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.
In November 2020, twelve members of the GHTG and two DOC staff spent 430 hours working on the Silverpeaks Circuit Track, cutting almost 7 kilometres of overgrown track. It had last been cut in 2012. The Backcountry Trust funded helicopter access, enabling equipment, people and supplies to be ferried onto site for work on the remoter parts of the circuit. Over five days, they worked on the section of the track between Pulpit Rock and the ABC Cave.
Led by Graeme Elliot, the GHTG members included Kevin Blair, Arthur Blondell, Geoff Brookes, Craig Freeman, Morris Hall, Sarah Martyn, Lloyd Reddington, Dick Simmers, Peter Smith, Rex Thompson and Aaron Whitehead. DOC rangers Felicity Sime and Barry Atkinson completed the team.
At first, rain and ominous cloud almost scuttled plans, but the HeliOtago pilot David Gale managed to sneak his machine on to the top of Green Ridge, using a brief break in the cloud to land one team. The other team wasn’t so lucky, and had to work up the Devils Staircase, instead of the planned (easier) downhill! Scrub-cutting began in earnest on the Pulpit Rock to Devils Staircase section, hampered somewhat when two machines broke down. That day, everyone walked out, to re-group for the next stage based at Jubilee Hut.
The 14 workers split into three groups to tackle different sections of track, and were ferried in by helicopter. After the scrub-cutters did their work, the clearers came through to remove the cut vegetation – made more difficult in the slippery conditions after rain. Flax often required clearing by hand, as it is usually too tough for the scrub-cutters.
The team at Jubilee Hut installed 10 new mattresses, and affixed a drainpipe to take wastewater from the sink. They also cut steps from the creek up to Jubilee Hut, improving the footing on this section, and warratahs were installed on the river flats. Opportunity was also taken to clean the hut’s windows and toilet, and to fix the toilet seat.
With the GHTG in high gear, they completed the work faster than expected, enabling them to tackle the track beyond Jubilee Hut as far as the ABC Cave.
After several successful days of hard work, the tired but satisfied team departed. The peaks may be silver, but the track work has been gold standard!