Trip Reports

Freehold Creek to Tarns 1479m

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

Freehold Creek to Tarns 1479m, 13th May 2023

The planned trip up to Snowy Gorge Hut could not go ahead due to high river levels in the Ahuriri, so our flexible and accommodating group of five trampers decided on a day trip up to the tarns above Freehold Creek instead. After previous days of snow and rain in the hills, we had a perfect day.

Leaving Oamaru at 8am (a 7am start would have given us longer daylight for this trip in mid May), we started walking from Glen Mary Ski Hut at 10am. From here it took an hour to the Freehold Creek bridge, then an hour up to the bushline. The beech forest was alive with birdlife: rifleman, fantail, tomtit, grey warbler, bellbird (thanks to the trapping done by Ohau Conservation Trust.) After the heavy rains we were delighted with innumerable fungi springing up in all colours: purple, orange, yellow, brown, pure white, some with fluted edges.

From the bushline we crossed the creek and followed a narrow track up to the right, finding a poled route up to the tarns at 1479m, clambering over rock and sub-alpine vegetation for one and half hours. The fresh snow and soft autumn light made for a beautiful setting, and the views to the peaks above and the turquoise lake below were magnificent.

After lunch at 2pm overlooking the first tarn, (the second tarn is 5 minutes up the slope), we descended quickly to the bush and were back at the car by 4.30pm. The air was cool and our feet were cold after creek crossings, so we warmed up at Ohau Lodge with hot drinks before heading home.

Thanks to Roz, Anna, Jane, and Claire for genial company and a great day in alpine scenery.


Jenny Kitchin

An Awakino Weekend

Saturday, May 6th, 2023

Four vehicles with 11 keen trampers left early on Saturday morning, with a rendezvous in Kurow at 7.45am before heading up the road to the Awakino Skifield and lodge. We found the road in to be less maintained than in past memory, but all managed to drive to the locked gate at the top car park. Rodney and Helen left their car here, and joined Julian and Lynette for the 4WD climb up to the lodge. We arrived there around 9am, unloaded the cars, put on our tramping boots and headed up to the ski field. 
Morning tea was enjoyed in the sun at the field day lodge, in what was a lovely sunny day. The group then headed up the 4WD track to the ridge leading towards Koharau, and soon spread out along the track. It was a warm climb, not too difficult, and the views expanded as altitude was gained. The first trampers arrived at the top of Koharau around 12 noon, took photos by the cairn, admired the views from the coast, following the path of the Waitaki River, around to Mt Domett, the Buster Diggings, Remarkables, over the Rock and Pillar Range to Mt Aspiring, and around the Southern Alps to Mt Cook shining in the sun. Absolutely fabulous views, but the cold wind soon encouraged us to find a sheltered place to enjoy lunch. All but one tramper made their way to the top, a great effort.
After lunch, Julian suggested that rather than return the way we had come a traverse around the tops would take us to Foster Peak, and from there down to the ski field and back to the lodge. 6 agreed to this route, while the other 5 decided to save their legs and head back down to the base. Julian led off, with 5 others following. 
The route taken took the trampers down to the saddle, before climbing back up around the back of the tops to the south of the ski field. This involved much careful climbing over slabs of broken rock, before coming onto the ridge above Glacier Basin. Then back up onto the tops leading around to Foster Peak, now sadly minus the large wooden cross previously erected there. A loose steep rock/scree scramble took us down to a saddle from where it was possible to get down to the ski field, and then back down to the lodge. All arrived safely, with the last two arriving just on dark, to the relief of those waiting.
Scrumptious food was soon being prepared on the excellent gas range, with the log burner heating the hut as well as heating the hot water cylinder. A convivial evening was enjoyed by all. A discussion was had re plans for Sunday, as that had been planned to go to Foster Peak but those who wished to go had already achieved that objective. Agreement was reached to have a relaxed morning, then return to Kurow, walk Kurow Hill followed by coffee and scones before heading off back to Oamaru. This was a good decision, as it appeared that the wind had strengthened around the tops, and we arrived home early Sunday afternoon.
A great weekend was had by all, and thanks to Maurice and Phyllis, Neville, Jenny, Julian and Lynette, Karyl and Rodney and Helen for coming along. Also my grandson Thomas, who came for his first real tramp and enjoyed the experience.

Opihi River and Gorge

Wednesday, April 12th, 2023

Sunday 26th March – Opihi River and Gorge

We arrived in Fairlie around 9am and stocked up on coffee and pies, dropping John off there to explore the Opihi River tracks on his way to pick up our car to collect us from the other end of the Opihi Gorge trail.  Parking at the start of the gorge track, trip leader immediately managed to get everyones boots wet for no reason looking for the actural start of the track!  Once back on the well formed track, cut by the Fairlie Lions Club and community a few years ago, the work put in was immediately noticable with bridges and ladder systems through the spectacular first part of the gorge.  It soon got quitehard going with a few ups and downs between the river and the top of the gorge.  

Then we came across the first of what became five recent significant slips across the track, requiring some backcountry traverses and scrambling to get back on the main track again on each one.   Some of these were tricky to get around, at one point the ground I was on slipped away from under my feet down

the slab of rock, and makeshift ropes at other points.  Would not recommend attempting with younger children or inexperienced trampers until these track around these slips are properly repaired.  This was all pretty exhausting and the kilometre markers on the track passed very slowly – took over two hours to travel the first four km.

After these slips, all in the start one third of the track from the Opihi Gorge road end, the trail got a bit easier, although still contending with windfall and slippery rocks and tree roots (and a lot of up and down still!).  Just when was feeling like a normal riverside trail we came across the ‘via ferrata’sections around some river bluffs.  These looked more difficult than they were, but gave another dose of excitement to an already pretty epic day out, considering you are never that far in theory from farmland when you are in the gorge.  The final section was an easy walkout, apart from having to cross a fence into a field for a section where the river track has been washed out – I tested the electric fence and confirmed it was in fact live!

We arrived at the Rockwood Road bridge not long after John arrived with car, who had opted for the less challenging Opihi River Tracks, both upstream and downstream from Fairlie. There remained a challenge, however: how to find the tracks. There was no signposting pointing to the tracks and a write-up described the up-river track as starting to the north-west side of the Allandale Bridge. Wrong: it starts on the north-east side on the true left of the river. Once found, the first 500 metres or so were straightforward – then the track came to an abrupt halt in a clearing with no apparent sign of its continuation. The obvious route seemed to be down on the wide riverbed, only a few metres away. This offered good going for a couple of kilometres until a crossing of the main stream was required – no great problem but it seemed unlikely the walkway would have been routed this way. So, about turn and back to the clearing where a thorough search found a sign and track entrance completely obscured by long grass. The track continued to follow the river, which could not be seen for the shield of tall deciduous trees – beech, willow, poplar, sycamore etc. – mostly completely shrouded in Old Man’s Beard. The other side alternated between more trees and fodder kale. Three-odd kilometres of this and it was time to turn around.

2 1/2 hours after starting off, the fourth tramper returned to the Allandale Bridge, crossed it, and found the entrance to the down-river track on the true right which was not quite as well hidden as the one on the other side. This track was a bit more open, mostly through old willows and notable for extensive native plantings. At one point the entrance to the Opihi Gorge could be seen in the distance. Dead on midday, the forecasted southerly change arrived and the air got damper until rain jacket was donned. Just on 2 o’clock, after walking for 1 ½ hours, the track ended and the vehicle reached. A forty minute drive over a glorified goat track called Rockwood Road took tramper and vehicle to the Rockwood Bridge where the conquering heroes of the Opihi Gorge arrived at 10 minutes to 3.  Here we also saw the track sign advising of the slips – and for sensible people to not continue beyond that point!

Classic Trotters Gorge

Tuesday, April 4th, 2023

Sunday 26 March 2023

It had been a number of years since the Club had done this classic trip, so with six of us leaving Oamaru and meeting another three from Dunedin at Trotter’s Gorge, our party of 9 was looking forward to a good day out. It was going to be an interesting day out seeing what the tracks were like, if they were overgrown and with the rain we had over Saturday night if it was going to be a bit wet and muddy.

The 1st part of the track is a good track up past the Otago University hut, but about 500m past the hut the main track ends. At this point we crossed Trotter’s creek and followed a not bad track up to the start of a track that the club has maintain over the years called Dave’s Track, named in memory of a past member of the club.

 The 1st part of this track climbs up through some bush and then drops down into a wee valley full of scrub and bush. It soon came apparent that we need to go back at some time and do some clearing, but we were still able to follow a faint track up to where it goes under a cliff face. After that all hell broke out with a big mess of the track with pig rooting’s, so it took us a bit of time to find our way up out of the valley.

 Morning tea was taken at this point so we could dry out a bit after getting wet pushing through wet bush. After morning tea, we headed out on to the forestry road and up to South Peak 405m, finding a not bad route to the top. We spent about 10 min on top taking in the views of the Otago Coast line and the inland hills, but with a cool breeze and a bit of light drizzle, we headed back down to find the track down to Pigeon bush.

Back down on the road we found a good cut track through the gorse which headed down the ridge to Pigeon Bush. The 1st half of the track had been well cut and the 2nd part was not as well maintained, but was still a good track. We arrived in to Pigeon bush about 1pm and found a sunny spot for lunch.

 After lunch we crossed over into private land and followed Pigeon Creek back down the valley and through the gorge part, the track as I remember was a bit scarce, so where we lost the track, we had to take to the creek, bugger wet feet. After about an hour we met up with Trotter’s Creek which we followed on a good track thanks to some Wednesday Walker members cutting it back a few months ago. From here it was only a couple of km back past the University hut to the vehicle, after 7hrs and 14.5 k. I think we all had a satisfying day out. All in all, the tracks, apart from Dave’s track, were not bad to follow, which was good because it would a shame to lose them.

I would like to thank the property owners for letting as cross their land and also I would like to thank the members that came along and making it a very enjoyable day.

Thanks to, Colin, Mike, Julie, Roz, Bess, Clare, Rodney and Helen.

Dumb-bell lake via Freehold Creek.

Sunday, March 12th, 2023

25th February 2023 – Lake Dumb-bell via Freehold Creek.

Three members headed to Twizel on Friday night in order to get an early start on the Saturday morning.

We started at Freehold creek on day one, climbing steadily during the day passing and chatting t

o a few thru-hikers doing the Te-Araroa trail. Lunch was had early at the tarns at the top of Freehold Creek. We then climbed to the range above the tarns and traversed through the light snow and rocky terrain until we sighted lake Dumb-bell in the distance. A short stop to take in the views was followed by the descent to Lake Dumb-Bell. We set up camp on various flat areas close to the Lake and enjoyed a calm and tranquil evening.

Day two was a frosty start but we soon warmed up as we climbed back out of Dumb-bell to summit Mt Sutton, enjoying spectacular views on another fine day. We descended to The Ohau Ski-Field road and followed this until a decision to veer off towards Glen-Mary Ski Huts was made. This entailed some bush bashing in hot conditions, we soon crossed the Alps to Ocean track and headed back to where the Car was parked.

We were fortunate to have excellent weather for this trip and planty of time allowing us to stop frequently and enjoy the scenery.

Thanks to Robbie and Mark for their company.