History and hills
The Torlesse Range is one of the most accessible weekend destinations for Christchurch trampers. And yet, apart from perhaps climbing Mt Torlesse, Foggy and Castle Hill peaks and visiting the iconic Gap, the range usually only gets superficial attention.
Climbing to the ridgeline of the Torlesse Range, this overnight trip to Broken River Hut offers fantastic variety: spectacular tops travel, a cosy hut, imposing gorge scenery and geological and historical curiosity.
We parked near the DOC sign indicating the track to Avoca Homestead. A short walk and a bone-chilling crossing of Broken River and we were at the renovated homestead where a young family had cranked up the heating. But we were not lingering – already I was feeling anxious about whether we had enough time to complete the planned crossing of the Torlesse Range from Bold Hill and down Lansdowne Spur as it was late in the day.
We followed an old 4WD track leading south from the homestead until tussock and patchy scrub provided good access to the northern slopes of Bold Hill. We gained the crest of the Torlesse Range a couple of hours later, where stunning vistas of the Waimakariri Basin and a biting-cold wind greeted us. We enjoyed a rushed lunch sheltering under some forlorn beech trees that somehow got separated from their friends further down the slope. The healthy amount of birdsong coming from the bush was a comforting antidote to the ill effects of the howling wind.
From here, it was a straightforward walk along the range to Lansdowne Spur on a mix of tussock, scree and snow, and initially we made good progress. I was starting to think that we might not become benighted after all. However, my companion Liz was plagued by repeated cramps in her legs. Rummaging through my first aid kit I found a possible cure – electrolyte powder intended to treat dehydration. We were also running low on water due to a lack of a re-supply along the dry range. Spurred on by the encroaching darkness and an incoming nor’westerly, Liz soldiered on. A final sidle on moderately steep scree with patchy snow brought us to the top of the well defined Lansdowne Spur, which we descended under a setting sun. Near the bottom of the spur, we dropped west into Iron Creek at the 580m contour to avoid bluffs and reached Broken River Hut as the last of the light was fading. We settled in for a cosy night in front of an open fire and a well-deserved meal.
The next morning, we woke to a light pitter-patter on the roof which, given our intended route down the Broken River Gorge, I found less soothing than usual. The gorge’s numerous crossings required a lot of focus, but when not tackling the river we marvelled at the beauty of the limestone formations and cliffs. We came across remnants of an old coal mine and bridges, which, along with the Avoca Homestead built in 1908 and the Midland Railway viaduct near the car park, added interest to an all-around satisfying and stimulating trip.
– Nina Dickerhof
- Total Ascent
- Car park to Avoca Homestead 20-30min; Homestead to Broken River Hut via Lansdowne Spur, 6-8hr; Hut to Avoca Homestead 2hr
- Avoca Homestead (4 bunks), Broken River Hut (4 bunks) Note: Broken River might not be passable after heavy rain or during snow melt
- Craigieburn Road