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November 2021 Issue
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See more … Mistakes

Mistake Biv in Ruahine Forest Park. Photo: Shaun Barnett

Not all mistakes are bad. Take these three, for example, which should be on your wishlist.

Any tramper who has navigated in the backcountry of Aotearoa can appreciate the appropriateness of the name mistake. Who hasn’t made a mess reading the map, confused the contours, blundered in the bush or had an incident in the icefall?

Naturally, before maps existed, geographic mistakes were even more common. If anything, it’s a wonder the backcountry doesn’t have more names with mistake in the title. 

We have a Mistake Gully, Col, Creek, Hill, Spur, River, Basin, Flats, Biv, Hut, and Mount, plus a number named for foolhardy people (Taylor, Murray, Sinbad, Monro, Black and Logan). And for variety, driving through the Haast Pass Highway, from Burke Flat, you might enjoy a glance up Blunder Spur.

As long as you get your bearings correct, here are three mistakes that trampers will enjoy visiting.

1. Mistake Biv, Ruahine Range

Mistake Biv was built by the Forest Service in the 1960s, one of several dog-box style bivouacs constructed along the length of the Ruahine Range. The bivouac lies in the headwaters of Apias Creek, and can be accessed upstream of Rockslide Biv, or from the tops near No Mans Hut. It’s been considerably modified from its original design, and last time I visited (in 2017), the logbook went back to the 1980s.

2. Mistake Flats Hut, Canterbury

Mistake Flats are associated with a notable navigational blunder in mountaineering history, which resulted not in disaster but in a surprising and satisfying outcome. In March 1910, Jim Dennistoun and Lawrence Earle hired mountain guide Jack Clarke to climb a peak called McClure (2486m). The trio ascended the Forbes River, a tributary of the Havelock, and only after getting a considerable distance up their target mountain did they realise they were in fact on the considerably higher and harder D’Archaic (2875m). From here, which they named Revelation Col, the climbers decided to carry on – even though it meant an unplanned and thirsty night out. And so they not only completed an historic first ascent, but sorted out the area’s previously confused topography. 

After a long tramp up the Rangitata River from Mesopotamia, trampers can enjoy a night at the six-bunk Mistake Flats Hut, located at the junction of the Havelock and Forbes Rivers.

3. Mistake Creek, Fiordland National Park

Most people driving SH94 through the Eglinton Valley are so intent on reaching Milford Sound that they ignore some wonderful country en route. Trampers wanting a good challenge might like to try this two-day circuit, which uses a track in Mistake Creek, accessible from a footbidge over the Eglinton River. From flats at the head of Mistake Creek, a steep rocky staircase leads around a waterfall up to U Pass (1395m) – a highly distinctive notch in the ridge. The route descends a faint trail over steepish scree to reach Hut Creek (which ironically has no hut). Down valley, pick up a track to complete the circuit back to the Eglinton.