Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rex Simpson Hut, Mt Gerald Station, Mackenzie Country

Mon 07.03.16. As I wanted to climb to Rex Simpson Memorial Hut, Map ref: BY17 091514, I drove along Lilybank Rd, below Two Thumbs Range, from Lake Tekapo village, 30 kms along Lake Tekapo E shore, past Mt Hay Station, past Richmond Station, past Round Hill Ski Field turnoff, deep into Mt Gerald Station. Just across Coal River Bridge, I turned right at DOC's Te Kahui Kaupeka (Gathering of the Waters) sign & parked my car 800 m along the road at the DOC carpark. A DOC sign at the carpark stated it was 2 km to Mt Gerald Station / DOC boundary; 5 km to Rex Simpson Hut; 6 km to Camp Stream Hut.

I'd found DOC signs false in the past. My Topo50 map, guesstimate distance from the DOC carpark to Rex Simpson Hut - 7 kms. DOC did straight line estimates on a map & didn't include all the curves & loops in a tramp.

It was an easy walk to DOC's boundary sign, past a matagouri banked stream, flowing in a glacial kettle hole down to Coal River & Lake Tekapo & past red deer paddock fences. At the boundary gate another DOC sign read: 3 km Rex Simpson Hut; 4 km Camp Stream Hut.

A month ago I'd set off to find Rex Simpson Hut, but beyond the boundary fence, DOC marker poles were obscured by matagouri, so I missed the uphill turn at the third marker pole. From there the path followed an old fence up glacial terraces, first through matagouri, then tussockland. Instead I wandered along Mt Gerald Station boundary fence, a high, red deer fence, to Mt Gerald Stream fencing & back. Along the way I found a red stag skull with 10 point antlers, which I backpacked 8 kms to my car.

I counted 4 dozen cattle grazing in matagouri land beyond Mt Gerald Station fence. Every stream I crossed was full of cow shit! Soft ground near the streams was eroded by cattle hooves. Why did DOC & ECAN allow cattle to pollute high country streams?

The tramp to Rex Simpson Hut was steep, beginning at 800 m at the DOC carpark, then rising 500 vertical metres to a farm road in tussockland at 1300 m where another DOC sign read: Rex Simpson Hut 1 km, Camp Stream Hut 2 km. After nearly 3 hours uphill tramping to the sign, I knew the DOC signage was false, as my walking speed was 2-3 km / hour, on flats or in high country.

Rex Simpson Hut nestled on a Mt Gerald N-S slope with grand views of Lake Tekapo, Alpine ranges, Godley River Valley & Macaulay River Valley. Rex Simpson Hut was locked, owned by Alpine Recreation. A small side room with 2 bare bed boards was left unlocked for anyone caught out by bad weather. After using the stinking long drop toilet, I returned to my car. Estimated return distance: 14 km. Walking time: 5 hours. Hill walking fitness, food, water, all weather gear required. Cell phone coverage was poor, unless facing distant Mt John, SW end of Lake Tekapo.

Mon 14.03.16. I climbed up to Rex Simpson Hut again, 2.5 hours this time, as I knew the way. I wanted to climb above Rex Simpson Hut to lower Snake Ridge, 1500 m. Snake Ridge went all the way up to Beuzenberg Peak 2073 m, a distinctive ridge & peak in the the Two Thumbs Range, seen from Lake Tekapo village about 30 kms away.

At a stream above Rex Simpson Hut I topped up my water bottle & slogged up to lower Snake Ridge top through snow tussock & over rocks & bogs. There was a path to lower Snake Ridge top, but it was obscured by tussock. I found the path later on my way down.

Snake Ridge top, undulating at first, then sinuous, gave grand views: E over tussock land & Camp Stream high valley below Mt Braun Elwart 2086 m, W across flat topped Mt Gerald 1551 m, Godley River, Lake Tekapo, Mt Mistake, Pikes Peak & Gammack Range. Beyond I saw snowy Mt Tasman, but Mt Cook was hidden by cloud. SW across Lake Tekapo, Old Man Range, Ben Ohau Range & other ranges were seen. Mt John was a glacial, scoured lump, SW side of Lake Tekapo. E side of Lake Tekapo progressively larger lumps were seen: Wee McGregor, Mt Hay, Mt Edward, Mt Ardmore, Mt Richmond, above Round Hill Ski Field.

From Snake Ridge top, NE across Camp Stream tussock valley, Mt Hope 2086 m, N beyond Mt Braun Elwart was seen, Stag Saddle joined Mt Hope to Beuzenberg Peak, all forming Camp Stream headwaters. From lower Snake Ridge, where I turned back at 1 pm, a full day's climbing was needed to ascend Snake Ridge to Beuzenberg Peak & return to Rex Simpson Hut.

My walking times: Coal River, DOC carpark up to Rex Simpson Hut & lower Snake Ridge top - 4 hours. Return to DOC carpark - 3 hours. Estimated distance - 18 kms. Height: DOC carpark to lower Snake Ridge top - 700 vertical metres. Hill walking fitness, all weather gear, food, water, NZ Topo50 maps required. Terrain: steep & harsh, no cover.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.