Young guns:  Diary of a traverse from Arthurs to Lewis

Max Truell and friends from the Western Springs College Tramping Club venture out on their biggest tramp yet.

This trip was made possible with support from a FMC Youth Expedition Scholarship, with funds that came from the FMC Mountain and Forest Trust and the Maerewhenua Trust.  FMC is delighted to see trampers from secondary school tramping clubs tackling adventurous trips, as well as other local clubs providing tramping mentors. 

Western Springs College has had an active trampling club for three years. The club has grown a lot, and we usually do a couple of tramps per school term. We also started a partnership with the Auckland Tramping Club which was great for the club, with more experience, resources, and fantastic tramping trips which Western Springs College members have participated in.

In 2016, I applied for a Youth Expedition Scholarship from the Federated Mountain Clubs to go somewhere more wild and adventurous. We planned a trip with four from the Western Springs Tramping Club: myself, Anthony, Thomas and Jack, plus Jim Morrow from the Auckland Tramping Club as a mentor. However, Jack was unable to come because of an injury so Darius made a late addition to the group.

We decided to walk from Arthur’s Pass to Lewis Pass, taking a route that was not often travelled. This was a route that Jim had suggested, and made for a fantastic and appealing adventure, as there was a variety of terrain, and some great-looking remote areas. Because of the time of year, poor summer weather over the 2016-17 summer, and everyone’s availability, we had to wait till December 2017 to do the trip.

Day one

We flew down from Auckland to Christchurch, and caught a bus to the Arthur’s Pass National Park. We walked to Andrew’s Shelter to start on the tramp. We arrived relatively late in the afternoon, so we started down Andrew’s Valley Track and walked until dark and camped along Hallelujah Flat.

Day two

We continued along Andrew’s Valley Track until we reached the Poulter River.

Crossing the Poulter.

We walked along the river, and then followed the shingle bed up Ellis Stream and then we climbed up to the spur and prepared ourselves for a bush-bash. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was a cut and marked route up the spur to Ranger Biv where we stayed the night.

Day three

This was the longest and definitely my favourite. We climbed out of the bush onto the Poulter Range. There was no sign of people up there, stunning views, and even some residual snow.

We continued until the ridge descended into the bushline, and we bush-bashed down to Row Stream. We followed the stream back up into the alpine zone, until we reached a steep scree slope and followed it up to a saddle. From the saddle, we followed a stream down on the other side. Next, we traversed across to a second spur and then faced a long bush-bash through the dense beech forest (with bush lawyer) down to the Cox River. We camped near where the upper Cox Hut used to be.

Day Four

We followed Ellis Stream up to Roche Pass.

Near the top of the stream, we found that there was a track leading out of the stream onto the pass. We found that there had been another track put in recently over the other side of the pass down to the south branch Hurunui River. We were not expecting either of these tracks, as they were not marked on any of the maps we had seen. We were certainly grateful as they made the walk a lot faster. We then continued along the river-flats to Stony Stream Hut; our destination for that night’s stay.


Day Five

Today saw us crossing the south branch of the Hurunui River and then navigating on an overgrown track around Lake Mason. We crossed a saddle on some farm land, and descended back to the Hurunui River. However, we lost the track and ended up at the back of a farm house. The people were super nice though, and directed us on our way to Hurunui Hut.


Day Six

Today was a rest day, using Hurunui Hut as a base and making a trip to the natural hot pools, and taking a swim in the river.

All of the days that we were walking along the river flats were really hot and bright, and even though it was easy walking, at times it felt more tiring than walking in the steep hills.

Day Seven

We had the easy walk to Hope Kiwi Lodge along the well-used section of the Te Araroa Trail.

Day Eight

Because our progress overall was good for the trip so far, we had a spare day on day eight before our booked bus came to collect us. Because Darius had injured his knee one of the previous days and given that some long hours of walking were making it worse, we decided to make it an easy trip back, staying at Halfway Hut, which was in a great spot by the river. For an extra challenge, Jim and I climbed up Neschacker Hill, and further along the range for great views to the surrounding ranges.

Jim on Neschaker Hill

The bush in this area was really open and made it super easy to get onto the tops.

Day Nine

We had a short walk to the road end where we made camp and waited for the bus the next morning. The perfect weather, although pretty hot (and giving us some great looking gaiter tan lines), made the trip really straightforward. We never had to worry about navigation issues caused by bad weather, or any of the rivers being high – plus it was really nice not to have wet gear.

Leaving Hope Halfway Hut

One challenge faced by the party on the trip was managing Darius’ injury; although not serious, it meant we couldn’t walk as far. It was also the longest tramping trip that the four of us from Western Springs College had done; the pack weights and long days were more than we were typically used to. However, we managed it fine. Having the time for the rest, plus incorporating some shorter walking days was nice as there was no time pressure to meet the bus.

It was really great to have Jim with us as a mentor. We had a great time exchanging stories and got some pretty handy tramping tricks-of-the-trade from all his experience.

We all learned a lot from the trip. Some of this was what Jim showed us, like choosing and navigating routes without marked tracks. But a lot was just going through the experience for ourselves: getting more confident on different terrain and picking up useful tips to apply on the next trip like reapplying sunscreen on the tops!

The four of us from Western Springs College are all going off to do different things this year, but we are all keen to do another trip like this again. This trip has definitely given us the skills and confidence to lead trips in the future.

Wilderlife