Brewster Hut

Brewster Hut (2-3 May 2015)

Hello my fellow trampers!  So yes, Dylan and I are at least a month behind on writing up our latest trip reports…  all I can do is sincerely apologize.  I’m doing my best to remedy this by catching you up with one of the best trips we’ve done this year: Brewster Hut.

Brewster had been on our “to do” list for quite a while.  And while April was pure insanity: Otehake April 3-6, The Pisa Range April 18-19 (I’ll let Dylan write that one up), Hamner Springs for a friend’s birthday April 25-27 and I desperately wanted a weekend at home to do laundry, when our friends invited us to Brewster hut the weekend of May 2-3 and the forecast looked amazing, how could I possibly say no?

Dylan and I did the typical drive to Makarora on Friday night and spent the night at the old favourite: Boundary Creek Campsite ($6/night).  We had a slow start on Saturday, driving the to the start of the track.  It took a mere 2 hours 20 of slow, grinding climbing to make it to Brewster Hut where we had lunch, and where our friends showed up only about 10 min after we arrived.

After lunch, we all decided to try to climb Mt. Armstrong – a popular side trip from Brewster hut.  Due a fair bit of snow, and a lot of wind up the top (typical afternoon wind!), we were sadly about 15m short of the summit.  Major bummer for Dylan who had had that one on his list for quite a long time.  Definitely achievable during the summer months, or with a slightly earlier start.

We ambled our way back down to the hut and had a quiet evening taking in a stunning sunset, eating a ton of food and chocolate, Dylan and I realizing we had completely forgotten the cheese for cheese and crackers before dinner, and the cheese and oil for dinner *sigh*.  (Note: I am not a happy tramper when food gets forgotten!). Breakfast was another interesting experiment, as our grand plan of pancakes was sidetracked by our forgotten butter (safe to say we left all our cold refridgerated foods like cheese and butter back at the car).  However, we still managed decent though not very beautiful pancakes with maple syrup, banana and boysenberry jam.  😀

Sunset from Brewster Hut

Sunset from Brewster Hut

Our friends decided to get an early start back home.  But Dylan and I had to go and explore Brewster Glacier.  It was a reasonably easy (though fairly technical with a lot of sidling, scrambling and route finding, though the route is very obvious and cairned all the way) 1 hour to an amazing view point of the glacier.

Brewster Glacier and terminal lake

Brewster Glacier and terminal lake

All I can say is Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  We had such an amazing time exploring the Brewster Glacier….  And that terminal lake!  So beautiful.  We spent several hours checking out the rocks, glacial pools and ice and it was honestly magical.  There are a number of evident campsites around the area and I’m very keen to go back and camp near the terminal lake sometime next summer.

Exploring

Exploring

Playing with ice

Playing with ice

I mean, I knew that Brewster was a great trip, but I actually had no idea it was going to be that good!  I now know why it’s one of our friend’s favourite tramping spots – it’s reasonably easy to get to and very high reward!  We’re already keen to go back again.  Seriously though, this trip had everything, a nice toasty hut, good friends, amazing views, stunning sunset, keas, and was absolutely fantastic, despite us forgetting half our food!  It was one of those trips that gets tramping into your blood, and all you can think about is getting out there again.

Brewster Hut

Brewster Hut

Happy tramping!

This is the life!

This is the life!

You would think at seeing this sign we would have realized the track was farther to the right...  alas, we instead tried to go the way we "thought" the track should go.

Cameron hut (Makarora) (Aug 2014)

So it appears that I am going to do posts in reverse chronological order…  LOL.

We didn’t get a ton of winter tramping in this year, but we we made our trips count.  We did a really excellent trip with fantastic weather into a wee 4 bunk hut near Makarora known as Cameron Hut (not to be confused with the Cameron hut in Canterbury, which is a private hut but also well worth a visit!). We spent Friday night at Boundary Creek Campground just south of Makarora, and walked into Cameron hut on Saturday morning. Despite the mere 6 km into the hut, it took us a good 6 hours (so embarrassing as track time is 5 hours!) with birdwatching (3 kakas, riflemen, tomtits, tuis, etc.); stopping for photos; taking our time crossing a number of steep, fresh, slips; getting lost for a good 30+ minute after crossing the river; and stopping for lunch.  We decided upon arriving at the hut that it wasn’t really a “newbie” track (though to be fair, experienced trampers certainly wouldn’t find it terribly demanding).

Frosted spiderweb - Makarora

Frosted spiderweb at the start of the track – I think this is one of the most beautiful valley in New Zealand and here it earns its reputation over and over again – near Makarora

However, it was absolutely worth it, as Cameron was an absolutely immaculate wee hut, perfect size for 4 people, with extra room on the floor. It also had an excellent woodburning fire, and tons of available wood. The hut is also not hugely popular which is quite fun – we were the first visitors since June 1st!

We hung out in the hut in style, complete with wine and cheese. We also took a number of ridiculous photos with the random antlers we found at the hut, as you can imagine.

Cameron hut - complete with antlers

Cameron hut – complete with antlers

The valley, looking back up to Cameron hut

The valley, looking back up to Cameron hut

There wasn’t a ton of snow, as you can see.  But enough to be interesting.  Actually, the snow was very old and had managed to grow some pretty impressive ice crystals, the like of which I have never seen before.

Sunday was especially picturesque – not a cloud in the sky! We had a nice lunch by the Cameron creek, and made sure to add some more rock cairns at the point where we got lost the day before (you cross the creek at an angle from the true right, and the track doubles back on itself in the direction of the true left after the crossing – rather counter intuitive).

You would think at seeing this sign we would have realized the track was farther to the right...  alas, we instead tried to go the way we "thought" the track should go.

You would think at seeing this sign we would have realized the track was farther to the right… alas, we instead tried to go the way we “thought” the track should go.

The drive home was especially beautiful in Central. We stopped off and got a number of great photos near Lake Hawea and Wanaka.

Mountains reflected into Lake Hawea on our drive home

Mountains reflected into Lake Hawea on our drive home

This tramp seemed especially awesome as we hadn’t been out since June. Also, our friend Chris accompanied us, and although we had never tramped together before, was an excellent tramping companion (being a zoologist who studies NZ birds, he certainly scored all the points on exotic bird bingo!*).  Dylan and I are gearing up and getting pretty stoked for the summer season. Here’s hoping we can get all the tramping in that we’d like!

*Just kidding.  We didn’t actually play exotic bird bingo.  Now go watch “The emperor’s new groove” so you know what the heck that was in reference to.

All images are copyright of the author.  Please do not use without permission.

Amazing views on the Gillespie

Gillespie Pass (April 2012) – where it all started

How did all this tramping madness get started, you might ask?  Because let me tell you, it’s highly addictive.  Now I know there are people who can’t imagine anything worse or more miserable than carrying a heavy pack over kilometres and kilometres of track.  I’m not one of those people.

Tramping is quite possibly one of the greatest joys of my life.  I LOVE it.  I came to NZ in 2007 and started tramping in 2008.  I started off with some of the popular tracks – Milford, Copland, Rees-Dart.  About 1 a year.  They all absolutely kicked my butt, but I still loved them.

Then Dylan and I started dating in February 2012.  What better way to test your relationship than going on one killer tramp together, right?

We decided to do the Gillespie pass over Easter (and my 29th birthday!) 2012.  Gillespie pass is a popular 4 day circuit just north of Makarora.  The weather was perfect – warm, it had barely rained in weeks (low rivers!).  Five of us started out for this epic journey through the mountains.

I knew it was going to be tough (58 km, not a great walk, , but I’ll admit I was still a bit of tramping rookie (1-2 tramps a year max) at this point.

Lets just say I learned a lot on that tramp.  If I did the Gillespie again, I would do it totally different.  But hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?

Amazing views on the Gillespie

Amazing views on the Gillespie

Dylan, in his underwear, in the snow, going over the Gillespie

Dylan, in his underwear, in the snow, going over the Gillespie

The first thing we learned early on was that the heat is not our friend.  Well, the heat is not Dylans friend.  Our first day was hot and long.  We knew day #2 (going over the Gillespie pass) would be the real killer (you climb and then descend 1000 m), so we got up ridiculously early on day #2 and set out to do most of the climbing before the heat of the day (it was still hot enough that Dylan did most of the climb in his underwear.  Just his underwear.  Not only that, but New Zealand is a small enough place that inevitably Dylan ran into someone from his department while he was tramping in his boxers.  Typical.).  Now day #2 is 12 km and supposed to take 6-8 hours.  I think it took us 11.  😦  We were fine getting up to the pass, it was coming down where we became absolutely stuffed.  It was hot, there was no water, and Dylan was on the verge of heatstroke.  We were saved by the tiny amount of crusty snow that lives at the top of the climb all year round.

But we learned!  We learned critical things.

  1. A heavy pack is your worst enemy.  Pack light.
  2. Always carry hydration salts.
  3. If you’re carrying a tent, you’re stuffed, and you come across an excellent camping spot – just stop.  Don’t keep going to the next hut just because.  Undoubtably it will be filled with a million loud children.
  4. If there is the option to jet boat out, don’t be cheap.  Just pay the $85 and save yourself 27 km of walking through farmland.
Looking back up the Wilkin valley

Looking back up the Wilkin valley

So day #3 we were so stuffed most of us didn’t make the day walk up to crucible lake – aka the highlight of the trip.  Day #4 was a horrible 27 km slog out along the Wilkin river, watching every single other person zoom past us in a jet boat.  Jerks.

Jet boats passing us along the Wilkin

Jet boats, zooming passing us along the Wilkin

I know, it sounds amazing (amazingly agonizing) right?  Dylan loved it so much, we went on another tramp later in April with the tramping club (a much, much easier one.  Just into the Greenstone hut and back out again).

If I were going to do the Gillespie again, I would definitely take a tent so that I could camp either just below the alpine area of coming over the pass, or down at the bottom of the valley where the track splits of to crucible lake (and saving you from having to backtrack the next day).  I would also absolutely pay the ridiculous $85 or whatever it is these days to get jet-boated out.  Live and learn.

Happy tramping!  Read more about the Gillespie circuit here.