Buzzing at winter on Mt Bee
The first objective of our weekend getaway was Cromel Base Hut. From there, the plan was to climb to the Mt Bee Bunkrooms and then follow the ridge along the Mt Bee North Track to Cromel Branch Hut.
We managed to drive our 2WD more than half the distance to Cromel Base Hut, leaving just a two-hour walk to the tidy hut nestled in the trees. It easily accommodated our party of seven.
Next morning, we made the slog up to the Mt Bee Bunkrooms. The track is steep and in the lower parts had been overtaken by a stream due to rain the night before. As we made the 500m climb, we were greeted by traces of snow and before long we were navigating pole to pole on the tops in 15cm of the white stuff. This poled section is relatively short and it briefly joins the Mt Bee 4WD track which connects to the Irthing Road through private land. We soon found ourselves at the bunkrooms, which proved to be a convenient place to have a snack. The hut sleeps eight and the adjacent cooking hut looked cosy although parties must take their own wood.
We continued north along the track, walking in quad bike tyre tracks to avoid the worst of the snow. The views over Southland and the Eyre Mountains were spectacular and made a nice backdrop for the day’s walk. It is worth making the five-minute side trip to Pt1246 as the view is even better from there.
The track continues down the ridge past Pt1203, giving access to Irthing, Upper Cromel and Cromel Branch Huts.
From the saddle between Irthing and Cromel streams, the track heads west and descends to the Upper Cromel Hut Route trail. The scrub is thinner here and we made quick progress. From the track junction at Cromel Stream, it took 15 minutes to reach Cromel Branch Hut. Socks were hung out to dry and we made ourselves at home in the seldom-visited six bunk hut.
Our route out followed a tributary of Cromel Stream for a few kilometres, climbing to a saddle. The trail then heads up over a 795m high point and along the tops before dropping back to Cromel Stream. The track can be a little soggy and we had to keep our wits about us to avoid being led astray by all the deceptive game trails.
The descent to Cromel Stream was a little overgrown and was punctuated by some large treefall. After a couple of hours, we found ourselves at the stream. Despite the previous day’s rain and snow, we could ford the stream without difficulty. From there, it was only 1km to Cromel Base Hut.
Back in familiar territory, it didn’t take long to reach our cars to finish a nice trip in a less-frequented corner of Southland.
– Sam Harrison
- Total Ascent
- Two days. Five Rivers homestead bridge to Cromel Base Hut, 2hr; To Cromel Branch Hut via Mt Bee Bunkrooms, 6hr; To homestead bridge, 4hr
- Cromel Base Hut (free, six bunks), Mt Bee Bunkrooms (free, eight bunks), Cromel Branch Hut (free, four bunks)
- Through Five Rivers Station or the Mt Bee 4WD track