Two bluffs rose imposingly above the road along Lake Hawea and a line was visible zigzagging up the steep face between them before disappearing into the cloud. No gentle warm up here! From the car park up to Breast Hill is a climb of 1200m in about 6km. We settled into low gear and began steadily plodding upwards, soon stripping down to base layers. 300m up, at the top of the first face, we met two descending trampers who unbeknownst to us would be the last people we saw for 72 hours.
A brief detour to investigate the well-insulated but fireless Pakituhi Hut before swinging northward to Breast Hill. The snow started in earnest now, often being knee deep, but fresh boot prints to the summit made the going fairly easy. The snow was extremely light and fluffy so our crampons and ice axes remained superfluous weight on our packs. Oh well, better to be prepared.
At first light we were off again, dropping 500m straight down to the Timaru River, where the valley was white with frost. We followed the track downstream for 3km through bush and across grassy terraces until being spat out on the gravel river flats. From here on we were venturing into untracked terrain. Let the adventure begin! Immediately we were faced with the first of countless stream crossings; only shin deep but icy. Once the feet were numb it was quite pleasant splashing down the river bed as it gradually became more confined. After an hour and a half it was time to turn up the side stream leading toward Moonlight & Roses Hut. On modern topo maps this creek is unnamed, but historically it was called Deer Spur Creek (in conflict with the current naming of the neighbouring stream). The next two hours of stream bashing were freezing but fun! The first hour was spent almost constantly wading across or through the stream before reaching the more open flats halfway up the valley. With hoar frost on the banks and icicles hanging from wet boulders it was a beautiful, albeit chilly, place. Thankfully there was not too much ice coating the rocks to make the going treacherous.
|Moonlight & Roses Hut|
Being more accessible and more frequented, the firewood supply at Junction Hut was a lot more scarce than the previous nights. Nevertheless we managed to source enough wood for two nights (although we were only staying for one). The temperature profile inside the hut that night was quite steep: 25°C where we sat in front of the fireplace, 8°C a metre back, and 0°C and the far end of the hut. The hut book had many comments about resident mice so it was no surprise to hear rustling in the corner by my pack. A bold wee mouse kept coming out to investigate so we set a couple of traps under the bunks. Sure enough, half an hour later the population decreased by one and we were not bothered for the rest of the night.
Our last morning was very relaxed as we didn’t have far to go. An hour of brisk walking down the Timaru River track, with a few swift crossings, saw us to the road bridge. From here it was a gentle 6km stroll along the gravel road to complete the loop.
Who would have thought you could have huts to yourself on a long weekend within an hour’s drive of one of New Zealand’s most outdoorsy towns!
Car park -> Pakituhi Hut 3:15 hours
Pakituhi Hut -> Stodys Hut 4:15 hours
Stodys Hut -> Timaru River Track junction 1:10 hours
Track junction -> Bottom of Deer Spur Creek 1:40 hours
Up Deer Spur Creek 2:20 hours
Deer Spur Creek -> Moonlight & Roses Hut 1:15 hours
Moonlight & Roses - > Saddle 55 minutes
Saddle -> Junction Hut approx 3 hours
Junction Hut -> Road 1:10 hours