Hidden Hut and Turkeys Nest Bivvy, Leatham Valley2022 10 22 Hidden Hut

22-24 October 2022

The Wye Route in South Marlborough is a near-new route having only been cut, marked and sign-posted in 2010-2011 and this was the club’s first trip here apart from a day trip partway in 2013.

On a fine day, nine adventurers turned off SH63 in the Wairau Valley and drove up the Leatham Road. An obstacle was Station Creek ford which had been washed out in August’s floods but had just been repaired. One 4WD vehicle managed the crossing OK, but the other vehicle was left here and we shuttled 2km up the road to the start of the track.

We walked up through an old limestone quarry to the start of the Wye Route, then steeply alongside a fenceline amongst matagouri, reaching point 869 after 45 minutes for good views up the Leatham Valley. From here we continued following the markers alongside the fenceline on a long undulating ridgeline. Some scrambling was required where the track deviates around some jagged rocky outcrops. We gradually came closer to the impressive and rugged, but fairly barren, range of mountains ahead of us, dominated by the 2044m peak of Bounds.

After several downs and ups we reached the end of the ridgeline just beyond point 1149 after 3½ hours from the start. The spread of pinus contorta along the ridgeline is becoming a serious problem, almost blocking the route, but poisoning of the wildings is expected soon. Then it was a 30 minute descent to the bushline just above the narrow twisted headwaters of Station Creek. We thought that the strange geography here was an example of river capture where the headwaters of Station Creek has eroded over time and changed direction into a different catchment.

It was about ten minutes through some bush, sidling above the creek to emerge on the open grassy upper valley where we followed marker poles and crossed the creek a few times. It was all easy going here for about one hour up to Wye Saddle except for a steep last ten minutes.

There were good views from the saddle down the Wye River to the Wairau Valley as we headed down to the bushline, this section being the most rugged part of the route. First was a sidle to cross a gulch amongst spaniards and some thick vegetation where we missed the track for a short distance. Then there was a step descent into bush and a crossing of a steep-sided creek.

On from there it was a steady sidle then eventually a drop down to the river. We followed alongside the small river and crossed it easily a few times, but when we thought it was all easy going, we endured a stiff climb up a spur about a kilometre from the hut, followed by a side creek with a two-metre high river bank to clamber up.

We then soon found the nice 5-bunk Hidden Hut after a solid eight hours of tramping, 2½ hours down from the saddle. Three of us took bunks while the other six set up tents in the large grassy riverside clearing. The hut location was almost completely sandfly-free, and a good campfire was enjoyed that evening. It’s amazing that the Forest Service hut book dates back to 1986 and with several pages left, should last about 40 years in total.

On a perfectly fine Sunday we set off for a return trip to Turkeys Nest Bivvy except for one person who stayed at the hut. The marked route down the river was partly in bush and partly in the riverbed for 30 minutes to reach a second side creek. From here it was a climb and traverse for another 30 minutes to a spur then a ten minute descent to a side creek in a beautiful small chasm. Onwards, it was a 1½ hour steady and steep climb, then a short sidle and a final short climb to emerge out of the bush after three hours from Hidden Hut.

Just across a small trickle of a steep-sided creek was the 2-bunk Turkeys Nest Bivvy precariously perched at the end of a spur, 10m away from a 20m cliff face. The bivvy was high enough to easily stand up in, but was very narrow, with hardly enough room for a person to turn around in. The bivvy was originally installed for pine planting work in the area and has a hut book dating back to 1999 and averages less than one group visiting per month.

After enjoying the good views down to the Wairau Valley we returned the same way to Hidden Hut in 2½ hours.

There was high cloud on our return trip on Monday making for very pleasant tramping conditions. It was not much quicker on the return as it was a steep climb back up to Wye Saddle. There were still good views across to Scotts Knob and Mt Patriarch as we returned down the long ridgeline with short stops necessary about every hour, as our energy levels were dropping.

We reached the cars after a full 7¾ hour day to complete a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend trip to the back of beyond. Quite a few goats were spotted in both valleys but not another person was seen all weekend to show that this great tramping area is well off the radar.

Distances covered: day 1: 12.8km, day 2: 8km and day 3: 12.8 km (total: 33.6km).

The group was Esther (Leader), Eric, Robert (Scribe), David S, Di, Pete, Simon, Jo (Nelson TC), and Scott (Nelson TC).