Uncle Roddus Tramping diary:Tramp No. 86
Mt Owen (Kahurangi National Park) 19th - 21st Febuary 2010
Finally, a trip to Middle Earth. Mt Owen had been on my wishlist for quite some time. I had made an attempt at it about 3 years ago, with the Christchurch Tramping Club, but the weather was such that it wasn't worth going to the tops. This time, my good tramping buddie Bryce and I set a date, earlier in the summer, and hoped like hell for good weather. We decided to take the northern approach, which is the most common, as apposed to the southern approach, which we attempted last time. We also decide to do the three day option as we were unsure as to how long it would take and so we didn't have to rush and we could take more time to take in the views.
Mt Owen is the highest peak in the Kahurangi National Park. It is a Mountain made from 500 million year old limestone, which over millions of years has been compressed by enormus pressures into Marble. It is, apparently a very unique arrangement in our country . The rock formations we saw are the result of eons of wind, rain, glaciers and earthquakes. The Middle Earth reference for those Lord Of The Rings fans, was because they filmed the scene leaving the mines of Moria on Mt Owen, filming for 10 days, apparently.
Took 2 days off work for this trip, leaving town around lunch time on the 18th for the 6 hour drive to Courthouse flats, an old mining town site at the northern end of Mt Owen, which is now a picturesque camping spot, if you dare camp there cos it is sandfly hell, I got eaten alive by the little buggers. The rain had cleared by the time we got there about 6:30pm. We set up camp and had tea and wrapped up to protect us from the ravenous sandflys.
We left courthouse flats on Friday morning to a glorious fine day with a southwest wind and decided to take the Bule Creek track up the mountain, past the old mining remnants, from the unsucessefull mining operations in the late 1800s. A relaxed pace and stopping for photos and checking out the Old Stamping battery got us up to the ridge track junction in about 1 1/2 hours. A bite to eat and then continued up the ridge for another hour or so untill we got to a clearing just above the staircase, below Billies Knob, where we had lunch. A steep descent down the staircase takes us into some very insteresting fauna just above the top end of Blue creek, a beautiful spot with combinations of plants I had not seen before. We then dropped into the Blue creek bed, which was very dry for a rock hop up to the end of the valley. When we rounded the bend at the end of this part we decided to stop for another rest and a nibble and a look at the map when we realised we were only 2 minutes from our destination, the new 12 bunk Granity Pass hut.
Saturday was the big day, the day where we went up onto the awesome Mt Owen. The weather was again brilliant, as predicted, but the southerly was quite brisk. Left the hut about 8:40am and went through Santurary basin and along the ridge past Sentinal hill, through low scrub and grass. The track was exellent and looked very well used and was very easy to follow as there are no pole markers, therefore it would be very difficult to find the route in the snow, but because of the nature of Owen and the many sink holes and crevasses, it would not be a good place to go when all covered with snow. Definatly a summer trip only.
Carried on past the tarns on the flat part past Sentinal hill and there we finally got to get onto the fabulous rock formations of Marble that make Owen the natural wounder that it is. As A picture tells a thousand words, I am not gonna bore you with detailed descriptions of what we saw and traveled across, as I took over 200 photos and some of the ones below well represent the spectacular scenes we encountered on this very worthwhile trip. I believe this is one of the premier tramps in New Zealand, up there with Ball Pass as one of the best ones I have done. unfortunatly it was still pretty windy on the top of Owen itself and so after hiding in a small sink hole for lunch and then a quick reconniassance and photo shoot on the tops, we dropped back down the north side for a longer lunch in brilliant sun and spectacular views of the National park around us.
Sunday was the hottest day yet with the wind dropping and so it was a hot and dry trip out back to the car at courthouse flat. We didnt muck around so much on the way out and being down hill we made good time , getting out in just under 3 hours and then the long drive home. A final mention to top off a fabulous trip was the exellent Tai, Red Chicken curry on Rice That we cooked on Friday night, one of the best tramping meals I have had, and thankfully Bryce had more than enough food for Saturday night as I stupidly left my Back Country Dehidrated meal back in the car.
Sandfly Hell, Courthouse flats
Ready to Rock N' Roll
Some remnants of the old mining days along blue creek
The old Stamping batterey, looks like it had bee restored
This is where Blue creek reemerges from under the mountain
There is a large cave system under Mt owen called the Bulmer caves, apparently still not all of it has been expolred.
A curious little fellow
Top of the first ridge looking back to courthouse flats and the Rolling river valley.
Bryce near the top of the ridge before the desent down the staircase.
After coming down the staircase looking back down the Blue Creek valley below billies Knob.
Some of the Fauna I mentioned, this lovley tree is a Lacebark.
An Impressive Spaniard flower.
More of the lovley fauna along blue Creek
Can't remember the name of these trees.
Rock hopping up Blue creek.
The New Granity Pass hut
Looking up the track to Mt Owen from the hut.
Bryce near Sentinal hill on Satursay morning.
Near Sentinal Hill, looking up at Mt Owen
Looking back to Sentinal hill.
Our first encounter with the Marble rock formations.
And more rock.
Even More rock
And some more
I got carried away with all these cool formations, took plenty photos.
Continuing on towards the tops
Finally got there.
Evidence, wearing jacket as it was still quite windy.
Bryce made it too.
looking out over Kahurangi National Park, Mt Patriarch in the center distance.
Lunch with a view.
looking down to Granity pass hut from the saddle heading to the Lookout range.
Another Closer view of Mt Patriarch on out way out on Sunday.