Sunday 16 January 2022
It was a perfect day for tramping; fine and calm with a clear sky. It promised to be hot but everybody had plenty of water. Seven trampers, having left Oamaru at 7 o’clock, had met up with three more in Palmerston and an eleventh at the starting point where the Pigroot crossed the infant Shag River for the first time. They decided to do the trip anti-clockwise, ascending on the ridge to the east of the target peak and descending by the front ridge.
They set off at 8.45, heading across country to the bottom of the old 4wd track leading up the eastern ridge. After about two hours they came across the remains of a skifield with an old ski hut, looking rather worse for wear and far from weatherproof, but still holding a number of old-fashioned skis, old but apparently usable ski boots and a control box for the ski tow. Outside were some nutcracker belts and the ski rope lay along the line of the tow marked by pylons and pulleys. (This skifield had come to a sudden end in the 1990s, when a severe north-west storm blew off the mountain the hut housing the tractor used to drive the tow and damaged the day hut.) After a snack, the party continued up the ridge passing below the top pylon. As the track turned around the knob and dropped into a shallow saddle, a stunning view opened up of the steep basin containing Mount Dasher, Kattothyrst and Siberia Hill – all products of ancient volcanic activity which are seldom seen from this perspective.
The track carried on upwards, cresting a 1300 metre knob before dropping again to another saddle. Here, the party split with two members heading back down the east ridge and the main party of nine setting off for the final 300 metre steep climb through thick snow tussock which gave way to sub-alpine herbs as the ground became rockier. The summit was reached at 1.30pm, providing a venue for a late lunch and enjoyment for the 3600 panorama. Names were entered on the record in the jar in the summit rock, photographs taken, and at 2pm the main party started down the front ridge. The first and steepest part of this was down stable scree and rock. About half of the way down was over tussocky ridges and humps, and the last part down a 4wd track to the toe of the ridge, from where it was a short walk across the Shag and back to the road, reaching the cars 2 hours after leaving the summit. There they met the two who had got back from the east ridge half an hour before.
The excellent but demanding day with its great scenery and weather were enjoyed by Julian, Neville, Donna, Mike, Jenny, Robbie, Rodney, Helen, Dave, Tim and John.
Surprisingly there was a lot of interest for this trip including an untried new member who joined just days prior to the departure date. There were on the day 6 going over the pass and 2 heading up the South Temple to meet up at the head of the valley for the overnight camp. The weather provided just a small window of that weekend without rain, bookended with rain forecasts either side. Because of this the rivers were moderately high. After a 7am departure from Oamaru, 2 vehicles arrived at the Temple shelter just after 9 and we all set off after changing with fine sunny conditions, looking forward to a full-on sort of a day. The 2 going to the South Temple quickly split from the main group after crossing the North Temple and 6 of us walked up the North Temple in glorious sunny conditions stopping for lunch at the head of the valley. Heading up to the start of the Gunsight Pass the long gut came into sight, a few groans started to be heard as the test of fitness started to become known. It is about 1000m climb to the top of the pass from the valley floor and it is quite unrelenting. Helmets were donned as a precaution for the falling rocks common in the gut especially with a group like this going up. The fitness question started to make itself felt here and the group slowed down a lot. One member of the party decided to return to the valley for a camp out, having realised it was too much effort.About the last 300m 0f the climb we encountered a substantial amount of snow filling the gut entirely and despite the time of day and the good sunny weather it was found to be too hard for safe climbing without crampons and axe and had to be circumvented around some particularly steep and difficult rock walls. At 4pm we finally reached the top of the pass and because it had taken as long as this most of the party were quite tired at this point. Contact was established with the two down in the South Temple valley with the two way radios. Looking down from the pass our route involved another snow field unfortunately but luckily the snow here was not quite as hard and it was possible to kick decent steps in as we went down. One of the party did however lose his footing and ended up bumsliding most of the 200m, loosing some skin on his hands when he came to the end of the snowfield. This gave us all quite a scare and slowed the remaining journey for the day even further as we were even more cautious on the rough rocky terrain going down. Eventually we did all make it down to where the creek becomes visible again and we spent some time hunting the elusive side track that leads on to the main route up and down the South Temple valley. Another call on the radio spurred us on for the last 30 min as we realised that our fellow trampers were within close range and that we would end up spending the night at the same camp. It was a very tired crew who finally stumbled in to the camp site a bit after 7pm. We had been on the go for over 10 hours over some very rough country, but it was very satisfying putting up our tents and getting our laughing gear around some food and drink and sharing our stories. A well deserved rest was had during the night and the following morning saw us pack up and walk the much easier route back past the South Temple Hut and out to the cars by about lunch time.A debrief and lunch for some at the Wrinkly Ram brought an end to this trip. This was a touch trip that required greater fitness than we brought and tested us thoroughly. I am glad that we did have the resilience to complete the trip but feel that the wisest member was the one who turned back in the North Temple. As with most trips where things don’t go exactly to plan this will be remembered for a long time and for some of us it may well be the last time we visit the Gunsight Pass. Thanks to those 7 others who came on this adventure, and may we be fitter next time. Robbie
As the main party headed up the North Temple, Neville and John turned left and walked on the river bed around the corner into the South Temple valley. The track up the South Temple follows the stream closely on the true right, sometimes on the river flats, sometimes climbing through beech forest to get around a bluff, and a couple of times traversing impressive rock slides apparently extending all the way down from the top of the mountain range. With a stop for a snack, they made steady progress alongside the river which was full enough to suggest that crossing might not be straightforward. From time to time they came across, in clearings, bundles of five plywood trap boxes with stainless steel grilles and branded “Mammalian Correction Units” which had presumably been helicoptered in for placement.
Three hours after setting out, the two came to the end of the track opposite the South Temple Hut. They agreed crossing there would not be a good idea so explored an alternative upstream. The track ends where the river bank becomes an apparently impassable sheer rock wall. However, the rock wall has a ledge at its foot and it was possible to clamber along this with good handholds available to come back on to the valley floor. Two hundred metres upstream the valley widened and the river split into two braids, which made crossing a breeze.
After lunch, the two crossed the river and set off up the true right, initially through beech forest. Five more crossings of the South Temple were required, most calling for careful navigation. As they progressed up the valley, the vegetation changed from dark beech forest to more open celery pine dominated bush in association with a variety of hebes, coprosmas, celmisias and dracophyllums interspersed with open grassy flats. It was clear that DoC maintenance of the track ended at the hut; above it, track marking became haphazard and in places the bush was reasserting its dominance. Indeed, no track clearing had taken place since club members had worked on it between four and ten years previously.
Some two hours after the first river crossing, Neville and John reached a promising camping area which a tramper going down the valley had suggested was the last one before the pass. At 4 o’clock radio contact was established with the main party who had just reached the top of the pass. Given the time it would take them to get down to the valley, it was decided to establish camp there and wait for the conquering heroes to straggle in.
Which they did a couple of hours later. Tents were put up, libations and dinners consumed, tales told and all settled down to sleep the sleep of the righteous – some more than others. All were up by 6am and on the track by 7.30 for the five-hour return trip, reaching the cars just after midday.
November 8th Club Night was attended by 17 people.
Trip Reports: 10 trampers went to Hermit’s Cave in the Silverpeaks area, up Green Ridge to Pulpit Rock and then to Hermit’s Cave. Going above the cave gave a view of Jubilee Hut and there are two more caves in the area and a number of tracks to discover on other trips.
A group went to Dunedin and to Signal Hill which gave good views of the Otago Peninsula and out to sea . There are also lots of tracks to be explored in this area.
Wednesday Walkers went to Duntroon and walked to Elephant rocks and back;they covered 14 km. The next week they did the Domett Loop. A trip went from Anderson’s Lagoon to the Shag River mouth to look at nesting shags and their young in the colony along the cliffs, as well as sea lions on the beach.. There was a good farm walk up from Tussocky Road to Big Stony . The Wanderers went to a spot above the Shag River mouth, and walked some of the Mountain bike tracks in Herbert Forest, followed by a spectacular garden walk in the area.
The main business of the evening was Trip Planning for the Summer Programme, and this produced ideas for some exciting and different summer tramps and bike rides for a range of abilities, which will be something to look forward to.
SUNDAY THE 31ST OCTOBER
This trip was meant to be to Ben Ohau near Twizel and was an extra trip put on the programme, but with the weather forecast of cloud and some drizzle, it was a long way to go and get no views up there. I had two new club members that wanted to go on their first hike with the club, so I decided to introduce them to the river track in the Silver Peaks.
It had only been two weeks ago that the club was down there, but there are so many tracks to explore and weather was looking a bit better on the coast.
We were met by Rodney and Helen again at the main Silver Peaks car park and started up the main green hut ridge at about 9am. After about 15min we came to the junction of the Eucalypt track, which we took to drop us down to the South Branch of the Waikouaiti river.
The track was well marked and cut through the bush, with the odd clearing to get some good views and after dropping down for ½ hour we came out on to a clearing by the river/creek. It was at this point we took a detour up river for 10mins to visit the Historic Possum Hut where we had a break and look around.
We then retraced our steps and followed the river track down stream for about 2 hours. There had been a lot of work gone into cutting the track in some places and it was well marked.
Along the way we passed a few side routes coming down off Rosella ridge that had signs like Ceder spur and the Hunters track, which we have used before. It was a good hike down the river track in the bush, where we even came upon a baby possum scrambling up a tree to get away from us.
At 12.15pm we were at side stream beneath Yellow Ridge where we had lunch.
After lunch we climbed up a roughly marked track through the bush for about ½ an hour to meet up with the main Yellow ridge track. We then carried on up Yellow Ridge for a further 15 mins to visit the Phillip J Cox Memorial hut, getting there at 1.45pm. The hut is a modern 4 bunk hut, sitting in a clearing with good views of the Silver Peaks and plenty of room for tents outside for bigger parties.
After a break and a look around, we then headed back down Yellow Ridge, dropping down steeply to the South Branch of the Waikouaiti river, crossing the river and then climbing back up the track though the pine trees to come out onto Mountain Rd. From here it was a 6km 1 ½ hour walk back down the road to finally arrive back to the vehicles after an 18 ½ km hike that took us just on 8 hours.
It was another good day out in the Silver Peaks and I thank Alexs and Evelyn for coming out on their first hike with the club. It is always good to have Rodney and Helen join us too.
Sunday 17 October 2021
Eight club members left from Oamaru and headed for the car park on Steep Hill Rd at the entrance of the Silver Peaks Tracks, where our Dunedin club members Rodney & Helen meet us. The weather was looking good so we headed off at 9.30am up the track in the bush for an hour to the old green hut site where we stopped for a wee break.
After the green hut site the track climbs out of the bush to be a bit more exposed, with a bit of a grunt up past Pulpit Rock (760m) and some great 360 degree views. After Pulpit Rock the track levels out a bit with a wee bit of up & downs until we reached the faint side track that leads along Rocky Ridge underneath the Silver Peaks trig (767m). From here there was a well worn track on the ground but at some places we were pushing through scrub up to our shoulders. After about an hour of pushing through scrub we came to a rocky outcrop at point 739m that Robbie’s son had told Robbie where the track to the cave was and sure enough there was a well worn track heading down the side of the outcrop.
We dropped down about 50m off the track and came to a cave that had stacked stone at the front to provide shelter from weather. It was flat enough to sleep a few people and had candle holders in the rock shelves and a visitor’s book. By this time it was about 12.30pm and there was a strong wind coming up from the valley below, so we got some shelter around or in the cave to have some lunch.
If you want to know the history about the cave just google Hermits Cave Silver Peaks for info. There was a track at the cave that dropped further down the hill but the wind was quite strong, so at about 1pm we headed back the same way we had come in, just about getting blown over in places along the ridge. Despite the wind we had good views of all the Silver Peaks area and could see Jubilee Hut in the distance.
We did meet some other trampers that had come along the length of Rocky Ridge and said it was a bit of a battle in places on the track with the high scrub, so may need a trim some time. We were soon back on the main track again with 5 of us climbing up onto Pulpit Rock on the way past. With another break at the Green Hut Site, we got back out to the car park at 4pm with 17 km for the day. We said good bye to our two Dunedin member and headed for home.
Thanks to, Jenny, Julian, Lynette, Jonathan, Phyllis, Maurice, Robbie, Helen and Rodney for the company and making it an enjoyable day. Neville
PS; When Rodney got home he did a bit of research on Hermits Cave and reckons the actual cave was further down the steep track that went below the cave that we were at. He reckons we were at the top bivvy cave, so we might have to go back some time for a bit more exploring, but until that time we will say we visited Hermits Cave!