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November 2011 Issue
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Devil’s Box on Windy Tops

Devilskin Saddle Bivouac, Lewis Pass National Reserve
4-5hr to the bivvy
A signposted track up the Nina Valley begins at the NZDA Palmer Lodge on SH7, 6km north of Boyle Village. There is no marked route over the Sylvia Tops or off the eastern end of the range down to the Nina Valley. Blind Stream and Devilskin Stream have marked tracks
Devilskin Saddle Bivouac, Lewis Pass National Reserve

The name Devilskin Saddle has a distinctive ring to it, albeit a slightly dark one, that hints at mysterious things and something not altogether pleasant – perhaps a frightening encounter or a threatening experience. The truth is, thankfully, quite removed from these unsettling thoughts and aside from the weather up at the saddle, which is often extremely windy, the environment here is a wonderland of tall red tussocks, high mountains, and craggy faces in the centre of Lewis Pass National Reserve.

Thrown into the midst of this spectacle is Devilskin Saddle Bivvy. It’s a neat little one-roomed hut set on the crest of the saddle where it presides over the watersheds that drain the pass, Blind Stream which drops northwards into Nina Valley and Devilskin Stream (just can’t seem to exorcise that name) which descends southwards to the Doubtful Valley.

The bivvy is key to traversing the saddle between the rivers and makes for a wonderful overnight stopover. I haven’t stayed as yet, just passed through for lunch in a gale westerly before heading on to the nearby Sylvia Tops, but I relished the setting and the shelter from the wind, the marvellous view down valley, and, well, just about everything in this exquisite landscape.

The bivvy was built to replace the aging Devils Den Bivouac, down at the bush edge in Blind Stream, and is one of the best sited huts in the South Island. It seems to exude a come-stay-here ambience and coupled with the nearby challenges of Sylvia Tops or The Devils Rampart, 1740m, to the west, there is much to attract trampers to visit and to continue on around the tops for an interesting return trip to SH7.

Just don’t get bedevilled by the name over-kill, or bewildered in the mist on the tops.