Mt Oxford is about 60km from Christchurch, and is a pleasant overnight tramp. Map is here.
I parked at the Coopers Creek roadend. If you’re going straight up Mt Oxford then cross the bridge; otherwise stay on the western side of the stream. DON’T do what I did and doze off and cross the ford and go on autopilot for 800m! Damp boots for my trouble – that’ll teach me.
The track is in fabulous condition – like a road.
It has a small rise but nothing major.
It quickly evens out and then there’s a short section with long grass, but that soon gives way to a wide track in beech forest.
Apparently this used to be a road for cattle driving. I can believe it.
There is a spot signposted for views of Mt Oxford. The cloud was low on the day I went.
Then there’s a bit of a downhill to an old tramway.
On the map the tramway is marked as a route, but is no longer maintained. Just beside the information panels, the start of the tramway is blocked by a huge pile of fallen timber – to put people off? It put me off, so I continued on.
Shortly after taking this picture I startled a family of wild pigs. Not wanting to be trampled by a protective mother boar I made my way quickly across a stream.After 1hr 45 min I arrived at Ryde’s Falls.
This is obviously a popular campsite, and is quite well equipped, including a long drop and fireplace. The falls themselves are reasonable.
After a short ascent to get back to the main track I took a track that joins up to Wharfedale track. It’s a bit rougher, but still in good condition.It took about 15 min. Wharfedale track was surveyed as a proper road and it shows. It’s 12.8km to the hut but only takes about 3 hours.
It took me about 1.5 hours to reach Wharfedale Saddle. People obviously camp here, but there’s no water. On the other side the track has been adjusted to suit the cyclists, so some of the marked ascents and descents are no longer present.
On the track there were a lot of droppings, not from any game I recognised. However horse hoof prints in the dried mud soon explained it.
I did start to understand why people do these ultra-luxury tracks – you don’t have to worry about foot placement, flicking branches or stormtroopers or anything so it’s very relaxing.
About 5 hours after I started I reached Wharfedale hut.
The stream is down a short track. While filling up a billy I noticed a sheep happily grazing on the bank – about 6km from the nearest farm!
With the gentle breeze, the scent of the beech, and not being exhausted and dead I was feeling at peace. Then four mountain bikers pulled up burst into the hut with their muddy shoes on, let all the sandflies in, put the ash shovel on top of my water billy (why???), and began a loud conversation about how expensive it is to service a bike.
Peace = shattered. Fortunately they left after 30 min, leaving me with mud all through the hut. Great.
After sweeping that out I started reading my project book – an anthology of English poetry. It started in the 14th century. As it happens, old English is not exactly a relaxing read, and I started thinking about how to zhuzh it up a bit – Michael Bay presents the Canterbury Tales . . .
The next morning I set forth up Mt Oxford.
Although the first section is a gain of 400m over 1km it’s quite quick.
At this point, not having to worry about branches hitting me in the face or anything like that, my mind started to wander. I am actually a bit of a tramping snob, inasmuch as I think it is a better recreational activity than a lot of others out there.
What is tramping better than?
- Crossfit. For those that don’t know, Crossfit is a way of overcharging people to do circuit training. The first problem is they go on about how it’s ‘functional’.
Squats? Lunges? Those are moves I do in real life. Picking up heavy things off the ground – makes sense
Olympic weightlifting? What, am I going to clean and jerk the shopping out of the car boot?
The second thing I hate is how expensive it is! $200 a month? And you can only go 3 times a week?! You could buy all the equipment for a year’s membership! Or better yet, get a year’s membership, and still have more than $1000 to spend on tramping gear/put in the bank.
- Tough Mudder. If you want to go run in the mud, fine. But DON’T say it’s like the army. It’s nothing like the army. At all. If a commander saw a big mud hole they would not think ‘Oh let’s run through that!’, they would think ‘Screw that, I’ll find an elevated firing position and not get ridiculously tired before fighting the enemy.’
A realistic army Tough Mudder would start with inspection (get shouted at if your water bottle is the wrong way around), then march 12km with a big-ass pack, then dig a big-ass hole. Sit in the big-ass hole and freeze your bum off for a couple of days, THEN run through the mud. Then have an arbitrary timing of 6.8 seconds to clean all your gear, with pressups for failing to meet the timing.
- Adventure Racing. Yes, you’re fit, good for you. But what I dislike is the fact that it’s not really one person doing it. Tramping is entirely self-sufficient – you bring everything with you on your back. But adventure racers have people hauling everything around for them. I’d like to see Coast to Coasters putting their bike on their kayak – or carrying their kayak AND their bike on their run!
- Rock Climbing. With tramping you can start modest track using shoes, a pack from the Warehouse or borrowed from Aunt Wayne or whatever, and have a reasonable time. It’s quite cheap to start, and big purchases (decent pack, raincoat, stove) will last for ages. I only just replaced my first pack (a 2ndhand Macpac Traverse) when it was 25 years old. Rock climbing is different because it’s important to have safe gear, properly rated hardware, etc – and obviously that’s expensive. But more than that, rock climbing is cool. God forbid a woman should be seen out without her Buff or covering her midriff with a t-shirt. No. Artfully printed singlets, bracelets, designer chalk bags, and stickers to put on your water bottle. And better yet, because it’s cool, it has trends. Remember all those fancy clothes you bought last year? Well they’re out of fashion now, so you have to buy a new set. I think outdoor shops have been pushing it because the gear is so much more expensive, and they can sell a new lot every season.
Tramping is different. Wear whatever the hell you want. Except the shorts-polypropylene leggings-gaiters combo. Stop doing that.
During this mental rant the travel was quick through the beech, except for a steep downhill followed by a 200m climb.
It took me 1 hr 45 min to reach the track junction. DOC estimate was 2 hr 30 min to the summit so you’d have to be motoring.
After about 30 min there is some patchy bush. It was nice to have the shade!
Overall this was a very nice tramp, definitely suitable for new and young trampers, or a nice break for people like me. I finished both days in about 5 hours, so it’s good if you don’t want something strenuous.