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January 2011 Issue
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Diamond day

Summit rocks on Mt Iron with Lake Lockett in the distance
Follow the Cobb Dam Road from Upper Takaka on SH60 into the Cobb Reservoir. The marked track to Sylvester Hut begins on the north side of the lake near the dam
Kahurangi National Parkmap
Mt Lockett, Kahurangi National Park

Thick regrowth, laced with sharp branches, scratch over my bare legs and arms. It’s oppressively hot and my progress has slowed to a rough crawl as I check the map and slice of sky above Diamond Lake Stream in the Cobb Valley region of Kahurangi National Park.

Such niceties as a marked route don’t exist here, rather it’s a sort of a bush bash with direction. The direction being the outlet of Lake Lockett, a large almost perfectly circular body of water lying in a post-glacial cirque some 300m above me. Tantalisingly close, it’s barely 500m in a straight line, I am frustrated by the rugged terrain and scrub. On the positive side, aside from the heat, the day is flawless, the landscape captivating and overall I have made good progress.

Earlier I powered up the easy trail from Cobb Reservoir, keen to get underway after the long, tedious drive from Takaka. The newish Sylvester Hut, perched in a grand location on the bush edge, was my first stop. From here I could survey a massive chunk of Kahurangi National Park and chat with local trampers before heading west toward the Diamond Lakes. This string of glittering mountain tarns punctuate the vast ragged tops east of Cobb Valley and are fitting destinations for wayfarers in these parts. Lake Lockett, the northernmost of the group, is the largest, and the hardest to reach, so I have set myself the task of a round trip from the hut passing around its shores, climbing over Mt Lockett, descending to Diamond Lake, and then climbing back to Sylvester Hut via Iron Hill, Iron Lake, and the Sylvester Lakes.

It’s a mission for sure and right now, caught in the clutches of the forest, I don’t dare think of just how far it really is or how long it might take. Tramping is often a keen reflection of life’s journey – yes, keep the big picture in mind, but just now keep your head down and get on with it. I do, and soon arrive tired and thirsty on the shores of the lake.

Sparkling in the sun, Lake Lockett fills its amphitheatre with deep blue water which I long to drink, however the southern shore is densely forested and does not allow access to any beach that I can see so I head off to a small cove I spot part way round the western side. Lunch is a welcome reprieve from the morning’s endeavours and I devour it like a man starving. There’s still work to do though so lunch is short and, thankfully, so is the climb to Mt Lockett where the view into the hinterland of the park is enough to stir the heart with imaginings for all sorts of adventures for the future. For now though I need a more immediate focus, the steep descent off the mount into Diamond Lake basin.

Tussock and scree ease the way and soon I am wading through a deep plain of tussock at the lake head. The slope above the lake leads inexorably to the summit of Iron Hill (1695m) and the highest point on this outing. I gain it slowly; the energy tank is running low, and at the top pause among the large quartz blocks to consider how far I’ve come. Lake Lockett flashes from amid her splendid isolation, while beyond there’s a mountain of ranges, steeped in the light of the quartering sun, but the day’s journey is not yet done – head down, on I go.