Day 1 (27/12/2019)
After spending most of the day packing and getting ourselves sorted, we headed away from Nelson in the early afternoon and drove over Takaka Hill and then up to the Cobb Reservoir. It was blue and sunny and warm as we set off towards Balloon Hut. The weather changed abruptly as we reached the ridge and we put more clothing on as we reached Lake Peel.
The strap on my pack was being a pain and we stopped for a quick-tie fix below the track, out of the wind and drizzle. It was quite unpleasant but we weren’t far from the hut and as it appeared from out of the fog, I could smell smoke from the fire.
It was warm and luxurious inside and not at all crowded so we decided we’d definitely stay. The NZ orienteer Lizzie who I met in Europe in 2011 was there with her mum so we chatted to them while we sorted out our stuff. Dinner was an interesting mix of fresh veggies with a pre-made bag curry, also quite luxurious. We looked over the maps after dinner and asked ourselves whether we would get very far. The terrain around the Garibaldi looked very steep. But that was a problem for future us.
Above: The three of us before setting off. All smiles.
Above: It was sunny as we left and we had a nice view down to the Cobb Reservoir.
We left Balloon hut fairly promptly at the very un-forne time of 8:30am. It was cold and windy but the rain had gone. As we descended into the Leslie it began to get warmer. The track was wide like a great walk and it dropped at a fairly constant and happy rate.
After a while we reached Splugeons Rock Shelter. It looked like a tent from a distance with one wall a plastic flap that could be rolled away. The front was a bright red colour but it looked quite nice tucked in the bush. We stopped for a break and something to eat. I managed to let my camera roll off down the slope and fall over the cliff near the shelter. I heard a thud and slight crack as it bounced again something on the way down. Pat headed down to look for it, optimistic that we’d find it. Amazingly he did, and more amazingly the camera still worked with just a small mark near the flash.
We continued walking down the river arriving at Karamea Bend Hut early, around 3:15pm. We debated over a cup of tea whether we should try and get up onto the Garibaldi range in the evening. Happily for me we decided against the idea. Instead we checked out the river crossing for tomorrow, washed rapidly in the cold river water and lazed at the hut.
We covered 23 km today due to the good condition of the track. Tomorrow will be quite different.
Above: The rivers were very nice looking.
Above: We scoped out the Karamea river for places to cross.
We left Karamea Bend Hut in the morning and used the pack raft that pat was carrying to cross the Karamea River. Pat ferried us and our packs across fighting against the current each time to get back.
It was then into the start of the climb. We headed up the ridge to the Garabaldi Range. The forest was surprisingly very open and we could ascend reasonably quickly, slowed down only by the weight of our heavy packs.
Later along the ridge it turned to scrub and the going got much harder. We took breaks to recover from the effort. The terrain became wilder. We picked our way around big sink holes and large boulders. On the right hand side of the ridge was a huge cliff that we were careful to stay clear of. At one point there was a fissure running in front of us. You would disappear along way if you fell down. Pat and Georgia jumped over it. I found a route around it.
We made our way up to sandy peak. Our intended place to stop was still far away and it didn’t look easy going to get there. It was already 6 pm so when Georgia spotted some water in a brown tarn below the ridge we decided we should set up camp there. Due to the limestone sink holes water doesn’t seem to hang around here long.
We cooked up dinner in a little depression near the tarn and then when the clouds rolled in, the wind increased and it began to drizzle slightly, we crawled into our tents.
Above: Pat carried a small pack raft which allowed us to cross the Karamea River without getting our feet wet. We thought we might need it later in the trip too but in the end we did not.
Above: After crossing the Karamea we ascended the ridge towards the Garibaldi Plateau. The bush was surprisingly open and easy to travel through. It became a little more difficult and scrubby near the top.
Above: There were some sections of the ascent that were quite steep.
Above: The terrain was interesting with big cliffs and drops.
Above: As it was already late in the day we decided to camp near a small tarn on the North side of the ridge near Sandy Peak. I found a tent peg lying on the ground which made us think of a story we’d heard of an earlier trip that went wrong. A storm came through in the night, destroyed their tents, and they had to get off the ridge in the middle of the night. Amusingly the story came from the people we met in the Karamea Bend Hut.
It was a cloudy start to the day but as we ate breakfast at our camp site the sun poked it’s way out.
We set off towards the plateau sidling along the edge of the cliffs. We could see down into the bush clad valleys and funky cliffs. We stopped for lunch at the edge of some mist that was threatening to come in.
After lunch we clambered through a number of small ravines using the spaniards and other plants to hold onto on the steep and exposed terrain. I didn’t enjoy this and was out of my comfort zone. After about an hour we got through and realised we could probably have gone over the top. Oh well.
It’s one thing to be clambering around on steep terrain using just snow grass and scrub to hold onto but it’s something else to be doing it with a 25 kg pack.
We had a chat about our goals and decided we would try and get off the plateau to the South towards silvermine river. We wandered down to the edge of the plateau to a spot where the contour lines on the map looked steep but not cliff like.
It turned out that the map wasn’t entirely accurate and there was cliff to our left and right. Pat went for a closer look and was able to find a small gut that looked possible to climb down.
I was out of my comfort zone again and Georgia was too by the sound of it but after some contemplation we decided to give it a try. Pat set up the kayak throw cord he was carrying around a tree on the edge and Georgia carefully climbed down the steep rock onto a ledge. We lowered the packs down to her and then climbed down ourselves.
Pat took the rope with him and we set up for the second pitch. He tied it around a scrubby tree growing in the rock and we did the same again.
Having got down the cliff the next challenge was to descend into the valley without getting bluffed out on the way. We picked our way through the rocks, huge boulders that reminded me a bit of castle hill. Behind us in a huge arc were bands of steep cliffs some a reddy colour.
We had some unpleasant scrub bashing and then got into some denser bush. Pat and Georgia navigated us down into the valley. We had to back track a few times due to unmapped creeks with deep sides and patches where it seemed like it would get too steep.
We got down to the river just after 7pm. It was nice to be by running water again. There were little waterfalls and it was pretty. The view back up to the cliffs was amazing.
We continued down the stream to the main river and were happy to find an ideal camp spot on the true right. It was flat and someone had been there before as they had started to build a wall against the wind.
We washed in the river and set about pitching tents. Pat cooked up a hot meal and we sat above the river and ate occasionally glancing back up to the imposing cliffs above.
Above left: We walked along the ridge towards the Garibaldi Plateau. The ridge was steep to our left but had a gentler gradient to our right. Above right: We had a traverse through a series of steep guts coming down from the ridge that were exposed and not so much fun. After traversing we realised we could have walked further along the ridge instead.
Above left: We decided to descend to the South into Silvermine Creek. This involved a steep descent off the plateau. Above right: More steep descent.
Above: After our descent down the cliffs at the top of the picture we were in an amazing boulder field. It’s hard to imagine how the rocks ended up where they have.
Above: Pat and Georgia navigated us down into the valley below through thick scrub to begin with followed by easier going bush.
Above left: The views into the basin were amazing. The bands of cliffs looked impressive. Above right: The cliffs didn’t leave many options for getting into the basin. The route we took comes down from the right through the bush.
Above: We found a nice campsite at the river further down in the main valley. The weather was holding and the stars were out in the evening.
We set off up the river in the morning. It was still, sunny, and blue. The river was the same strange red rock which reminded me more of Australia or Mallorca.
After an hour or so we bashed up through the bush to a flat tussock area where we ate lunch. I felt like spending a couple of hours there looking at the view and napping. We could see across to the huge cliffs we had come down next to yesterday and the entire ridge line looked impressive.
Unfortunately there was not any napping to be had and instead we carried on up through trees and scrub until we got to the ridge line. We walked along the ridge line to a peak where we could see out to the west coast and the sea. The clouds rolled in from the West coast and everything disappeared and then appeared again.
We continued along the ridge to a very steep section. The clouds had receded luckily and we climbed up to another peak using the grass and bits of rock to assist. It was exposed and a bit uncomfortable with a heavy pack. All went well though and we walked down along the ridge until we reached more scrub.
We had planned to traverse along the ridge further and then drop down through forest to an open section where we had planned to camp in the tussocks. The scrub on the ridge looked awful though and we didn’t fancy spending the next hours trying to get through it.
Instead we dropped directly off the ridge, walking down steep grass until we got into the forest. We descend to Jupiter creek and walked down it until we found a place to camp next to it. We are all pretty tired so we were quite happy to stop.
We washed, had dinner, and got into our tents. We could hear and see lots of weka around our camp in the evening.
Above: Sometimes it was pretty hard to navigate even for our ace navigators. Pat used his tree climbing skills to get a better view of the terrain as we ascended out of Silvermine Creek.
Above left: After quite a tiring day we set up camp in the river bed in Jupiter Creek. Pat did the cooking as usual and we spread out our dirty clothes in the trees. Above right: Happy campers.
We left our camp site by the river and walked down Jupiter river to join the Karamea. It was a warm muggy day. The sun cast a strange red light through the hazy white sky which lit the bush in unusually warm colours.
The travel down the river was not as difficult as the bush bashing of the previous days but it wasn’t lightening fast.
We reached the confluence with the Karamea and had lunch by the river. As it wasn’t far to Crow Hut we decided to take it easy. I drank a cup of tea lying on a bit of and I found near the river. Pat found a good flat rock to recline on and Georgia found her own spot of sand.
We stopped for a swim in a big deep green eddy later on. The water was cold but not horribly and it was refreshing after walking in the hot humid air.
We reached the very tidy 12 bunk Crow Hut and drank more tea.
Above: The whole trip was very scenic.
Today involved a lot of track walking, 30 km in fact. It was sunny and calm for most of the day and we splashed around in the river a couple of times as we headed up the Leslie River and back to Baloon Hut.
We walked out early from Balloon Hut arriving back at the car around 10 am. We drove back to Nelson via the Thai restaurant in Motueka. Yum.
Above left: Almost finished! Above right: We finished with smiles and in sunshine ready for our stop at the Thai Restaurant in Motueka on the way back to Nelson.
Above: An overview of the route.
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