I had originally planned to do the Leslie-Karamea track and then take the Wangapeka track to Rolling River but the transport costs turned out to be prohibitively expensive – $200+ at each end! For that I could fly to Auckland direct from Hokitika and still have money to spend on a new party frock. I decided instead to make a loop from Baton Valley.
By popular demand here is a photo of all my food:
On the left I have my lunch (wraps and salami), breakfast (muesli), seasonings (cheese, salt and pepper), electrolyte, milk, and protein powders, a sample pack of some amino powder, and my luxury – Bumper bars. The other food is divided up in to day lots – one organic Honey Stinger waffle (I got them cheap because they were endorsed by Lance Armstrong – if there are two things that are mutually exclusive they are “organic” and “Lance Armstrong’s performance source”) and 2 muesli bars per day, one dinner, a jerky bar, and some sort of dessert. One of them is some powdered egg.
The drive in from Tapawera takes about 45 min on 13km of unsealed road. My little car sits very low so I had to take it slowly. At the road end there is a gate, and that’s where the track starts.
Immediately the track crosses a ford. No chance of dry boots!
On the other side head right (not towards the house). The track follows a 4WD track for a while.
It then heads in to the bush and crosses the border of Kahurangi National Park. After that it becomes a proper tramping track.
The track is well marked and where it is on land it is generally reasonably benched. However it crosses the river a lot.
Although I did the track mid-January the water was quite high and only just suitable for doing solo. I wouldn’t want to do this when the water was any higher. As a gauge the river was never quite high enough for me to get wet undies.
After the intersection with Loveridge track the track ascends on the other side of the valley. I don’t think the map is quite right because it shows ascents of 80m – there was nothing near this.
I do find the placement of cables on tracks a bit random. Here there were a few sections as precarious as this but only this one had a cable. That said, I did not mind it being there.
Note that it looks quite shallow here – don’t be fooled – the far side has quite a deep trench. But once again, not quite enough for wet undies.
There’s a bit more ascending, and one more river crossing. But then!
I don’t know if the bottom carving is to designate a hut, or some sort of mathematical scavenger hunt.
It took me 5 1/2 hours to reach the hut.
It’s a nifty little hut that sleeps 8. There is a wood stove but no running water.
I decided to make use of this and have a wash – but it’s very cold! Fortunately there was plenty of sun.
I wondered why there had only been about 20 visitors per year to such a nice little hut. The next day I found out while crossing the Baton Saddle.
The track goes up a marshy valley and while the track is well marked it is not cut at all. Combine this with speargrass and the going was slow.
Whenever I go to Hunting and Fishing stores I look longingly at the racks of Bear Grylls-branded machetes, but then think, ‘No, I don’t need one – I’m not planning on doing any bushbashing ever again’. Ha! I would have killed to have a machete on this track.
On this section it was almost entirely hands and knees. I was pulling myself up by the tussock, trying to avoid grabbing a stem of speargrass (not always successfully). Anyone that thinks tramping is not a full-body workout has never tried a proper tramp.
The grade eases off a little and it’s a bit easier once the vegetation this out. But then the weather closed in.
After 2 hours I reached the saddle.
On the other side the track heads straight down.There are some trampers who somehow can somehow pull off elegance in the bush – wearing checked shirts and trousers and dabbing the perspiration from their brow with a small microfibre cloth. I am not one of those people. So if you do this track, you will see a rather large strip of the hillside cleared of vegetation where I just blasted a beeline between one snow pole and the next, rather than zig-zag down the hill.
Once in the bush there is a steep descent. I don’t know if it was my lack of coordination or the condition of the track but I fell over here a LOT.
There are a couple of sections where the track has been redirected around fallen trees. These are marked with the pink ties usually used to mark possum traps. In this case just follow any markers.
The track breaks out of the bush a bit and goes over rocks. I thought this would mean easier grip but no! The rocks are slippery.
There are also a lot of wasps here. I thought at the time it was nature’s way of saying, ‘Get the hell out!’
The last section of the track is overgrown with cutty grass.
After 5 hours I made it to the track junction.
This is the very definition of a route – the track is hardly cut at all – the markers just give you a route to follow.
I headed up the Leslie track. Normally I dislike such boring highway-like tracks but after 5 hours of slog I did not mind AT ALL.
Just after this campsite is an old Forest Service sign with times and distances
After this point the track ascends. It’s well graded but took me a while due to being completely unavailable.
It took me 2 1/2 hours to make it to Splugeon’s rock shelter from the Wilkinson junction.
This is another very nifty accommodation.
The DOC website says it sleeps 2 but this is not correct. It just means it only has 2 clean mattresses (see photo). You could fit 5 people in here.
Once again no running water – 30m from the hut is a small stream.
I would recommend filling up all the billies while you still have your boots on – the water access is a bit difficult and slippery.
After a lovely night all alone I awoke the next day to more damp weather – not rain, just damp. The track continued its graded ascent.
Eventually the bush starts thinning
And there are some views
The track breaks out of the bush and goes over tussock plains
After 2 hours I made it to Salisbury Lodge.
I arrived at 10.37 and 2 groups were only just leaving. What do people do in the mornings???
This hut is a day walk from several entrances and is very popular. It has all the mod-cons – running water, coal burner, gas cooking. I used the gas stove to test out my powdered egg (Ova Easy) for lunch.
Very good, and unfortunately also very expensive.
Near the hut is a section nicknamed the Potholes.
The potholes themselves are varied.
There is a cave system near Sphinx Rock.
I followed the stream to the end, but the cave there is uninteresting.
There is another cave a bit further back but I did not go in to it.
I returned to the hut. Apres moi, le deluge. About 15 people showed up. The are allowed to come tramping, of course, but I go in to the bush to get away from people. I managed to do some work but there was so much noise I could barely read the trash fiction that someone had left in the hut. Add in to that the headtorches. I HATE HEADTORCHES. Firstly, when the moon is out there’s actually enough light for you to see what you need to to get in to bed without a light. Secondly, if you do for some reason need a light to see where your legs are the TRY TO AVOID HIGH BEAMING THE REST OF THE HUT IN THE FACE!! I was just asleep, and then 3 people went to bed at 11pm, high-beamed everyone (who needs a 1W headlamp to get in to bed? It’s not like you’re performing microsurgery) and I couldn’t get to sleep again. I hate people.
The next day the cloud cleared.
The track cuts across the tussock.
In the bush the track is a bit muddy but not bad.
The ascent is up a root staircase
You soon get a scenic payoff
But there’s still more to go
Note however that the rocks at the top are a false crest – so don’t get too excited. You are at the top when you reach the track junction. It took me 1 1/2 hours from the hut.
The scenery is impressive.
The track is very clear and travel is quick.
The next section was probably the best part of the whole trip – the landscape is full of cool rock formations.
The track undulates then continues climbing.
After 3 1/2 hours I made it to the junction that goes down to Mt Arthur Hut. I took the other track towards Mt Arthur.
However the weather started closing in and it became sleety.
I decided against going for the summit, mainly because it was cloudy an I wouldn’t have a view. And it stayed in cloud the rest of the day.
The ridge travel is fine, but then there is a very steep descent.
Once out of the rocks the descent is just as steep but with the added excitement of slippery tussock. You could slide down it on your bum if you don’t mind the risks of occasional rocks, speargrass, or fatal dropoffs.
Eventually I made it to the bottom (1 hour 40 minutes from the turnoff at Mt Arthur). Just in time – it poured down 15min after I arrived.
Ellis Hut sleeps 6 and has an open fire. One of the window louvres has been replaced with a piece of cardboard. Once again it eschews the capitalist decadence of running water, instead having a stream 50m away. It does however need a table.
I wondered why the hut book was only half full after 6 years.
The next morning I couldn’t figure it out – the track was steep but mostly root staircase in reasonable condition.
At the bottom there is a river crossing. I didn’t pick up the track marker on the other side and rather than backtracking just thought I’d streambash and pick it up at the next one. Ha!
And I did wonder if this was commonly done – I saw occasional boot prints and track markers.
However the water level became higher and the boulders became bigger. A few times I had to bushbash around them. One descent was particularly inelegant.
The only payoff was seeing this big rock wall.
2 hours to go 2km later and I was VERY glad to see the next track marker – so glad that I didn’t check which way I should be going, and immediately headed up 100m of ascent that I didn’t need to.
15min up, 20 min down, and then back to the track. It crosses the river several times.
It’s not particularly bad, but is just slow going.
Eventually it gets to the 4WD track, and from there it’s 1.75km to the finish.Yay! It took me 7 hours including 2 hours of messing about in the river, which would have taken about 45 min if I’d taken the track.
If I were to do this again I’d only do the Mt Arthur-Gordon’s Pyramid area – that’s where the scenery is best and the track is in the best condition. However, it is also the busiest. If you do want a secluded hut then Flanagan’s and Ellis are certainly that.