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November 2017 Issue
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Into the Alps

Crossing the Hopkins River, en route to the valley headwaters. Photo: Tomas Sobek

Upper Hopkins Valley, Ruataniwha Conservation Park

Ranger: Kevin Donoghue, Te Manahuna/Twizel

With glaciated peaks, beech forest, a braided river and a variety of huts and tracks, biodiversity ranger Kevin Donoghue says the Hopkins Valley offers a week’s worth of alpine exploration.

The valley, which extends from the head of Lake Ohau, has six huts leading up to a rock bivvy at the top of the valley, below the impressive Richardson Glacier, which rolls off Mt Hopkins (2678m) and Mt McKerrow (2650m).

Donoghue says the Upper Hopkins is a highlight, starting from the four-bunk Dodger Hut, beneath Mt Ward (2645m).

“It’s one of the best huts in the area,” he says, adding: “The far end of the valley, under the glacier, is a stunning place. You’re looking straight at the southwest face of Mt Hopkins, which is one of the most impressive mountain faces in the country.”

There are multiple valleys branching off the Hopkins, including the Huxley, Temple and Elcho, with alpine passes into the neighbouring Landsborough Valley.

Donoghue first visited the Hopkins while doing possum control and plant species monitoring.

A majority of Donoghue’s work involves protecting the nationally endangered pittosporum patulum tree and the declining species, beech mistletoe, both of which are found in the valley.

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