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October 2012 Issue
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21 bucket list trips: 8-14

The double Cone – Single Cone traverse is a Queenstown must. Photo: Mark Watson

Double Cone – Single Cone Traverse, Remarkables

High above Queenstown the Double Cone – Single Cone traverse on the Remarkables range is a stunner.

You’ll need a head for heights with this one, and also some technical climbing sills. Although the traverse is considered easy by competent rock climbers and alpinists, some teams choose to use a rope because of the exposure.

In summer, the traverse is a pleasant rock scramble/climb, basically sticking to the ridgeline from Double Cone to Single Cone. Some people climb it the other way, but Double to Single means you get to climb up the crux at Double Cone rather than down. There is also a tricky bit down-climbing Single Cone which can sometimes be wet or iced up, but abseil anchors are available if needed. In winter, the whole route can be covered in snow or ice, and becomes more technical.

If climbed unroped, the route can be completed in an easy half day car-to-car, but it’s much nicer to take your time and enjoy the view. Don’t be surprised to see some ‘gun’ climber flash past in running shoes – for them this is a training circuit!

While a technical route, this is something to aspire to – and if you don’t have the necessary experience or skills, there are guided trips available.

Access from the car park at the end of the Remarkables Ski Field Rd
Time 4-6hr
Map CC11

Moerangi Track, Whirinaki Forest Park

The Moerangi Track started life as a tramping track that looped around a group of three huts deep in the Huiarau Ranges. DOC has re-benched the track, done up the huts and added plenty of signage to make one of the most amazing single track rides available in New Zealand and worthy of any mountain biker’s bucket list.

Some massively tall trees live here and are almost too big to hug. The bird life is amazing with kaka screeching above, flocks of parakeets racing around the lower canopy, fat wood pigeons and the North Island robin following in search of grubs uncovered by mountain bike tyres.

The track rocks with meaty climbs that provide excellent vistas and long descents into stream valleys. There is a huge variety of riding to challenge all levels of rider. The major streams are bridged and if you want to do a return trip, you can stay in one of the huts. Or, organise a bike shuttle with the Jail House in Minginui.

Access From Okahu Valley Road-end, off SH38 south-east of Minginui. The track links with River Rd car park and the ecological area at Minginui
Distance 36km one way; 76km return
Map BG38, BG39

Hunter Valley, Hawea Conservation Park and Wills Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park

Wilson Pass – a great fine-weather camping spot on the Main Divide. Photo: Pat Barrett

Wilson Pass – a great fine-weather camping spot on the Main Divide. Photo: Pat Barrett

Huge valleys, high mountains, rugged ranges, and a pervading sense of isolation among some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the South Island are the drawcards for this trip.

The region lies between the head of Lake Hawea and Haast Pass and will normally require about a week to tramp through – allowing for some shorter days or time to climb some of the numerous glaciated 2000m peaks here. The trip could be done from either the east or west, by tramping through the Makarora or Wills valleys, or perhaps from out of the Ahuriri watershed. In any event, parties need to be fit, self-reliant and well equipped.

Though there are a few huts in the area, there are no bridges and only a few marked tracks, so tents and extra food will be essential. Basic alpine equipment is also mandatory – snow and ice often lie on the relatively low passes between the valleys.

The upper Hunter, which is a very large catchment, and upper Wills have moderately difficult terrain and grand alpine scenery which could be more fully appreciated with a camp on the top of Wilson Pass – right on the Main Divide if the weather allows.

More than anything else, this trip will provide a fascinating, and challenging journey through the heart of the wild ranges of north-west Otago, and indelible memories of a grand adventure with good tramping mates.

Access The Wills Valley can be accessed from The Hinge on SH6. The Hunter Valley is accessed from the end of Hunter Valley Station Rd
Time 5-plus days
Map BZ13, CD31, BZ13, CZ14

Otoko – Landsborough Circuit, South Westland

Camping beneath rivers of ice in the Upper Otoko Valley. Photo: Troy Mattingley

Camping beneath rivers of ice in the Upper Otoko Valley. Photo: Troy Mattingley

The head of the Otoko Valley feels remote. A solid two days bush bashing from the main highway, on the West Coast just north of Haast, finally brings the reward: the intense beauty of soaring cliffs with waterfalls and glaciers plunging between them.

There’s also a lot of history in these parts. ‘Nature’s true wonders don’t disclose themselves to day-trippers’, the explorer Charlie Douglas once wrote. Douglas spent year after year exploring the deepest, most remote, difficult to reach pockets of Westland. The Otoko was just one of the many valleys that he considered his backyard.

Upon reaching the upper Otoko, there is no easy way to get back out. Either retrace steps back down the valley, or find a way over the Solution Range and into the Landsborough.

There are two options to reach the Landsborough – Mark’s Flat or the Upper Otoko Pass. Both require another 2-3 days to reach SH6 where the Landsborough River meets the Haast.

This is a difficult journey only to be attempted in a period of settled weather. The Upper Otoko Pass is exposed, and the Landsborough is a major river to cross.

But, if you’re lucky, you might get to complete one of the great transalpine journeys, following in the footsteps of one of our great adventurers.

Access From Haast Highway
Time 4-5 days
Map BY14

Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway, Te Paki Reserve, Northland

Cape Maria van Diemen with Taupiri Island to the left. Photo: Geoff Spearpoint

Cape Maria van Diemen with Taupiri Island to the left. Photo: Geoff Spearpoint

Lying in the northernmost area of New Zealand, Cape Reinga Coastal Track offers a unique environment of sand dunes, beaches and a wide range of flora and fauna all wedged between the short-fused West Coast and the occasionally placid waters in the north.

The full Cape Reinga Coastal Trail is a 3-4 day loop from Spirits Bay to Cape Maria van Diemen and south to Te Paki Stream.

Watch orca hunt stingrays along Te Werahi Beach and revel in the remoteness of this remarkable sand isthmus. Keep an eye out for Oi – the northern muttonbird – and the giant flax snail pupuharakeke. The Te Paki Reserve is also home to one of New Zealand’s rarest trees, rata moehau.

There’s little fresh water, so be sure to pack enough for your trip. Insect repellent is advised in summer.

Access From the end of Spirits Bay Rd
Time 3-4 days
Map AT24

Manaia, Northland

Majestic views from Mt Manaia. Photo: Mark Watson

Majestic views from Mt Manaia. Photo: Mark Watson

Northland is not noted for its mountains. Sandy beaches, surf, diving and great fishing are what people expect in the ‘Winterless North’. Yet, there are also some tramping gems tucked away. A favourite is the hike up Manaia at Whangarei Heads.

With a 420m summit, Manaia is not a particularly strenuous climb, but its combination of weird rocky formations, lush rain forest, and sweeping views make for a thoroughly worthwhile 2-3hr outing.

Manaia is part of the remains of a once huge, 50km wide volcano that scientists reckon erupted some 20 million years ago. Other remnants of the old volcano include the nearby Mt Lion and Bream Head – another interesting, and longer, hike – and the offshore Hen and Chicken Islands.

The original route up Manaia involved shimmying up a rather exposed chimney just below the summit outcrop. But DOC recently built a new track that curves round the southern edge of Manaia and climbs its south-eastern flank.

The new summit viewing platform is set some way back from the actual summit. The view from here is stunning.

Below, Marsden Point oil refinery hums away, while the quaint bays of Whangarei Harbour appear rich with pohutukawa and birdsong. To the east, the wide blue of the Pacific stretches away to an endless horizon. The view is well worth the climb.

Access From Whangarei Heads Rd
Time 2-3hr
Map AX31

Heaphy Track in a day, Kahurangi National Park

Packing a weekend trip into half day of running is a good challenge, but how far can you take it? The Heaphy Track is waiting for you with around 80km of mountain running goodness.

Start early from Brown Hut. The track is of a gradient that suits a relaxing, slow jog or a fast walk as you warm up in the inky pre-dawn. That way your day will come alive under amazing morning light as you pick up the pace across the Gouland Downs. The terrain is stunning, the track a pleasure to run, but your legs will be starting to feel it. James Mackay Hut is approximately half-way and a good spot for lunch. As a big unsupported adventure run you will need to carry more solid food (and emergency gear) than you’d take on a shorter race.

It’s a long downhill into the Heaphy Valley and stunning low altitude forest. All going to plan you’ll be heading under the Nikau palms on the spectacular coastal section by mid to late afternoon, and if you end up being a bit slower (a few niggles are to be expected) don’t worry at all – you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular West Coast sunset.

You will have earned the walk over Kohaihai Bluff as you warm down. This memorable achievement should be celebrated at the Last Resort in Karamea with a great meal and rehydrating beverage of your choice.

Access From the end of Aorere Valley Rd
Time Full day to run, 4-5 days to walk
Map BP23, BP22