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January 2016 Issue
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Hunter’s bivvy hideaway

The author departs Bob’s Camp Biv. Photo: Jo Stilwell
Area
Mt Thomas Conservation Area
Distance
9.69km
Total Ascent
1051m
Time
4-5hr
Grade
Easy/Moderate
Accom.
Bob’s Camp Biv, two bunks
Access
From Hayland Road, off the Oxford to Loburn Road
Map
BW23

Bob’s Camp Biv, Mt Thomas Conservation Area

With a forecast of torrential rain on the West Coast I needed somewhere east of the Divide, relatively sheltered from the predicted gale-force winds, and, as I was going solo, no large rivers to cross. Scrutinising my maps of the Canterbury Foothills, I spied a biv I had never heard of: Bob’s Camp Biv, in Mt Thomas Conservation Area.

From the Wooded Gully picnic area and car park there are three different options to gain the ridge leading to the biv. The Summit Track climbs steeply through pine forest and traverses the tussock summit of Mt Thomas (1023m), while the Wooded Gully Track zigzags its way to the ridge, following a stream as it climbs gently through beech forest. Then there’s the Ridge Track, my track of choice. Finding the start was tricky, as a walk along a confusing array of forestry roads is required. It took me a couple of attempts to find it – cross the stile at the locked gate at the northernmost end of the picnic area. Follow the forestry road for about one kilometre, taking the second formed road on the right. The track starts a short distance up this road.

It was worth the effort to locate the start of the track, though. I love the directness of spurs and ridges and this track went straight up, through pine forest initially but eased on reaching the mountain beech forest.

The nor’wester was howling and I was thankful for the shelter of the forest.

It was an easy three-hour walk up to the ridge and tussock clearing where I could turn right to the summit of Mt Thomas, or left to Bob’s Camp Biv. Too windy to stop for long, I downed some biscuits on-the-go and imagined the view obscured by large black clouds spilling over the mountains. A further hour and a half along the undulating, mostly bush-covered ridge and I was at the next red tussock clearing where marker poles guided me down to the biv.

I’d left town late so I arrived just on dark. The cute wee biv has a barrel roof, a design I hadn’t seen before.

Reading the hut book, I learned that ‘Bob’ was a hunter who had an established fly camp here before the biv was built. In the morning, the weather had cleared and with the sun straining to break through the beech canopy I wandered back up to the ridge and enjoyed the views stretching east across the Canterbury Plains to Banks Peninsula, and west to the Craigieburn Range.

For a fleeting moment, I considered walking out via Pinchgut Hut, along the Cattle Peak and Whare routes, but I abandoned this thought pretty quickly. The view on top was too inviting, the sun too warm and I was feeling too lazy. Besides, I told myself, it’s always good to leave something for next time.

I headed back along the ridge and then down Wooded Gully Track for my return journey. Expecting to simply go through the motions of walking down a zigzag valley track, I put my camera away and set off for a quick walk back to the car. But I was soon slowed down by the beauty and diversity of this south-facing valley track, meandering past impressive large Halls totara and a lush understory of ferns, and even a few rimu and tree ferns in the lower valley.

I eased my pace, not wanting to rush, savouring the moment. This mid-week recharge had been all I had hoped for and I was in no hurry to get back to town.
– Jo Stilwell

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