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December 2020 Issue
Home / Trips / Nelson-Tasman

Browning Hut via Pelorus Track, Mt Richmond Forest Park

One of the many swing bridges that criss-cross the Pelorus River. Photo: Keri Algar
Distance
35.2km
Total Ascent
2145m
Time
Car park to Middy Creek Hut, 7hr; To Browning Hut, 7-8hr; To Hacket car park, 2hr
Grade
Moderate/Difficult
Accom.
Middy Creek Hut ($5, six-bunks), Browning Hut ($5, eight-bunks)
Access
Maungatapu Road end, off the Nelson–Blenheim Road at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve
Map
BQ26, BQ27
GPX File
Pelorus Track-Browning Hut (gpx, yo 26 KB)
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East to west across the Richmonds

Great pleasure and satisfaction are to be taken from walking over a dividing range. The Pelorus Track leads up its eponymous river valley and over the Bryant Range before dropping into the Aniseed Valley on Nelson’s side.

The Te Hoiere/Pelorus River is a pretty river whose green-hued swimming holes I’ve swum in many times during summers past.

Yet the tramp surprises; it is somewhat rugged, semi-remote, and crosses varied landscapes.

From the trailhead, the track is immediately surrounded by New Zealand’s most common forest, beech. Of the 6.4 million hectares of native forest in New Zealand, two-thirds have beech in them and of those two thirds, half are almost entirely beech. Until the early 1880s, the Pelorus Valley was still forested, but a bush tramway and a sawmill built in 1881 saw most of the lowland bush milled into the early 1900s. Amid the mixed beech, the Pelorus Valley is speckled with remnants of ancient podocarp species including rimu, totara, kahikatea and mataī.

It doesn’t take long to reach Emerald Pool, which we were underwhelmed by, despite reports of it being an ideal picnicking area.

The track was spongy underfoot and everywhere ferns and saplings dripped with moisture. The track steered away from the river and it was a slow and steady climb to a ridge.

Reaching the crest, the track zigzags back down to the river and is steep in places. It took four hours to reach Captains Creek Hut, then another two hours to reach Middy Creek Hut.

Interestingly, we noted that in the hut books the majority of trampers passing through the Pelorus are international visitors walking the Te Araroa Trail.

The next day begins with another swingbridge – and that’s the last time we glimpsed the Te Hoiere/Pelorus River. Twenty minutes later the path reaches a junction where the Pelorus Track branches left and follows the river, mostly in the bush, sidling aside the Bryant Range to Roebuck Hut. We followed the Te Araroa Trail to Rocks Hut at around 800m, just south of Dun Mountain in the Bryant Range.

It’s a continuous steep uphill hike for 2.5hr to the hut. It’s the closest hut to Nelson and features 16 bunks and a flushing loo with expansive views over the Richmond Range.

From the hut, it’s five hours west along the ridge through the bush, over hillocks and the occasional rock outcrop. There’s a pleasant section that opens into a tussock area with wide views into Nelson Bay. Then the track drops to Totara Saddle, which is also where the Pelorus Track ends. Then, it’s the sometimes steep and slippery Browning Track to Browning Hut for the last night, before around two hours’ walk through the pine forest and across knee-high rivers along the Hacket Track to reach the road end car park.  

– Keri Algar

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