek concession up this part of the St James, through to Anne Hut and then out via St James Recreation land. There is a bit of horse manure to avoid but so far it hasn't impacted the track to any great extent.

Horse Trek route sign, St James Walkway
The walkway is a succession of forest, grass plain and short rocky sidle sections always just within the forest line. There are a number of side streams to cross on the way, but at this time of the year they were either totally dry or almost dry.

Boyle River from the St James Walkway

View east towards St Andrews Station

View west towards SH 7 through Lewis Pass

Crossing unnamed stream, St James Walkway

Crossing a patch of forest, St James Walkway

St Andrews Station Flats, St James Walkway

View East towards St Andrews Station, St James Walkway
Eventually you reach the terraced ridge at the end of the valley, the walkway goes up and over this ridge but it is very gentle travel as the track is nicely benched along here. The top of the ridge is a different story. It is muddy - this is a section that is crying out for a set of board walks to protect the swamp that occupies the terrace.

Climbing over one of the ridges along the St James Walkway

High point for this tramp about 860 metres a.s.l, St James Walkway
Below is an example of the mud you encounter- its not to bad at this time of year but in the Spring it can be knee deep in some places. A set of board walks would stop the track getting any bigger, in places it is 20 meters wide as people try to avoid the mud. The whole top of this terrace is a very poorly draining swamp.

The ubiquitous mud- St James Walkway

Muritana Stream, Magdalen Hut is down there...

Heading back down to the mid Boyle, St James Walkway

Approaching the Mid Boyle swing bridge
You reach the second Boyle River swing bridge after 3-3.5 hours, from here it is right turn, then down river to Magdalen Hut about 20-30 minutes away.

Mid Boyle Swing bridge from true right
Jon at the Mid Boyle Swing bridge

Mid Boyle Swing bridge

Start of the Magdalen Hut Track

On the Magdalen Hut Track
Below is the ford the horse trekking company uses, they don't go over the ridge, rather they follow the course of the Boyle River. Once past this point they follow the old benched track leading to Boyle Flat Hut and Anne Saddle further up the valley. 

The horse ford near the second Boyle bridge

Snow on the distant Libretto Range...

Quite a lot of snow...Libretto Range, Lewis Pass

Looking towards the Poplar Range on the Magdalen Hut Track
They obvious get some big floods up this valley as I was walking through flood debris a good 30+ metres away from the river itself on this section. 

Magdalen Hut Track: flood debris next to the Boyle River

After 20 minutes you arrive at Muritana Stream which is the last obstacle before reaching the hut. The stream is generally not a problem, although I have heard of people getting stuck on the wrong side here it when it really pours with rain. On this trip it was only 4-5 cm's deep.

Magdalen Hut and Muritana Stream

Libretto Range from Magdalen Hut

Snow on Mt Muritana from the Magdalen hut veranda

Magdalen Hut is very nice: it is a 6 bunker and has a firebox, brand new water tank and a full woodshed (at this time). The hut was built in 2008 to replace a much older NZFS6 from the late 1950's, it gets a lot of use through the year and is an excellent winter trip destination.

Magdalen Hut, Lake Sumner Forest Park

The wood shed was full this visit but if it is empty check out the scrub surrounding the hut- there is a LOT of dry wood there (I had a look around, lots of standing dry and wind fall wood).

Awesome sight- full woodshed at Magdalen Hut

That's a nice touch...thanks Olivier!

Interior of Magdalen Hut- the table and benches

Jon inside Magdalen Hut
The inside of the hut is very tidy, I was lucky the previous visitor a TA trekker called Olivier had cut up a nice pile of firewood when he was stuck here in the rain for a couple of days. He was heading NOBO for St Arnaud according to the DOC hut book, I hope he got there because there was a snow dump up on Waiau Pass that week. 

Thanks're a legend!

Someone left me some firewood...thanks again Olivier!

Well done drawing of a Weta in the hut book

Interior Magdalen Hut- fire-box and bench

Interior Magdalen Hut- bunk area

Inside Magdalen Hut: Map of the immediate area

Inside Magdalen Hut: Fire notice
I basically spent the rest of the day cutting firewood and cleaning the hut, inter spaced with eating and copious cups of tea. Lots of good reading material in the hut ranging from some women's magazines right up to three volumes of an encyclopaedia.   

Surprisingly I had the hut to myself for two days- it was a surprise because the weather was glorious the whole time. In fact I didn't see another person during the whole course of this tramp.

Mt Maritana (1641) from near Magdalen Hut

Dinner One: Backcountry Cuisine Roast Lamb and Vegetables

Mood lighting in Magdalen Hut at dusk

The other end of Magdalen hut at Dusk

I'm glad there was wood because it was perishingly cold once the sun went behind the mountains, there is a bit of snow up on the high points and the Katabolic wind brings that cold down at night-time.

Day Two: Zero Day

Day two was a pit day: I slept in till about 9 am, got up lit the fire because of the frost outside and basically spent the rest of the day reading, cutting wood, cleaning the hut and relaxing. It was so cold the hut water tank froze overnight, but having experienced this before I made sure I was fully stocked with water before the frost settled on the Friday night.

DOC sign on the outside of Magdalen Hut...every hut has one

Setting the fire in Magdalen Hut on the Saturday morning

Lunch on Saturday; onion soup with added Ramen noodles!

I cut me some wood....!

I cut me some more wood....!

My main occupations- reading the hut literature, drinking tea...

...and eating crackers and kind of tramping trip!
About 3 pm I went for a wander to the Boyle River and followed it till it turned down the valley towards State Highway 7. It was already starting to get cold as the sun falls behind the mountains at about 2 pm hereabouts. 

Jon with the Poplar Range in the background

Mons Sex Millia (1835) and DOC Mark I air portable dunny!

Your classic back country toilet...noice!

View to the south: Boyle River and the Poplar Range

If the Boyle is low enough you can just cross here and meet up with the St James Walkway at the point where it starts to climb that last ridge. However, be aware that there is a bit of swampy ground to traverse to get there. 

North: Mt Martha (1409) and the Boyle River...the St James Walkway climbs the hill on the left

The open area surrounding Magdalen Hut

Rear of Magdalen Hut, fire pit
I took Back-country freeze dried meals on this trip, two of my personal favourites Roast Lamb with Vegetables and Moroccan Lamb (Tagine). I was going for the light and fast approach...

Dinner two: BCC Moroccan Lamb with added onions & cashews

Mood lighting on the Saturday night, I just need some red wine
I went to sleep early on Saturday (around 8 pm) so I got nearly 11 hours sleep that night...

Day three: Heading for the BOEC and home...

Sunday opened bright and sunny with just a little mist on the higher ranges. It was frosty which was fine but meant I need to wear my merino's for only the second time in two years. I kept them on until I reached the lower Boyle bridge as it was cold walking in the lee of the mountains. 

A frosty Magdalen Hut, Sunday morning

DOC track sign near Magdalen Hut

Magdalen Hut clearing: my path lay that direction....

Au revoir Magdalen Hut....see you again soon.
I was off and walking by 8 am, this is late for me.  Part of winter tramping is the later dawn and earlier dusk you have to contend with, it is a bit difficult to tramp in the dark! The sun didn't fully rise over the ranges until I was walking down the access road to the BOEC around 11:30 am. 

The Boyle River from the Magdalen Hut Track

On the Magdalen Hut Track

Approaching the Mid Boyle River swing bridge

St James Walkway: nice track on the true right of the mid Boyle River
Below you can see how the side streams are all dry, there has been very little rainfall the last couple of months so things are a bit parched up in North Canterbury.

One of the dry side streams on the St James Walkway

View east towards St Andrews Farm, St James Walkway

Jon on his way home, Mon Sex Millia in the background
You can see how frosty it was, this grass was frozen so hard you could break sections off.  I imagine it gets no real sun for most of the winter months. 

Early morning frost on the St James Walkway

St Andrews Flats: still frozen at 10 am in the morning...

St James Walkway skirts the bush line

St Andrews Station access road

I saw a lot of deer sign up this valley, both prints and scat. The roar has just finished and with the colder weather the Red Deer will be coming down to the valley floor to take advantage of the grass still on offer. 

St James Walkway: A deer hoof print on the track

Approaching the lower Boyle Swing bridge

Back at the lower Boyle River bridge
When you get to the junction shown below you have two options: one is to go up on the access road and follow it down to the BOEC, this takes 20 minutes. The other is to keep following the track out to the end of the St James Walkway, this takes 30 minutes.

 I would recommend following the Walkway if this is your first experience of the St James, otherwise get on that access road and boogie on easy travel!

Left for the St Andrews Farm Access road, right for the St James Walkway

St Andrews access road heading to the BOEC

Doubtful Valley and Sylvia Tops from the St Andrews access road

Southern terminus of the St James Walkway: carpark, toilets etc.
Note you are not allowed to camp next to the end of the St James Walkway (there are DOC signs about not doing this). However, if you head about 200-300 metres up valley from the track end there is a nice flat space where you could raise a heap of tents.

A 2013 photo of the flats at the end of the St James can camp here!
 Alternately, go talk to the Outdoor Education Centre as they also have tramper accommodation available.

Entrance to the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre

...Boyle Outdoor Education Centre (BOEC)

It was a nice trip and even though it was to a hut I have visited before the pleasure was in having that hut to myself for three days and the joy of being outdoors. 

My main question: Where were all the people? The weather was fantastic on all three days. I felt sure that I would end up with 16 people in the hut with me on Saturday night but I saw not a soul the whole trip...weird!

BTW, I stopped off in Culverden (as is my norm) for a big arsed plate of bacon and eggs at the tearooms. The Culverden Tearooms are near the public toilet block on the main strip.

Main drag Culverden: the Culverden Tearooms and Cafe on the left of photo!

If you are ever passing through get in there: for $16 I got two big sausages, about six strips of bacon, two hash browns, a tomato, mushrooms and toast. The bacon is superb; smoky, crispy...really beautiful.  It must be some local supplier because it is NOT your usual commercially produced junk.

Access: Via the St James Walkway, from the Boyle River Settlement off SH 7, Lewis Pass
Track Times: 3-4 hours from Boyle Settlement to Magdalen Hut
Hut Details: Magdalen Hut; standard, 6 bunks, wood burner, water tank
Miscellaneous: Muritana Stream can flood in heavy rain, snowfall can be heavy (up to 2 metres deep in a winter snowstorm) so watch those weather forecasts