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Black Hill Hut via Townshend River, Oxford Forest Conservation Area

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November 2018 Issue

From river flats to mountaintop

If bushline huts and Alp views are what you look for in an accessible weekend tramp, then Black Hill Hut in the Lees Valley area of Canterbury is a winner.

This little hideaway sits at 1200m on the eastern flanks of Black Hill (1335m) at the extreme southern end of the Puketeraki Range overlooking Lees Valley and the Canterbury Plains. Climbing a further 135m in altitude to the top of the hill also reveals a massive landscape that encompasses the Waimakariri Gorge, Torlesse and Craigieburn ranges and parts of Arthur’s Pass National Park.

From Lees Valley Road, the Townshend River route begins with an 8km walk or ride up-river on a 4WD road. This road can be driven, but permission is required from the farmer and can be tricky to arrange. It’s narrow, rutted, dusty, and care is required.

At the confluence of Dobson Stream and Townshend River, the Black Hill Track heads up a broad spur towards the hut. The 4km ascent can be hot going and a bit unpleasant, but dotted throughout are several worthy viewing spots.

Once we reached 1000m, the moist environment of the mountain beech forest becomes prevalent, along with the beauty of the stunted trees festooned with old man’s beard moss.

Black Hill Hut. >em>Photo: Pat Barrett

Just past the 1000m mark is the Fosters Ridge Track, which joins with the Wharfedale Track to the south. This track could be descended and the Wharfedale followed out, east, to the Lees Valley.

From here, there’s a final trudge through bush to a modest clearing where the six-bunk hut stands.

Above the hut, the poled route quickly leads to the open tussock tops surrounding the modest bump of Black Hill. By itself, it’s an entirely uninspiring summit, but the crest offers an unexpected breadth and depth of the landscape to the west and north. What a vista, with the peaks, ranges and rivers of much of northern

Canterbury on show. It was also the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

From the tops, there is a marked route north towards Chest Peak and north and west into Salmon Creek and its small bivvy.

Dawn brought with it thick cloud and gales at the door. Time to pack up and head down the way we came up, reaching Townshend River in the early afternoon. If we ever come back, we’ll use mountain bikes to speed up this part of the journey.

Total Ascent
5-6hr to hut
Black Hill Hut ($5, six bunks)
Via Lees Valley Road to Townshend River