About a week before Christmas and our usual epic ‘new year tramping trip’ I had decided I still had not had my tramping fix. Rebecca was out because her legs were sore from the Kepler, but as I have no compunction leaving her behind, I enlisted my flat-mate Tim and two of our friends Devonia and Penny. As I hadn’t tramped with any of these guys before I decided on a high reward low effort tramp behind Genorchy which was previously the site of extensive mining. Apparently, the hills around Bucker Burn contained marginally economical quantities of Scheelite Ore, which is comprised of Tungsten. Tungsten can be alloyed with steel to dramatically increase its hardness and its resistance to stress and heat which is important for armour plating in ships and in shell casings. So the hill was extensively mined during World War One and World War Two when Tungsten prices were high and the operation was supported by the government. The end of the Korean War saw a decline in demand for Tungsten, however mining continued for a while in ever dwindling volumes until the seventies when the last miners just walked away leaving a lot of rubbish and interesting machinery just lying around, not to mention quite a few open mines.
In order to maximise tramping time I usually prefer to drive to our destination Friday night and camp at the start of the track or at a nearby DOC campground. However, for once I wasn’t driving and Rebecca wasn’t with us, resulting in me being over-ruled, and we left early Saturday morning. Which, in this case, was fine as the Mt McIntosh Loop Track was only 8-10 hours in total. We finally at the start of the track at 12 so decided to have lunch in the car park and after a bit of mucking around didn’t start walking till 1-ish. But seeing it was the longest day we still had plenty of daylight left.
About half-way up the mount Judah Road we encountered an abandoned ore crushing site and Tim found a big toy to play on. All the way along the Mount Judah Road we encountered open mine shafts mostly full of rubbish and water. We didn’t venture any further than the entrance as there were signs warning that the roof was prone to collapse.
After about an hour of easy walking along an overgrown bulldozed road we came to the only river crossing on the tramp, which unfortunately wasn’t bridged. As it had been pretty dry and the river was pretty low I crossed without my boots on. After a bit of debate Tim, Penny and Devonia decided to follow my lead, which was largely successful apart from the fact that Devonia had tied her boots by the laces to the bottom of her pack. Due to Devonia’s Dutch inherited height this would usually be fine, however half-way along she stumbled and bent over just enough to dip her boots and only her boots into the river and they promptly filled up with water, which I found to be quite ironic.
After the river crossing and putting on our boots the real tramping started, and the climb out of the valley and up to McIntyres Hut was ridiculously steep for a road. When we got to the hut we found that DOC had refurbished it six months before (thanks DOC!) and it made a great place for afternoon tea. While poking around the hut I found a propeller and chain which Devonia and Penny helped me to model.
About 20 minutes after leaving the hut Tim realised he had left Rebeccas walking pole behind. So of course he had to go all the way back down to the hut to grab it. After rejoining us he breathlessly pronounced he wouldn’t make that mistake again. I personally believe he would just leave whatever he forgot behind. After about one and a half hours of continual slog up the hill we finally reached the McIntosh huts which were occupied the gang of juvenile Kea who looked like they were having a great time throwing around the mining detritus discarded near the huts.
The larger upper McIntosh hut was interestingly rustic and more than serviceable for our needs especially after I found some deck chairs for us to sit on and watch the sun set behind the Humboldt Mountains. After reading through the hut book it turns the water tank had been installed only six months before when DOC was refurbishing other huts in the area which was quite fortunate as there was no nearby water source (the pond in the photo was full of diesel drums and mining rubbish). Apparently, many other people had been caught out previously and forced to go all the way back down to McIntyre’s Hut for the night.
The next morning I made an executive decision to climb Black Peak, as the walk out was only 3-4 hours and I have a policy of Tramping more than I drive. Between Mt McIntosh and Black Peak we passed the remains of a Hut which had completely collapsed into a pile of rubble (It was lucky we weren’t quicker up the hill the day before, as I had plans of staying there for the night). Black Peak was pretty straight-forward to summit as a four wheel drive track had been bulldozed nearly all the way to the top. At the top I was surprised to discover that, apart from in an airplane, this was the highest that Tim had ever been. We didn’t linger at the top too long as the wind was coming up forcing us to beat a hasty retreat back to the hut and our lunch.
After lunch it was a simple walk along the ridge-line back towards Glenorchy. This was only somewhat complicated when Devonia’s knees packed in on the the steep downhill portion. At car we all agreed it was quite the successful tramp. All the good cheer was broken when Devonia checked her phone and found that her Grandmother had passed away the day before which made it the most uncomfortable drive back to Dunedin.
Credit for most of the pictures goes to Penny (My phone ran out of battery 20 meters from the summit of Black Peak)