Thursday, December 7, 2017

Misty Mount Nimrod, Hunters Hills

Wednesday 06.12.17.  At sparrows' I drove 35 kms from Pleasant Point to DOC's Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve via Cave, Cannington & below Hunters Hills by Back Line Rd, the last 9 kms gravel road. Close to White Rock River, a wallaby bounced across the gravel, surprised during its dawn water quest.

After scorching summer days, a misty morn, I tried to text Leah to tell her I was on my way. No luck, Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve campsite, at 400 m height, had no cell coverage. I would try higher up. I tried to text Leah at the beginning & during my tramps for safety & progress reasons. I left her with a Topo50 map with my intentions, just in case. Having climbed Rollesby Range, Dalgety Range & Grampian Range over the last 5 weeks, I hadn't seen a soul on my climbs, just flora, fauna & grand Alpine views.

Today would be different due to misty Mt Nimrod. For an hour I climbed the steep zig-zag track for about 1 km, through native bush in the Nimrod Stream gorge. The going was humid & slippery over wet rocks & leaf litter. Dominant trees were Melicytus ramiflorus whiteywood with some Fuchsia excorticata & Griselinia littoralis broadleafs. Understorey: mainly ferns & vines, like Ripogonum scandens supplejack & Rubus cissoides bush lawyer. On the way up, I surprised another wallaby which stopped, having a good look at me before vanishing into bush. At the top of Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve track, bush diversified into Leptospermum scoparium manuka, tussocks, Phormium flax, Astelias & Dracophyllum.

At the top of Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve track, DOC recently made a new track by a farm fence, joining at a new DOC gate the recently opened 5 km Hunters Hills Conservation Track, an easement through tussock grassland along Hunters Hills farm tracks to the Hunters Hills Conservation Area including Mt Nimrod, 1525 m & extending NW almost to Mt Nessing summit, 1601 m. The easement was part of a maze of farm tracks criss-crossing Hunters Hills.

At the start of the easement track, on a new DOC gate & a farm fence, contradictory DOC & police signs said:

Dept of Conservation
Te Papa Atawhai

Public access through
       private land

No firearms to be carried
Keep to marked access
Please leave gates as found
Do not disturb stock

                Police Support
           Safer Communities

Persons are advised this property is
Listed as a member on the national
          Anti-poaching register.
All persons entering must obtain
Permission from the landowner or
      Occupier before entering or
             Face prosecution.


The easement track sidled past Hunters Hills tops in the mist, which obliterated views. I passed through 4 new DOC gates, visibility about 50 m, often less. Farm gates & other farm track signs said:

       NO ACCESS

Alpine flora: Tussock grassland converted to farm grassland in places, associated with Discaria toumatou matagouri, Celmisia daisies, Gaultheria snowberries, Dracophyllum, Aciphylla speargrass, lichens, Scleranthus, Donatia, Cyathodes & sphagnum moss mats.

It took me 2 hours wandering up the 5 km easement track, well marked with DOC marker poles, except after the 4th DOC gate on a saddle where DOC marker poles weren't close enough to see in the mist. I wandered downhill on a farm track until I realised I'd run out of marker poles & slogged uphill again. (Hint: More marker poles near saddles DOC, or else I wouldn't be the only tramper lost in the mist!) 

Near the end of the easement track at about 800 m height when the mist lifted over Francis Stream Valley, 3 older gents passed me going fast. They each had the usual trampers' gear: map, boots, gaiters, shorts, shirt, jacket, water bottles in backpack pouches, hat, aluminium walking sticks. Camera & binoculars optional. By another DOC gate at Francis Stream I refilled my water bottle. During the 3 hours I wandered Hunters Hills Conservation area I saw no DOC marker poles, but enjoyed alpine flora.

After crossing Francis Stream the 3 older gents sidled around the NW end of Mt Nimrod, into the mist. Non competitive, I followed at a more leisurely pace, climbing the misty, stony track for 2 hours to about 1200 m height.

I stopped for lunch by lichen covered rocks in the mist. I texted Leah, no problem at 1200 m. Although my Topo50 map said I was on Mt Nimrod NW ridge, roiling mist obscured Mt Nimrod summit completely. Although I'd climbed through mist for 5 hours, I wasn't cold. Noon sun shone thorough mist, causing sunburn.

I was high on adrenalin & endorphins. I returned from whence I came. No good summiting misty Mt Nimrod without any views. On my way back the mist lifted a bit, so I saw some pointy Hunters Hills, steep valleys, Nimrod Stream & the farm track maze. Due to mist, I never saw Mt Nimrod summit that day.


Climb: 800 vertical metres.

Total return distance: 16 kms.

Included one way: 1 km bush track, DOC Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve.
5 km DOC easement track to DOC Hunters Hills Conservation Area.
2 km to 1200 m height NW track up Mt Nimrod.

Total time: 9 hours (excluding lunch).

Time included:

1 hour up Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve bush track.
2 hours up DOC easement track from Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve to DOC Hunters Hills Conservation Area.
2 hours from Francis Stream up to 1200 m, Mt Nimrod NW side.
1 hour down from Mt Nimrod NW side, 1200 m to Francis Stream.
3 hours down DOC easement track & Mt Nimrod Scenic Reserve track to DOC campsite.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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