Friday 24 February – Sunday 26 February 2023
Mt Owen, Kahurangi National Park
FRIDAY – DAY ONE
It was an early wake-up before two carloads grouped in Richmond, then joined up with another car in Wakefield. The twelve of us drove in convoy to the carpark at Courthouse Flat, and at about 9.30am we were kicking off.
It’s a stiff climb up the ridge between the Granity and Blue Creeks, with a welcome break where the Ridge Track meets the Blue Creek Track. Upwards once again until we reached the clearing above the bushline where great views were had. Then it’s through the forest to a saddle and a sidle under Billies Knob. Before lunch we had a detour through the beech trees to Di’s secret lookout viewing spot.
Lunch and photo time was had at a clearing in the sunshine, plus plenty of us sampled the tasty snowberries en route.
Then it was down the dreaded Staircase - a tricky steep downhill and alongside big marble bluffs. It’s flat going afterwards, past the old prospector’s hut in the trees, and the last stretch of the route is up the dry riverbed of Ghost Creek to Granity Pass Hut.
Arrival was at 3.30 pm and we had covered just over 8 km, with breaks and an hour-long lunch stop / side trip to the lookout.
We had the 12-bunk hut to ourselves on Friday night, with some of the eleven choosing to tent.
SATURDAY – DAY TWO
We woke up to a cool but fine morning and left Granity Pass hut in good time, just after 8am. Penny had left earlier to meet up with Pete (who we hadn’t seen since the carpark and who had camped at the tarns) and explore further afield. An hour or so from the hut we arrived at the tarns, just below the rocky peak of Mt Owen. Those of us camping there that night pitched our tents and we had morning tea.
The ten of us then set off together for the second stage – scrambling, climbing and balancing over limestone outcrops at the base of the mountain. It was tricky and slow going. Those of us getting cold feet at what might lie ahead were reassured by Jeanne that the worst was almost over! Di kept us all together so we could follow the best route through the rocks.
Once through the rocky labyrinth, the going got easier and we climbed steadily up narrow
tracks well marked by cairns. We arrived at the top just before 12pm – it took about 2 hours to climb up from the tarns. We had great views of our wee tents below. The top of Mt Owen is relatively flat, and it was easy picking our way through the limestone outcrops to the summit cairn.
A young kea flew over and landed on a rock close by. What a show! Di explained it was a young bird as it still had yellow around its eyes and beak, and probably a male. Watching the kea was an absolute highlight.
As were the stunning views from the top across Kahurangi. But a cold wind got up and we headed into the lee of a rock to eat lunch. Reluctantly we left the top to head back down.
We arrived back at the tarns and tents early afternoon. Those six of us camping had a glorious relaxing afternoon and evening taking lots of photos of reflections in the tarns and a spectacular sunset.
SUNDAY – DAY THREE
We regrouped on Sunday morning. Four had braved the over-capacity hut, two had slept in tents outside, and six had pitched up tarn-side to watch an epic sunset. From the hut it was a drizzly 9am start for the intrepid 11 ladies (plus Pete) on Day 3 - Granity Pass Hut return to Courthouse Flats
Setting off with a spritely pace and mindful placement of feet on wet river stones we re-traced our Day 1 route back to the carpark. First up - Dracophylum, lancewoods, magical moss and bloody speargrass through lush green paths in high spirts we strode. Vibrant banter was punctuated only by the occasional cry of a playful kea above the canopy.
Ascending the slippery Staircase was daunting especially for those of us carrying tents. But microbreaks, mental fortitude, and camaraderie got us up before our well-deserved tea break as we broke out of the forest at our first day lunch stop.
After arriving back at the trail junction and having another microbreak, we took the alternative Blue Creek Track route to Courthouse Flat to form a loop. The descent post -rainfall was… “challenging”. A steep slippery rooty, rocky, off-camber slip-and-slide with the occasional tree to clamber over. It provided a few comedic falls and plenty of dollars were paid into swear jars. A generous amount of Werther’s Originals were required for some to descend this trail in one piece.
A welcome dip in the Resurgence for some of the bravest among us was followed by a quick lunch break by the relics (NOT the senior members of the group – actual relics of mining). The day finished with a very welcome, 20 minute sure footed flat-trot back to the car where bumblebees, Nashi pears (thanks Jeanne) and smiles were abundant.
We were: Diane (Leader), Deb, Chrissie & Jo (scribes), Jamila, Sue, Jenny, Anna, Jeanne, Penny, Tessa and Pete