Tag Archives: Lake Peel

A Loop through the North

We headed up the east coast to catch up with friends at Kaikoura. A walk along the shore showed how the shoreline has changed when it was lifted by a metre in the 2016 earthquake. We continued to the north west past the vast vineyards in the Marlborough region and across to the Cobb Valley from where we set out on an overnight walk.

We started under clear skies but the cloud quickly rolled in and we completed the day’s walk past the atmospheric Lake Peel in fog. It lifted for a moment and we were pleased to see the hut appear. We were dismayed to arrive and find that there was no longer gas supplied to the hut so we had to light the stove. It did an excellent job of heating water but it also heated the hut which we didn’t need. A family arrived in the late afternoon and shared their gas stove with us so we didn’t have to warm up the hut. We decided to head out the next day and were pleased to have beautiful weather with the bonus of fog in the valley.

We made for the west coast to revisit Wharariki Beach with the attractions of sand dunes, photogenic islands, caves and seals.

It was then time to start back southwards and after a night near Nelson Lakes where we were swarmed by sandflies it was good to head up to Arthur’s Pass where the shelter ensured we could hide from the much reduced numbers. After visiting the spectacular waterfalls we headed inland. I was hoping to walk through Cave Stream but as I waded in and it quickly became apparent the cold water was going to be at least waist deep I chickened out and we just visited both ends of the cave.

Staying at Lake Tekapo gave me the opportunity to photograph the lake and famous Church of the Good Shepherd in pleasing light though I couldn’t escape the crowds.

We then moved on to Mt Cook where we set out on the Hooker Lake walk in good weather. Unfortunately as we headed up the valley it started to haze over and we soon realised we were once again under smoke from the Australian fires. With rain in the evening it cleared for a clearer view in the morning. We also had our closest encounter with keas as they had a lovely time trying to pull an awning to pieces.

One last night at Arrowtown and a stop to watch the drama of the Shotover jets and we were on the plane back home.

Nelson Lakes

We  returned to Nelson Lakes after bypassing it early in our trip due to heavy snow on the mountains. We came down from Arthurs Pass and visited Carew Falls near Lake Brunner. A huge storm had gone through in Easter bringing down vast swathes of trees and the track was still not officially open but it was cleared enough for us to get through easily.

We detoured from our path to visit the famous Hawks Crag in the Buller Gorge. It’s a tight fit for trucks and buses.

We arrived at Nelson Lakes to find there was still snow on the high passes but Ray still wanted to do a walk so we decided to walk in and out to Blue Lake. We thought we had found a beautiful, previously unseen NZ bird but it turned out to be somebodies abandoned pet – a Mandarin duck – very striking and unable to breed with the local birds.

Our first day turned out to be hut too far. We walked to Speargrass Hut on a rough track with lots of tree roots to carefully clamber over and a half hour steep flood detour so we arrived after three and half hours. After lunch it was then another five hours to the next hut (we took five and a half) with lots more roots, two large detours around areas where huge areas of trees had been brought down by the Easter storm and a tricky climb down to lake level. We arrived exhausted at 6.30.

We thought we had an easy day the next day – five hours and 13 km up the Sabine River. It drizzled most of the day and we ended wet and cold, the streams needed fording so our feet were soaked and we took six and a half hours. The hut was very welcome and Ray got the fire going so we could dry off. The next day was a short trip to Blue Lake but when we set off again in the rain, we found the  side streams quite high and lots of them so decided to retreat to the hut. During the afternoon a group from Auckland Uni arrived up the Sabine river track having waded through waist deep streams. After a break they continued on to Blue Lake. We are not that gung ho! (No pictures – too wet!)

The rain finally stopped and we set off for Blue Lake in the sunshine on our fourth day. The river and streams had all dropped and were easily forded though I would hate to have gone through some on the previous day. We had to cross a large snow bank that half crossed the river but luckily it was easily traversed. Blue Lake was just reward for our efforts, shining bluely in the sunshine with the clearest fresh water in the world (scientifically proven). We climbed up to look at Lake Constance above.

We strolled back down to West Sabine Hut enjoying the sunshine and the views.

Heading back down the Sabine River without the rain was much easier so we covered the ground more quickly and enjoyed the walk. Neither of us were looking forward to the walk back to the car so we accepted an invitation from the uni students to join them on the boat ride down the lake and they would give us a ride back to our car. We had to pick up half of their group from a hut on the other side of the lake where they had joined a hunter whose prowess was on display.

We still wanted to walk to Angelus Hut but the weather was turning again so we decided to retreat for a while and return in the sunshine. After admiring the huge eels that lived under the jetty at Lake Rotoiti we headed north to Motueka. A DOC pamphlet introduced us to the Cobb valley area and we decided to head there. We followed a hydro road up to a manmade reservoir high in the mountains. We camped beside the river and took a day walk to Lake Peel, a lake in a dramatically carved, glacial valley. We then walked to Sylvester Hut, only five km but taking us up to 1300m where we had patches of sunshine and blasts of snow.  I  lost Ray there as he managed to walk past the hut which was 50m off the track and he had his head down as it was snowing.

We arrived back at Lake Rotoiti to forecasts of sunshine for two days – long enough to get to Angelus Hut and back. We had to return along the ridge as the valley was closed for helicopter drops of poisoned baits. We climbed the zigzag path that took us above the tree line. From there we walked along a narrowing ridge as the scenery got more and more amazing and dramatic. We had to sidle some parts and gradually had more snow to deal with though it was all soft. When we thought it couldn’t get any better we dropped down to Angelus Hut, nestled beside two lakes and ringed by dappled snowscapes.

The fog rolled in before sunset but cleared during the night for me to creep out and take pre-dawn and sunrise photos. The clear skies meant that the snow froze so we had to take it very carefully until the sun melted it. Luckily there were footprints  frozen into the snow to make it safer and there was a lot less snow on our return along the ridge. One part had us sidling belong a rocky ridge above a steep snow slope and we were very pleased to be across it safely. It was then a pleasant return tramp on one of our most dramatic walks.