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Day 8 of part 4 (last one) – Deception/Mingha route over Goat Pass (27k, 6h40h

Well that was different! Got a lift with Bill from the campground and a load of trail runners (out here to recce the Coast to Coast run route) to Morrisons footbridge, then up the Deception to Goat’s Pass hut and on down the Mingha to Greyney’s shelter. Wasn’t planning on doing it but Bill talked me into it and I’m glad he did as it was an absolutely awesome day. Bloody hard work and occasionally terrifying (some deep/strong river crossings) but awesome! Tagged onto a couple of kind runners who let me shadow them pretty much all the way up Deception, thus going much faster and avoiding route finding. Also got a bit of help with a couple of the sketchier river crossings ( my shorts got a good rinsing and so did my knickers on a couple of deeper ones!) Top section got a bit gnarly with huge boulders to negotiate. Final scramble up a mostly dry stream bed to the hut. Just over 4h up.

The other side was completely different : pristine boardwalk to start with panoramic views, then a crystal clear river and into beech forest for some twisty single track. A few rather steep scrambles up and down to stream but mostly lovely. Short breathless climb up Dudley’s Knob about halfway down, then more beech trails, often boardwalked. Passed by numerous speedy Coast to Coasters all the way down. Popped out about 3K from the end into a wide valley with pines and grassland. Flattish easy running to the end at Greyney’s Shelter, where more kind runners dropped me back at Arthur’s Pass to buy a cold beer. Shower, last night’s left over pizza and bed in my hobbit hole. Finished for another year, and what a way to end it!

View from footbridge at start
Lower part of Deception valley – a few crossings here!
Getting a bit more rocky – often a case of ‘choose your own line’ here
About an hour in and still looking happy!
Valley narrows before Upper Deception hut
Lots of pools to negotiate and boulders to scramble as you near the top (look for the cairns)
Very top section before Goat Pass hut. I was a bit over the boulders by this point!
Goat Pass hut – a welcome sight!
Stunning boardwalk section at top of Mingha valley – lots of this going down the top section.
Looking down the upper Mingha valley
Very tempted to stop for a swim here!
Rather impressive waterfall just before Mingha bivvy
Lots of boardwalk in the beech forest too. Really good track in the main part, although some rooty/rocky scrambles as well.
View down valley from Dudley’s Knob, the only significant climb
Looking back up final easy grassy section

Day 7 of part 4 – Bealey Hotel to Greyney’s Shelter (7k, 2.5h)

Short day – buffet breakfast at hotel then waited for Colin and Tenley to rock up from the hut. Got going just after 10.30 : easy stroll to Greyney’s Shelter. Took a bit of an alternate route as suggested by SOBOs we met yesterday – crossed the Waimakariri right by the hotel (follow ‘River walk’ signs) then followed the power poles and a 4WD/digger track near them pretty much all the way to the rail bridge. Easy crossing of very low Mingha by bridge then stroll to Greyney’s where we split up. I walked/hitched to Arthur’s Pass and the others carried on to Goat Pass Hut. Trey have a LONG day…

Staying at The Sanctuary backpackers/campsite – awesome place and owner Bill is SO nice. I’m in a cute hut made from an old piece of concrete pipe called the Hobbit Hole. Big round window with view of mountains. Dinner at The Wobbly Kea and Bill talked me into slack packing Goat Pass tomorrow in a day as a load of Coast to Coast runners are doing it. Hmmmmm…

Waimakariri – pretty low and easy although wide and cold!
Follow those poles!
Greyney’s Shelter
My Hobbit Hole at The Sanctuary. Cosy!

Day 6 of part 4 – Hamilton to Bealey hotel (20k, 6h)

Well that took longer than I expected! Waved everyone off and chilled out in hut until 11 as thought it would only take 4h and hotel checkin doesn’t open until 3pm. Pretty straightforward to start but then got stuck with yet more unobvious river crossings and scrambles over rocks, plus chats with lots of SOBOs. Finally reeled Tenley and Colin in around lunchtime and took off for the end. Lovely lovely track – beech woods with actual orange markers and only one way to go!!! Up to Lagoon saddle for breathtaking views and then a long drop down to Bealey hut and the road. No-one offered a lift so 3-4km road walk to Bealey Hotel for a cold cider, shower and food in that order. No idea what I’m doing tomorrow – toe and heel blisters are pretty bad so might need to rest feet for a bit. Great section though!

Colin and Tenley leaving Hamilton hut
Wow – a BRIDGE!!
Quite Canadian???
West Harper hut – a bit more rustic than Hamilton!
Stupidly steep section – zoom in on that orange triangle!
Tramper on the loose!
Heading up to Lagoon Saddle
Panorama from saddle
Pretty happy to get here!
Made it to the end!

Day 4 of part 4 – Methven to Trustpower campsite by Lake Coleridge. 12k walking (lifts!) 3h-ish

Lift out of Methven with Darren from the campground. Persuaded him to drive me partway up the road to Lake Georgina to start walking (played the ‘terrible blisters’ card, which tbh they are…) Glorious scenery all round and hot sunny day. Lovely! Got talked into another mini-lift for a few km a bit further on my some ladies in a camper van who couldn’t believe I’d want to be out in the heat. Seemed rude not to, and glad of a chat. They dropped me out at Lake Selfie (cue obligatory selfie with lake) the just a 10k or so to the campground. Lots of car campers, including a whole bunch of bogans with beers and beat up cars. Found a quiet corner out of the pretty strong wind and pitched tent, then off to lake shore for a relaxing afternoon. New NOBO hiker arrived as I got back (Colin) then Tenley strolled in about 7pm having walked all of the road. Wow! Pretty cushty day all in all – just hope the Lanshan stands up to this wind overnight!

Lake Georgina – my starting point today
Not bad for a road walk…
Selfie at Lake Selfie
More gobsmacking scenery along road
End of road up by Harper village
Lake Coleridge, about 1km from camp
Our three tents (mine, Tenley’s, Colin’s)

Day 5 of part 4 – Trustpower campsite to Hamilton Hut. (19km, 4h45)

Phew – more river crossings and another district lack of poles. Someone really needs to buy DOC a few more sets…

Found track start fine after warm and cosy night in the Lanshan (although it rustled like a crisp packet all night in the wind). Following the riverbank all the way up to the Avoca confluence, where things got a bit confusing. Lots of braids, no poles, just try to keep following tyre and boot marks in the rocks and mud. Finally ended up in correct valley but somehow managed to miss the geologically awesome Pinnacles by concentrating on my feet and the map. Bugger!

Next section was basically just crossing and recrossing the Harper River. Few poles, 4WD track not always obvious and often in a different place to track on the map. Took forever but finally out into lively beech forest and Hamilton Hilton. Pretty flash but then it IS three basic hut tickets. Only one occupant when I arrived at lunchtime – SOBO Alex. Hot soup and chilled out afternoon waiting for Colin and Tenley to arrive.

Harper River

Sometimes the track WASN’T in/crossing the river!
Some bits were wet even though it wasn’t river!
Hey, more river!
Flash hut!
Nice spot too…

Day 3 of part 4 – Comyn’s Hut to Double Hill Road (17k, 4h)

Much nicer day! Easy walking and running on 4WD tracks for most of the day. Few ups and downs to start then along a wide river valley (not in the river this time) and past A-frame Hut (cute – would be nice to stay but only 4 bunks). Steady grind up to saddle for awesome views of Rakaia. Glorious downhill run through farmland and then following riverbank and field edge down to the road. It would have been perfect except I forgot to confirm my shuttle and missed it by 3 minutes! Fortunately two lovely sets of people stopped and gave me lifts so I didn’t have to walk 90k or so back to Methven! Now resupplying and sorting sunburn, blisters and dirt (clothes and me) before heading back out tomorrow.

Looking back at Comyn’s
Today’s river valley (much easier)
Cool rock formation/slip
A-frame hut, 7km in
Looking back from saddle
Down towards Rakaia
More cool rocks!
Rather better weather now!
Stunning Rakaia to finish.

Day 2 of part 4 – Double Hut to Comyn’s Hut (16k, 6.5h!)

Well that was a day! Just a few warnings if you’re planning on doing this section. After the stream crossing as you start uphill, the track disappears into a section of matagouri and Spaniards. The poles also mostly disappear. Just head diagonally uphill (use the TA app) and grit your teeth – eventually you make it out! Then there’s a LONG steep climb up a fence line and finally across several scree slopes. This apparently has awesome views but today the cloud was so low I was struggling to see the next pole. Over the saddle is more poleless tussock/Spaniards with hidden streams and bog to fall in. Think Stag Saddle to Royal Hut, or East Ahuriri top section if you’ve done those…

You finally get to the bottom and meet the river. It’s sort of between a small river/large stream. Mostly only knee height if you pick a good crossing spot but fierce flow and slimy didymo rocks mean you have to concentrate every time you cross – and there are over 40 crossings, almost all unmarked. It’s actually easier to just stay in the stream bed where you can. Finally you’re spit out just before a stream junction and up over a little spur to see Comyn’s Hut below you. Aaaah! Old and rustic (the hut, not me) but at least has a fireplace. Warned of rats but didn’t see any. Joined over the next four hours by Tenley and a variety of SOBOs. Full hut!

No views today – even the hut’s disappeared!
Evil poleless Spaniards section. Ugh!!!
This section apparently has awesome views!
Start of the stream. About 8km of this and it gets wider and faster as you go…
Ahhh! Comyn’s Hut!!!
Inside Comyn’s. Rustic but cosy.

Day 1 of Part 4 (Lake Clearwater to Double Hut) 32k 6h

Well it’s January so it must be another section of TA! This time starting at Lake Clearwater. Got a lift in from Geraldine with awesome TA trail angel Mike Brown, and on his suggestion used the Eastern Link Track to join up with TA route as an alternative to starting at Potts River. Great choice as lovely track. Nice TA section as well – bridle/4WD so nice and runnable. Made good time over to Hakatere Heron Rd car park by lunch.

Started jogging up the road (seriously hot day) but a couple of anglers drive by and I cadged a ride up to the track junction. Phew! Recommend it if you get the chance as that road gets HOT! Next section another 4WD track up to Lake Emily then a short sharp climb up and over to the Manuka/Double Hut valley. Easy walking to finish, and hut has a fab view – even from the long drop! Only me and one other tramper (Tenley, who’s doing all of S Island and video blogging it all) Great day!

Looking back to Lake Clearwater
Lake Clearwater
TA across from Lake Clearwater to car park
Farm near Lake Emily
Looking down into Manuka hut valley – Double Hut a bit further up
Inside Double Hut (complete with Ed Hilary’s signature above bunk)
Tenley and Double Hut
Pretty good hut view!

Day 3 of part 3

Out to Mesopotamia.

A pretty steady 20k morning, starting with around 10k of Forest Creek. This involved a bit of crossing and recrossing the braids of the creek – not always obvious from the map which side it was better to be on. In some places the current was fairly strong but it never got my running shorts wet so all good. There’s an intermittent 4WD track along some sections but it doesn’t always ford the creek in the shallowest bits, and further down it heads off to the right onto private land. The creek itself starts to dry up the further you go, as it drains into the riverbed and goes underground, so bizarrely it’s shallower at the bridge than where you come onto it. Weird….

No DoC poles or markings at all that I could see anywhere on the route. A nice pebble hop but started to get over it a bit by the end and glad to see the road bridge! The marker back in Bush Stream valley had said ‘13k to Forest Creek car park’ but I never saw one of those either.

Pleasant enough river journey
Intermittent but appreciated 4WD track

The last 10k were back up the road to Mesopotamia station where I’d booked to camp on the old schoolhouse lawn for $30. Bit steep for a pitch but I don’t think they really take campers and it was a lovely spot on soft grass, sheltered by trees. Use of a toilet and shower too, which was appreciated. Got there about 2pm so had a nice long afternoon doing nothing. That’s the end of this section too – was thinking of continuing over the next section to Double Hut road, but weather is due to change for the worse in a day or two so I’m going to call it quits for now. Fantastic three days though – reckon this must be one of the best parts of TA…

Peaceful spot for the tent
View from tent of the old schoolhouse and playground
Famous spot too!
Two Thumb range map at Bush Stream car park (exit point for A2O shuttle next day
Final view, from Bush Stream car park (SOBO starting point)

Day 2 of part 3

The long one….

Up and out by 8 to attack Stag Saddle. Easy start on 4WD track but then tussock bashing up onto the ridge, where I picked up a rough trod along the tops, going pole to orange pole. Not always that obvious but as it was a ridge line you couldn’t go that far wrong. The views more than compensated for the uphill pain, or at least they did until the rocky steep bit at the end! Bit of a faff getting across a steepish scree sidle and a rock field to the saddle, but then I suppose it is the ‘alternate’ route up. Would have been much nicer going SOBO here as you’d have had awesome lake/mountain panoramic views the whole way.

Starting the climb – view back to the hut
I swear this sign lies – it had taken me at least an hour and a quarter to get here. Maybe faster downhill?
Just glorious! It’s like this pretty much all the way up.
Last bit of the ridge – not so much fun in the heat. The route cuts across that scree slope to the right.
Panorama from Stag Saddle

Now it was all downhill to Royal Hut. I don’t have any photos of this bit as to be honest it annoyed me – too much bush bashing and not enough damned orange poles. Come on DoC – a few more wouldn’t kill you!

Royal Hut was a bit of an anticlimax- rather dull and just plonked in the valley. Ate a quick lunch and moved on. I’d been worrying all day about the upcoming Bush Stream section, as well as the delights of searching for poles amongst tussocks and matagouri, so when I saw the sign for the alternate Forest Creek route, I decided to give that a go instead. Easy drag uphill on a 4WD track for a few km to Bullock Saddle, then another steep 4WD track down the other side. More great views from the saddle made me glad of this choice of route.

The fun started when the DoC track diverged from this track at the bottom of the first downhill. Suddenly we were back to playing ‘find the pole’ through chin high tussock, Spaniards and matagouri, often on a 45 degree slope. Hmmmm. Finally the route headed downhill into beech forest (although without the Topo map app on my phone I would never have found this) and became a more obvious path marked by pink/orange streamers on trees.

The ‘choose your own adventure’ bit. Route heads left and down into the beech forest to the riverbed, but really hard to find from poles alone.

Once down to the broad gravel riverbed it was just a case of following the valley downhill and looking for a spot to camp. There are two private huts on this section but you’re not allowed to use either of them. I found a tiny but cosy spot in amongst trees opposite the ‘Stone Hut’ marked on the map (and clearly visible up on a hillside on the other side of the creek). The creek itself was fairly fast flowing and had some power, but as it’s a wide valley you can just choose a good spot whenever you need to cross with no drama. All in all, a good choice I reckon. Long day though with the two saddles and all that tussock, so happy to crawl into my tent!

Camp spot down in Forest creek valley
View back up valley from riverbed