Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mt Oxford Summit, Canterbury


2010. Oxford Road Signs: Coopers Creek

I drove about 60 kms from Christchurch, across Canterbury Plains, to Coopers Creek, via Tram Road and Oxford, as I wanted to climb Mt Oxford (1364m) via Mt Oxford Track, then descend the long way round to Coopers Creek via View Hill Mt Oxford Track and Ryde Falls Track. A strenuous circuit walk, distance approx 18 kms. My times:

* Morning / afternoon ascent from Coopers Creek, Mt Oxford Track to Mt Oxford summit: 4 hours.
* Late lunch and coolpixing on Mt Oxford summit: 1 hour.
* Afternoon / twilight descent from Mt Oxford summit to Coopers Creek, View Hill Mt Oxford Track and Ryde Falls Track: 5.5 hours.

Caution: Hill walking fitness, water, food and weatherproof gear are needed for Mt Oxford climb and descent.


2010. Coopers Creek Road Sign


2010. Coopers Creek view of Cloudy Mt Oxford

1. MT OXFORD TRACK to MT OXFORD SUMMIT (1364m). 4 hours.


2010. DOC Map, Mt Oxford Walks


2010. Possum Poison Sign, Coopers Creek

On my drive to Coopers Creek, I coolpixed Oxford road signs and cloudy Mt Oxford. At Coopers Creek Carpark I coolpixed the DOC map board, info board and a WARNING POISON sign stating cyanide pellets were used to kill possums.

Starting Mt Oxford Track, I crossed a stile at Coopers Creek Carpark and read signs:

<- VIEW HILL 3 1/2 hrs
<- RYDE FALLS 2 1/2 hrs
MT OXFORD SUMMIT 4 hrs ->


2010. Wooden Bridge, Coopers Creek. Cloudy Mt Oxford backdrop


2010. Gates & Hut, Coopers Creek

I turned right and crossed a wooden bridge over Coopers Creek.


2010. Coopers Creek. Cloudy Mt Oxford backdrop


2010. Beehives, Coopers Creek


2010. Sheep, Coopers Creek


2010. Coopers Creek Paddock & Cloudy Mt Oxford

For the first half hour Mt Oxford Track was a farm road going through paddocks, firstly through Coopers Creek flood plain, with Coopers Creek flowing on my left, and scores of bee hives on riparian shingle on my right. Mt Oxford Track rose above Coopers Creek bank then went through paddocks with scattered gorse, broom, kanuka and beeches.


2010. Payton Lodge, Coopers Creek. Cloudy Mt Oxford backdrop

I passed wooden Payton Lodge where Mt Oxford Track forked left into beech forest by a sign: <- MT OXFORD SUMMIT 3 1/2 hrs.

For the next 1 1/2 hours I would climb through beech forest up a Mt Oxford ridge.


2010. Dewy Grass, Payton Lodge, Coopers Creek


2010. Mt OxfordTrack, Payton Lodge, Coopers Creek

Firstly DOC fence standards with orange plastic tops marked the beech forest track, with gorse and kanuka lining the track. Soon red and white aluminium tags marked trees on Oxford Track. Due to recent rains the track was wet, slippery and muddy, so my shoes, socks and pants were soon sopping.


2010. Wooden Bridge over Coopers Creek, Mt Oxford Track

In wet beech forest, Mt Oxford Track passed a big rock, and by a fallen beech I recrossed Coopers Creek over a wooden footbridge. In ferny undergrowth the track rose up the ridge.

Along the way I smelt honeydew, and saw wasps feeding on honeydew, and beech trunks blackened by sooty mould also feeding on honeydew, excreted by scale insects. I climbed soggy wooden steps and in dripping understorey I passed ferns, tree fuchsias, wineberries and five fingers.


2010. Beech Forest, Mt Oxford Track

Mt Oxford Track became wet, white clay through wet grass and trackside kanuka, gorse, broom, bracken, blackberry undergrowth.

The track veered left following a fence up the side of the ridge, and continued up the ridge crest, with glimpses through beech canopy of a breech-forested ridge on my left, and another beech-forested ridge on my right.


2010. Beech Forest Undergrowth, Mt Oxford Track

Through beech canopy ahead I glimpsed cloudy Mt Oxford. Behind I glimpsed Canterbury Plains. Although forest near Dunedin had burnt for days, with NZTV news showing tired firefighters and helicopter pilots, I thought Mt Oxford beech forest had no chance of burning: too wet. My pocket notebook became soggy and frayed. Protecting my camera from damp, I moved it along my belt from my hip, like a sporran.


2010. Broadleaf, Griselinia littoralis, Mt Oxford Track

Half an hour up the beech-forested ridge, I stopped for a CocaCola break, and watched a fantail flitting through beech branches. In understorey I passed horopito, bush lawyer, old man's bearded beeches, lancewoods and broadleafs, Griselinia littoralis. Funny classification "littoralis" - shore - as Mt Oxford had broadleafs far from the Pacific.


2010. Broadleaf, Kanuka & Beeches, Mt Oxford Track. Canterbury Plains backdrop


2010. Beech Forest, Mt Oxford Track. Canterbury Plains & Malvern Hills backdrop


2010. Mingimingi, Broadleaf & Kanuka, Mt Oxford Track


2010. Kanuka & Beeches view of Mt Oxford Track Ridge

At a ridge bend, passing through a kanuka glade, I saw clouds had risen above Mt Oxford summit. I had views of Waimakariri River, a grey slash across Canterbury Plains, and Summerhill and Malvern Hills rising above Canterbury Plains. Port Hills and Banks Peninsula were obscured by haze, with cumulus clouds over Banks Peninsula.

Back in beech forest, someone had cut gorse, leaving a dead pile beside the track. Ineffectual, considering the gorse biomass I'd passed in the kanuka glade.


2010. Dappled Beech Forest, Mt Oxford Track


2010. Dappled Beech Forest Undergrowth, Mt Oxford Track

After two hours climbing Mt Oxford Track, I emerged through the beech line into dracophyllum scrubland, with tussockland on higher summit slopes. I would slog another two hours before summiting Mt Oxford. At the beech forest / dracophyllum ecotone I saw a mix of low horopito, low, white-flowering Hebe odora, astelias, celmisias and matagouri.

The higher I climbed the grander my views of Canterbury Plains, Waimakariri River, Malvern Hills, hazy Banks Peninsula and cloudy Southern Alps. Below Mt Oxford beech forest, at the start of Canterbury Plains I saw Coopers Creek and Oxford.


2010. Dracophyllum Scrubland above Beech Forest, Mt Oxford Track


2010. Dracophyllum Scrubland view of Canterbury Plains, Mt Oxford Track


2010. Celmisias & Old Mans Beard in Dracophylum Scrubland, Mt Oxford Track


2010. Dracophyllum Scrubland & Beech Line, Mt Oxford Track. Canterbury Plains & Malvern Hills backdrop

After an hour's climbing through dracophyllum scrubland up the exposed spur, I'd passed several cairns and fence standard markers with orange plastic tops secured by stones on the stony track.

Wispy cloud crept over Mt Oxford summit again, and westwards through cloud breaks I saw Torlesse Range, and grander views of Canterbury Plains. Long past midday I was hungry, my breakfast of toast, tea, hot cross bun insufficient.


2010. Mt Oxford Track view of Canterbury Plains


2010. Mt Oxford Track Rocky Ridge view of Canterbury Plains


2010. Sub Alpine Ridge, Mt Oxford Track

Near Mt Oxford summit, in tussockland I followed marker poles ever upwards. Having grown up in SA, seeing Southern Alpine plants for the first time in their native habitat was a delight.

On other walks up Mt Thomas and Mt Richardson, I'd seen wild dracophyllum, celmisias, astelias, Alpine hebes for the first time in my life. Below Mt Oxford summit I saw whipcord hebes, a first for me.


2010. Mt Oxford Track view of Canterbury Plains & Cloudy Banks Peninsula


2010. Mt Oxford Track view of Mt Oxford Summit


2010. Sub Alpine Celmisias & Whipcord Hebes, Mt Oxford Track


2010. Mt Oxford Summit 1364m

Reaching Mt Oxford summit, I placed a small stone on the summit cairn, hoping future wayfarers would have as windless and sunny a stay as I had on top. I thought atheists would have their opaque views shattered on top.

I checked out the survey beacon and solar-panelled aerial apparatus. I sat by the low stonewall shelter, and scoffed my ham and lettuce sarmies and CocaCola, while admiring sublime views.


2010. Mt Oxford Summit view of Waimakariri River & Canterbury Plains


2010. Mt Oxford Summit view of Waimakariri River & Canterbury Plains


2010. Mt Oxford Summit view of Oxford & Canterbury Plains


2010. Mt Oxford Summit 1364m view of Mt Oxford Eastern Summit Ridge & Oxford Hill 1340m


2010. Mt Oxford Summit Cairn view of Oxford Hill. Lees Valley left, Canterbury Plains right


2010. Mt Oxford Summit Cairn view of Lees Valley & Puketeraki Range


2010. Mt Oxford Summit view of Lees Valley & Puketeraki Range

As clouds swirled past Mt Oxford summit, I coolpixed almost 360 degree views: beyond eastern summit ridge, Mt Richardson and Mt Thomas; west of Mt Oxford massif, Lees Valley and Puketeraki Range; southwards, Coopers Creek, Oxford, Canterbury Plains, hazy Pacific, cloudy Banks Peninsula; westwards, Mt Oxford western summit ridge, and beyond to Torlesse Range, and hazy range beyond hazy range of Southern Alps.


2010. Mt Oxford Summit Rock Shelter, Cairn, Geodetic Beacon & Mast


2010. Mt Oxford Summit Solar Panels & Mast. Puketeraki & Craigieburn Ranges backdrop


2010. Celmisias, Mt Oxford Summit 1364m

Besides stunted tussockland on Mt Oxford summit, I saw low dracophyllum, low fragrant hebes with white flowers, small astelias and white and yellow flowering celmisias.

Two plants I saw for the first time in their wild state: Gentiana montana, a bunch of white flowers on a stalk; Pentachondra pumila, a mat of tiny leaves and white flowers with big red berries.

Two yellow-green grasshoppers on Mt Oxford summit reminded me of SA grasshoppers in harsh habitats. A kea perching on top of the survey beacon was as interested in me as I was in snapping the kea.


2010. Gentiana montana, Mt Oxford Summit 1364m


2010. Pentachondra pumila, Mt Oxford Summit 1364m


2010. Kea on Trig beacon, Mt Oxford Summit 1364m


2010. Kea, Mt Oxford Summit 1364m


2010. Mt Oxford Summit view of Canterbury Plains & hazy Pacific

2. VIEW HILL MT OXFORD TRACK. About 3.5 hours descent from Mt Oxford summit to View Hill / Ryder Falls Track junction.


2010. Celmisias & Pentachondra pumila, Mt Oxford Summit 1364m


2010. Mt Oxford Summit zoom view of cloudy Mt Torlesse


2010. Mt Oxford Summit view of cloudy Mt Torlesse


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Puketeraki, Torlesse & Craigieburn Ranges


2010. Mt Oxford Summit western view of Southern Alpine ranges


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Townshend River, Mt Storm, Whistler River, Lees Valley & Puketeraki Range


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Waimakariri River & Canterbury Plains

After my Mt Oxford summit lunch, guided by marker poles with orange plastic tops, I descended Mt Oxford western summit ridge, a wide rocky place with bright sunlight, stunted dracophyllum / tussock vegetation, weathered logs, and magnificent views of Canterbury Plains and Waimakariri River on my left, and Lees Valley, Townshend River and Puketeraki Range on my right. Ahead rose cloudy Torlesse Range and distant Southern Alps ranges.


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Coopers Creek, Waimakariri River & Canterbury Plains


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Mt Torlesse & Craigieburn Range


2010. Pentachondra pumila, Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge


2010. Pentachondra pumila & Celmisias, Mt Oxford Western Summit ridge


2010. Gentiana montana, Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge

For 3/4 hour along Mt Oxford western summit ridge, I enjoyed Alpine plants: dracophyllum turpentine shrubs, tussocks, hairy leafed and stemmed craspidias, white and yellow-flowered celmisias, white flowered hebes, mosses, white-flowered Gentiana montana, and red-berried Pentachondra pumila. Near the end of the summit ridge, I found a Gaultheria depressa snowberry with white berries and bigger serrated-edged leaves.


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Malvern Hills & Canterbury Plains


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Puketeraki Range, Cloudy Mt Torlesse & Craigieburn Range


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Puketeraki Range


2010. Old Mans Beard on Beeches, Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge


2010. Gaultheria depressa, Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge


2010. Celmisias, Astelia & Hebe, Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge


2010. Hebe odora, Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge


2010. Mt Oxford Western Summit Ridge view of Mt Storm, Puketeraki Range & Lees Valley


2010. Beeches, View Hill Track near Mt Oxford Summit


2010. Snow Damaged Beeches, View Hill Track, Mt Oxford


2010. Beech Forest, View Hill Track, Mt Oxford

The ridge sloped down towards beech forest again, with sunny Alpine views ahead, and views of Townshend River, Ashley River, Lees Valley and Puketeraki Range on my right.

Back in beech forest, old man's bearded beeches had been smashed by heavy snowfall: masses of fallen branches below beeches for the next 3/4 hour down track, well marked with orange plastic triangles nailed to trees.

After about 1 1/4 hours downhill dawdling, I found a track fork with signs:

WHARFDALE ->
SHELTER 1 1/2 hrs


2010. View Hill Track Fork to Wharfdale Shelter, high on a Mt Oxford southern beech ridge

<- MT OXFORD 1 hr VIEW HILL 2 hrs ->

I pitied trampers trying to summit Mt Oxford from Wharfdale Shelter fork in 1 hour, as I'd wandered down from Mt Oxford summit in about 1 1/4 hours.

Turning left down the steep ridge track, through beech forest, I passed a black and white geodetic survey beacon marker nailed high on a beech trunk.

For 2 hours down beech forest track towards View Hill Carpark, through beech canopy, I had glimpses of Canterbury Plains on my left, and glimpses of Alps ahead, and Alps on my right. Going down the ridge crest, I deleted old coolpix, and scoffed a meat pie and apple and topped up with CocaCola.


2010. Dappled Beech Forest, View Hill Track, Mt Oxford

I came to a MT OXFORD - > 3 HOURS sign pointing up to Mt Oxford summit. It had taken me 3 1/4 hours solid downhill walking so far.

I joined the wide Wharfdale Shelter shared-use track (old road construction to Lees Valley) where I found two more signs:

WATERFALL ->
1 HOUR
(MTBs forbidden)

VIEW HILL
<- CARPARK


2010. Beech Forest near View Hill Track / Link Track Fork, Mt Oxford

I continued on the latter pleasantly wide track, and passed under two recently fallen beeches by other fallen beeches. I'd passed many toppled beeches on my descent, with roots, soil and rocks ripped upright.

It was a relief tramping wide track again, as I'd been braking down lethally slippery roots and rocks for two solid hours down the ridge crest. And my left braking knee was sore. Without my walking stick braking too, I'd've taken longer.

Late afternoon, more track junction signs:

<- VIEW HILL 30 mins
<- COOPERS CREEK 2-3 hrs

I went left, down-valley to Coopers Creek.


2010. Fallen Beeches near View Hill, Mt Oxford

3. RYDE FALLS TRACK. About 2 hours descent to Coopers Creek Carpark.

On my afternoon / twilight walk down Ryde Falls Track to Coopers Creek, I passed several aluminium signs below trees giving tree names and information: Wineberry... Pepperwood, Horopito... Through beech canopy I saw the steep beech ridge I'd descended... Black Beech... Kahikatea, White Pine (3 signs en route)... Pokaka... Matai, Black Pine... Broadleaf, Kapuko...


2010. Bracket Fungus on Beech Log, Ryde Falls Track, Mt Oxford

I briskly passed more signs:

<- VIEW HILL 1-2 hrs WATERFALL 1 hr ->

I passed a <-VIEW MT OXFORD sign with a lousy view of Mt Oxford obscured by beech canopy.


2010. Scale Insect Tubules with Honeydew Drops though Sooty Mould on Beech Trunk, Ryde Falls Track, Mt Oxford

Ryde Falls Track was muddy in places with branches and logs in mud to ease the way. I crossed a stile with a better view of Mt Oxford.

Further down, while late afternoon shadows lengthened over beech forest, I coolpixed views of Mt Oxford summit and the ridge I'd climbed. I passed another stile by another sign:

<- WATERFALL 2 hrs
<- VIEW HILL 2-3 hrs


2010. Ryde Falls Track, Beech Forest view of Mt Oxford Summit & Western & Eastern Summit Ridges

Twilight, I saw Payton Lodge down-valley. My left knee almost seizing, I clambered down last rocky bits, before sidling along Coopers Creek again on the opposite bank to my morning wander through farm paddocks. Coopers Creek on my left, beech forest on my right, I passed farm gorse, broom, bracken, blackberry, thistles and grass.

After going down wooden steps at beech forest end, I passed sheep I'd seen that morning by Coopers Creek wooden bridge. I crossed a stile back to Coopers Creek Carpark, and completed my Mt Oxford circuit of about 18 kms in 9.5 hours (excl. 1 hr summit lunch) solid tramping up hill and down dale.

Two vehicles were parked by my car below crepuscular pines. I wondered what walks the drivers did, or were they waiting to pick up trampers? As it was Friday, I'd had Mt Oxford tracks to myself: no students, nor weekend walkers.

Through sunset and darkness, I drove across Canterbury Plains back to Burnside.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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