Mt Thomas/Cattle Peak/Pinchgut/Whare Ridge

It’s a decent overnight track, but needs some more markers in places.  Here is a map. The track starts at a spiffy little campsite.  If you are car camping this looks like a good spot – not too busy, and with a decent view. I started on the Wooded Gully track about 10am.

The start.

The start.

This starts off very nicely, and if you can’t be bothered then you can just do a 2hr loop.

Luxury track

Luxury track

But soon it starts to ascend, and I found it more difficult than I expected.  This may be because I was in front of a group of daywalkers who were talking loudly about some nonsense, and wanted to stay in front of them, thus causing me to powerwalk at such a speed that I discovered a new dimension of sweating.

Some root staircases

Some root staircases

Condition of much of the track

Condition of much of the track

After 1 hr 50 min I made it to the track junction on the ridge.  I had let the daywalkers pass, and met them at the sign.  As I looked at the sign saying ‘Mt Thomas >’ one of them helpfully informed me that the mountain was that way.  Thanks!  After all I decided to go walking in the bush with a big pack but no idea where I would go with it! I turned the other way and took the NW track towards Bob’s Camp.

At cloud level!

At cloud level!

It soon breaks out of the bush

It soon breaks out of the bush

View!

View!

Once at the junction with Ridge Track I tried a new experiment for lunch – cabin bread with salami.  The cabin bread seems to take up more room than wraps (my previous default) so I don’t think I’ll try it again.  This was followed by some Nuun electrolyte.  Usually I wouldn’t buy fancy things like that (‘Wellness’ products make me want to puke with all their upper-middle-class marketing crap) but it was a stocking filler.  Verdict: Tastes nice, but it needs some sugar!  If you’re sweating enough to need electrolyte you’re working hard enough to need some glucose.  What’s that you say?  It’s not actually for people exercising, just people who want ‘wellness solutions’?  Oh, right.  I’ll go back to boiling barley sugars then. The ridge travel is reasonable, and you can do some map to ground work – it’s easy to see the ridges that the other tracks are on.

P1080660

Cattle Peak is the far ridge

The open country is Cattle Peak, and the near ridge is Whare Ridge

The open country is Cattle Peak, and the near ridge is Whare Ridge

The track goes to the side of this

The track goes to the side of this

After 50 min I was at the track junction with Whare Ridge Route

Celebrity biv marker

Celebrity biv marker

I took Bob’s Camp Route.  The track is well marked and travel is easy.

Typical section

Typical section

Somebody left behind something important!

Somebody left behind something important!

After a while the track breaks out in to the open.  The track itself is harder to spot with the scrub but there are a decent amount of snow poles.P1080668From here you also get a decent view to the north west

Not bad

Not bad

The track then ascends to what is the highest point – B2MF is 1081m, higher than Mt Thomas at 1023m.

The photo doesn't do it justice

The photo doesn’t do it justice

From here there are some sharp descents, but not too bad.

It's all well marked

It’s all well marked

And then it breaks out in to the open.

For those of you that are interested there was a LOT of deer sign in this section

For those of you that are interested there was a LOT of deer sign in this section

Wandering along the open tops I felt like a free-range woman.

Looking south-east towards the Pacific

Looking south-east towards the Pacific

Looking back towards B2MF

Looking back towards B2MF

From here the track starts descending steeply.

P1080690

Following this ridge

It was here that I started hitting problems.  The first was a snow pole directly in front of a band of manuka.  I couldn’t see the next marker, and thought since the band was so small people were expected to blast through it?  Clearly people had, judging by the state of the bush, so I did the same.

Looking back up after the bush-bash.  The track appears on the left here, so at the snow pole at the top look to your right (south side of ridge)

Looking back up after the bush-bash. The track appears on the left here, so at the snow pole at the top look to your right (south side of ridge)

Then a similar thing happened again

At the end of this

At the end of this

I could NOT see the next marker, so I checked the map, thought I was on the track, and since I now have a smartphone with GPS, checked that too.  Bing!  I was right on top of the track.  But all I saw was

Hmm . . .

Hmm . . .

Well, whatever

Well, whatever

Down I went.

I could see the next clearing so I thought I'd pick up the track again

I could see the next clearing so I thought I’d pick up the track again

It was a bit of a scramble but not too bad.  But I couldn’t see the next marker.  The GPS still said I was directly on the track, but the best I could see was a possum trap marker.

Better than nothing?

Better than nothing?

I followed that, but even they ran out after a while.  The descent was a bit slow (scree underfoot) and I was covered in manuka leaves by the end.  After a while I did come across the track.

Looking back up.

Looking back up.

If you are ascending up this ridge leave a cairn or two!

There are a couple of clearings before the turnoff down to the hut

There are a couple of clearings before the turnoff down to the hut

An old fence in one of the clearings

An old fence in one of the clearings

Final descent to hut

Final descent to hut

This was just in time because about 200m from the hut I ran out of water.  In total it took me 7 hours.  Fluffing around bush bashing probably added 30-45 min.

And there it is!  Pinchgut hut

And there it is! Pinchgut hut

The hut sleeps 8, has a stove and a rifle rack but no tank.  It was built in 1983 and shows its 80s influence in a Spanish-style arch doorway to the bunk room.  I think more huts should speak to their age.  The long drop spoke to everyone that visited with a reminder in pink fluoro paint: ‘POO POOS ONLY PLEASE!’ The stream was quite low when I was there.  I had a wash to get rid of all the manuka leaves then settled back to reading some more Chaucer.  Not as bad as last time, but I think I prefer my literature a bit more newfangled. The next morning I woke at 6 so I just got up and was on the track by 7.

The start seems like an old farm road

The start seems like an old farm road

I like being on reclaimed farmland.  Something about the ghosts of the past that linger.P1080714The dim morning light and the wind also reminded me of early starts at Whangaparoa, tiredness and tussock.

From this side you can see the descent I made through the section that wasn't marked

From this side you can see the descent I made through the section that wasn’t marked

This side was well marked.

Up this ridge

Up this ridge

Unsiccessful attempt to capture the colour of the sunrise reflecting off the sea

Unsuccessful attempt to capture the colour of the sunrise reflecting off the sea

As the track ascends it gets a bit rockier.

But travel is still reasonable

But travel is still reasonable

And it just continues through the beech

And it just continues through the beech

It took me 1 hr 50 min to Bob’s Camp junction.

From there I went back along the ridge to Mt Thomas

From there I went back along the ridge to Mt Thomas

Looking towards the Waimakariri

Looking towards the Waimakariri

Looking towards Okuku

Looking towards Okuku

It took me 45 min to the junction with Wooded Gully track.

There's a sharp-ish incline

There’s a sharp-ish incline

Then it breaks out.

Then it breaks out.

Mt Thomas is quite an accommodating walk inasmuch as if you arrive and can’t be bothered walking up (and let’s face it, who can) you can DRIVE!  There’s an unsealed road that goes right to the summit!

View from the top.  Note the road at the bottom of the shot.

View from the top. Note the road at the bottom of the shot.

It really is worth going because you can see all the way to Christchurch.  I think the view was better than Mt Oxford. The track then descends down through a plantation forest.

Have a good look at this point because the track soon goes inside the canopy.

Have a good look at this point because the track soon goes inside the canopy.

The plains

The plains

Travel in the plantation is like walking down a ramp – no stairs.  Some parts are quite steep.

Doesn't really show the angle well

Doesn’t really show the angle well

I found this section quite boring.

This means you're nearly there

This means you’re nearly there

It took me 1 hr 20 min to descend, and 5 hours total from the hut.

Back to the beginning!

Back to the beginning!

In summary, this track is ‘proper’ tramping, unlike Wharfedale Track.  It is a good overnight tramp but needs a few more markers on the Cattle Peak descent.

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