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April 2019 Issue
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Climbing Devils Staircase after a visit to Jubilee Hut in the Silver Peaks Scenic Reserve. Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography
The steep, nasty, overgrown places sporting the name Devil.

Given New Zealand’s often tortuous, sometimes even torturous, terrain, it’s perhaps not surprising that many more names feature ‘Devil’ in them than ‘Angel’.

Steep, nasty, overgrown, downright dangerous – any number of backcountry places sport hellish names that no doubt reflect someone’s bad experiences. Curiously, the North Island seems to have far fewer – one being Devil Creek, a tributary of the Tararua’s Waiohine River.

The South Island has dozens. For example, Devils Thumb – a prominent knoll near the start of the Wangapeka Valley, in Kahurangi National Park. Further south, the Big Devil and Little Devil creeks merge near Twenty Five Mile Hut on the Rees-Dart Track, in Mt Aspiring National Park. Even Fiordland’s heavenly Milford Track has its dark side; the Devils Armchair, a blunt-faced peak with steep ramparts, overlooks the Ada Valley.

So where might you get to grips with the devil, while still having an enjoyable tramp? Here are four suggestions.

Kill Devil Track, Kahurangi National Park

The steep track leading into the Waingaro Valley near Takaka is often known as the Kill Devil Track. This is the beginning of a four-day traverse around the Devil and Anatoki ranges, passing some fascinating historic huts en route: Tin Hut, Riordans Hut and Waingaro Forks. From the Waingaro Valley, you might get glimpses of Devil River Peak, the highest summit in the area. Beyond the new Soper Tent Camp at Lake Stanley, the track crosses a low, forested saddle into the Anatoki Valley.

Devilskin Saddle, Lake Sumner Forest Park

This park offers some of the country’s best tramping, although it seems to get far less attention than the better-known national parks nearby. An excellent trip is the route to Nina Hut and then up a steep track to Devilskin Saddle which is occupied by the small Devils Den Bivouac. Above, a peak known as The Devils Rampart (1740m) offers a challenging scramble. In good weather, trampers can exit out to SH7 along the delightful Sylvia Tops.

Satan Saddle, Adams Wilderness Area

The Adams Wilderness Area, located in the rugged central Southern Alps, boasts some of the finest ice plateaus in the country, namely the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Allah. Satan Saddle connects the Garden of Allah with the Lambert Glacier, while the nearby Beelzebub Glacier descends into the Adams Valley. Perhaps they describe the fall humankind took after Adam and Eve tasted forbidden fruit? We have 1930s explorer John Pascoe and his Canterbury Mountaineering Club companions to thank for the imaginative names, including the nearby Angel Col and Eves Rib. The gardens are most often accessed from the head of the Rangitata River, and comprise serious terrain that will require trans-alpine equipment and experience.

Devils Staircase, Silver Peaks Scenic Reserve

Although not named on maps, this steep section of track forms part of the route over the Silver Peaks to Jubilee Hut, one of the many comfortable, well-sited DOC huts built over recent years. While steepish, the track is no more difficult than most tramping tracks, and hardly hellish.