Kahurangi National Park - October 2020
Roaring Lion Hut sits near the confluence of the Karamea and the Roaring Lion Rivers, and recently got some welcome attention from a team of retired builders, led by Bill Barnett, and funded by the Backcountry Trust.
The Karamea is the mightiest river in Kahurangi National Park, gathering volume from its headwaters near the Wangapeka Track before flowing north, and arcing westwards at Karamea Bend before its final boulder-choked surge to the sea. The Murchison Earthquake of 1929 caused huge landslides, and created new lakes and some serious whitewater, which has since offered some of the finest and hardest commercially rafted rapids in the country.
Upper Wairau River Area, Marlborough - February to December 2020
Connors Creek drains the steep flanks of Mt Chittenden (2205m), an outlier peak of the St Arnaud Range, east of Nelson Lakes National Park. The creek tumbles through a beech-clad valley, until it flows into the Wairau River, deep in the Marlborough backcountry. A short walk (or about a 1km drive on a 4WD track) from the confluence is Connors Creek Hut – the subject of another recent Backcountry Trust project. Spearheading this project was Bob Chittenden, who shares a moniker with the mountain at the valley-head named after his father, Eric Chittenden.
Bob has something of a penchant for old huts, inherited from Eric – who was the first president and patron of the Nelson Ski Club, which established some of the early huts in the Nelson Lakes Area, including Kea Hut (built 1933-34), high on the slopes of Mt Robert.
Over recent years, Bob and others have revived the Nelson Ski Club to restore the now-historic Kea Hut. With skills developing and momentum going, the group decided to tackle more backcountry projects. Next was re-cutting and re-marking the Paske Hut Track, then the Begley Track above Begley Hut. The focus on these areas naturally led to nearby Connors Creek Hut.
Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury - October 2020
The popular Mt Somers Track encircles Mt Somers – a prominent peak near the Canterbury town of Staveley. While trampers have been visiting the area for a long time, only in the last 20 years was possible to walk right around the mountain, when the South Face Track was completed by memberS of the Mt Somers Walkways Society.
As parts of this South Face route are boggy, society members led by Brian Senior organised half-round posts, made into corduroy, and attached by Number 8 wire. Over time however, parts of this construction had slumped, and the fine square mesh used for boot grip had deteriorated, making the track unsafe for trampers – especially in icy conditions.
A year ago, Society members decided to fix the problem, and were supported by a grant from the Backcountry Trust.
Silverpeaks Scenic Reserve, Dunedin, Otago - November 2020
Recently, a volunteer group supported by the Backcountry Trust has worked with DOC staff to upgrade tracks in Dunedin’s beloved Silverpeaks. Although modest by New Zealand mountain standards, the Silverpeaks offer Dunedin residents some of their best and most accessible local tramping.
The area has a range of tracks and several shelters, including Jubilee Hut (10 bunks), Philip J Cox Memorial Hut (4 bunks), and the ABC Cave. Connecting many of the area’s landmarks and huts, the 25-kilometre Silverpeaks Circuit crosses regenerating forest and tussock-covered schist hills, and provides an almost uninterrupted panoramic view of inland coastal Otago from any of the four 700-metre peaks.
Over the last 20 years, a group called the Green Hut Track Group (GHTG) has maintained an extensive network of tracks in the Silverpeaks and other local areas, on behalf of DOC and the Dunedin City Council. The group works most Wednesdays. This is a remarkable and commendable service provided by the mostly retired volunteers, and they have an impressive 56 tracks in their programme.
Kapiti Coast, Wellington - November 2020
The Kapiti Mountain Bike Club (KMBC) has been active again building a new mountain-bike track in Whareroa Farm on the Kapiti Coast side of the Akatarawa Forest Park, with funding support from the Backcountry Trust.
The (as yet un-named) ‘Track 2’ drops down from Campbell's Mill Road into the Whareroa Farm mountain-biking designated zone, traversing both sides of the middle ridge of the three available to the club for track building. It finally drops in to connect with our first track – Red Tape, a short distance before Bridge 3.
Track 2 is an approximate distance of 1.2 kilometres, and once connected to Red Tape will provide an overall downhill ride down to the Water Settlement Race of around 2.7 kilometres. This new track has more features and is of a more technical nature than the faster, rollercoaster Red Tape track.
May 2019 to September 2020
In April 2019, major flooding just about wiped out Thomas River Hut – a loss that would have been all the more painful considering great work restoring the hut in recent years, led by Geoff Spearpoint. Fortunately, a hunter reported it and a Haast helicopter pilot confirmed just how precarious the hut’s position was.
In May, four DOC staff led by Jeff Rawles flew in, put the hut on skids, and winched it safely away from the eroding riverbank. They also dug a new longdrop pit, relocated the toilet, and cleared a new hut site. A fantastic effort that undoubtedly saved the hut.
Fast-forward to September 2019, and a team of Backcountry Trust volunteers flew back in with Jeff Rawles to continue the job. The team included Geoff Spearpoint, Jane Morris, builder Colin Morris and Hugh van Noorden.