Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mt Owen, Kahurangi National Park

With the excuse of the annual New Zealand Geology conference and Aaron lining up some work in Nelson we took the opportunity to have a long weekend and do some tramping in Kahurangi National Park. We had seen some amazing pictures from the glaciated karst region of Mt Owen and decided that we had to go and see it for ourselves. So after being delayed a day due to heavy rainfall we headed up the valley to the Mt Owen carpark. We had to cross a few rivers - but fortunately they had all gone down enough to get our little hire car across. The road grader was also just going the other way and despite having just cleared the road had caused another little slip. So we spent a few minutes clearing a few boulders off the road with the help of the DOC ranger that had come along. Finally we set off from the car park at Courthouse Flats - an old mining site.

The track up along Blue Creek was lovely to start, but then climbed steeply up the side of the valley with lots of tree branches down from the recent storm. Then we got up on to the ridge, where we started to get some great views from the top of the staircase. After a relatively hard tramp in which took about 4 hours we got to the relatively new Granity Pass Hut (rebuilt in 2008) at 3pm and spent the afternoon sitting in the sun reading our books. We had a peaceful night in the hut with no one else there and just the wind howling past the hut.

Granity Pass Hut

The next morning we headed up the moraine towards Mt Owen. There was still some patches of snow on the mountain and we lost the track about 3/4 of the way to the top - but it didn't matter as we just found our own way. The limestone rock is really grippy so it was really easy to climb around on it and explore. The scenery really is very different from anything else we have seen in New Zealand.

Playing in the limestone crevasses - the classic photo found in all the guide books!

More crazy limestone outcrops

Climbing up Mt Owen we were in the lee of the hill and out of the wind. But when we got to the top we were almost blown off. We didn't get much of a view either as the clouds were still hanging around the summit. However, as we descended the clouds lifted and we got to see the mountain in all its glory.

The eponymous Mt Owen

Back down at the hut by 3pm and a group of 12 from the local tramping club turned up. So we had to share the hut and with some impressive snorers it wasn't quite such a peaceful night. It was also the night of the general election - so quite a bit of talk about politics.... we had to wait until we came across the first store on our drive back to Nelson before we found out the result. Great to hear that so many green party MPs were elected!

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