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October 2012 Issue
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In search of solitude

Paradise in the Upper Crooked Valley. This area sees few visitors
Grade
Difficult
Access
The Crooked River is just south of Lake Brunner (Moana) on the West Coast. Park on the Lake Brunner/ Rotomanu Road junction and walk up the gravel road. The track starts on the true left of the Crooked next to the old bridge piles
Map
BU20, BU21
Lake Morgan Hut, Greymouth Stewardship Land

The Crooked River is tucked away on the West Coast, near Greymouth. Its tracks and huts see few visitors and make a good place to escape for a while.

From Crooked River Reserve, the track heads up river, at one time dropping into the heart of the narrow gorge where the river is squeezed between bands of schist.

I enjoy tramping in rain and it is amazing how quickly a West Coast river can rise when in flood. Around 400m before Jacko Flat Hut, a usually small side stream was chocolate brown, deep and un-crossable. It was dark and the car six hours back the way I’d come. I bivied under a small dripping rock – perhaps tramping in the rain wasn’t so enjoyable after all.

In the morning, the creek had dropped enough for me to cross and dry out in Jacko Flat Hut. Out the window I watched creeks on the tops cascade down – the rain unrelenting. I threw another log on the fire and settled in for the day.

The hut log contained the usual anti-DOC lines complaining about the use of 1080, hut maintenance and everything in-between. Mostly though, the comments where about the lack of work being done on local tracks. A tramper, a regular to the hut, had written a response. ‘DOC won’t fix it. They don’t have the funds nor the philosophy to. This isn’t DOC’s hut, it’s ours. It’s our responsibility to keep these trails open – they’re our history. Bring a pair of loppers next time you come up here.’

DOC is responsible for looking after a huge network of tracks and huts, and maintaining it all must be a mammoth task.

The trail to Top Crooked Hut is marked and is easy travel. The upper valley is broad, the river flows gently between inviting green pools – a contrast to the rugged lower Crooked River. Top Crooked Hut is perched on a river terrace and is a basic four bunker with a striking mountain backdrop and is well worth the long walk in.

The next section of track, heading up to Lake Morgan is steep and best described as a ‘good honest grind’.

The tops where clagged in and I lost the marker poles in the mist, delaying my arrival at Lake Morgan Hut until just after dark. Navigation was difficult in the dark and I had stumbled down through some bluffs and marshes below the lake before eventually finding the hut.

This area is seldom visited. The log book dates back to 1985, is half full and contains entries from New Zealand Forest Service workers.

The trip down to Crooked Road is a memory I would rather forget. Visibility was poor, navigation difficult and involved a long and testing bush bash through scrub. I dropped off a ridge at Pt1251, just south of Bryn O’Lyn Peak. There is a old overgrown track here with the odd markers left. At the bottom of this ridge is a track next to spot height 422 which I followed to the road end and then back down to the Crooked. I wouldn’t recommend this route as it took a full day to get back to the Crooked Road end. A route along the tops above Morgan River would make a good alternative.

If you’re heading up the Crooked, the trip involves some long days, traverses rugged country and shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially in poor weather. The trip doesn’t get the use it deserves – it’s a classic and if you’re looking for a spot to find some solitude you could do a lot worse than the Crooked River.

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