Sunday, 10 June 2018

Cora Lynn Station to Hamilton Hut: Arthurs Pass NP-Craigieburn Forest: 2012 + 2015

On the Te Araroa in Cragieburn Forest Park


Ive done two trips along this section of the Te Araroa Trail once in 2012 and another in 2015. The section from Hamilton Hut to SH73 is part of the popular Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track which I tramped back in 2012. I also did a day walk into Lagoon Saddle Hut in 2015, this post is a combination of photos from those two trips.


Track to the beginning of the Lagoon Saddle Track, Cora Lynn Station
Access to this section of the trail starts just off State Highway 73, at the turn off to the Cora Lynn Station. This is approximately 3-4 kilometres past the Bealey Hotel.

SH73 to Lagoon Saddle Hut: 6 km's, 3 hours

The track climbs a short distance from the car-park to Bealey Hut, a basic 6 bunk hut off on a short side trail to the right.There is space for several tents in front of the hut, the hut has toilets and a water tank you may use.

Map: Cora Lynn Station Road to Lagoon Saddle

The track starts just to the right of Bealey Hut if you are walking in a South bound direction.


Track map at the entrance to the Lagoon Saddle Track, Craigieburn Forest

Bealey Hut is an old NZFS70 six bunk hut built in the 1960's. It is in remarkably good condition considering how close to the road it is, it is a bit rustic inside but it is dry, relatively warm and well placed to start the 6-7 hour walk to Hamilton Hut.


Bealey Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park

Interior of Bealey Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park

Interior of Bealey Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park
This track runs through Craigieburn Forest Park, there is a sign about 100 meters up the track on the boundary of the park.


Sign denotes beginning of Craigeburn Forest Park, Lagoon Saddle Track

Beyond the hut the track continues to climb through beech and exotic forest. It then traverses the broad north face of Mt Bruce, initially through forest but then through open tussock country.

Start of the climb into the forest, Lagoon Saddle Track


Jon climb along the Lagoon Saddle Track


Lagoon Saddle Track, open beech forest further up Mt Bruce

About an hour along the track the vegetation changes to exotic forest, this was a trial erosion prevention planting by the old New Zealand Forest Service. These are mostly Pinus Radiata trees planted in the late 1980's.


Lagoon Saddle Track, change to exotic pine trees

There are some nice views of the large Waimakiriri River Valley once you hit the edge of the forest.



Waimakiriri River Valley looking to the head of the river from the Lagoon Saddle Track




Waimakiriri River Valley looking East from the Lagoon Saddle Track

Once out of the forest you walk through tussock for about 45 minutes before gaining the crest of Lagoon Saddle. The track condition is generally good with some swampy spots along its length.

Lagoon Saddle Track, out of the forest and into the tussock


Native mountain daisy alongside the Lagoon Saddle Track


From the flank of Mt Bruce there are some spectacular views down onto Bealey Spur and the Waimakiriri River Valley further to the West.

The tarns on Bealey Spur from the Lagoon Saddle Track


Mt Bruce, Craigieburn Forest Park from the Lagoon Saddle Track


Eventually you reach the saddle with its clear views down onto the large tarn that gives Lagoon Saddle its name. This is up towards Lagoon Saddle. From the Saddle, follow board-walked sections of the track down to the bush-line. Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Shelter (2 bunks) is a short distance lower down in the cover of the beech forest

The tarn on Lagoon Saddle from the Lagoon Saddle Track
Jon resting on the flank of Mt Bruce, Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track


First view of Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Hut, Harper Valley

Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Hut is a small 2-3 person hut near the outlet of the tarn on Lagoon Saddle. There are two bunks/mattresses with space for a third person on the floor. Fairly basic accommodation but perfectly adequate as a lunch or overnight stop.

Lagoon Saddle A frame Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park

Interior of Lagoon Saddle A Frame Hut
Interior of Lagoon Saddle A Frame Hut

Please note the area around Lagoon Saddle A-Frame Hut is very swampy with few good camp-sites. You would be better to camp in the nearby forest as it is fairly open in nature. 

The swampy land surrounding Lagoon Saddle A Frame Hut
Alternately Lagoon Saddle Hut is located across the valley from the A Frame, cross in front of the waterfall and follow the short track.

Map: location of Lagoon Saddle Hut

Lagoon Saddle Hut, Craigeburn Forest Park

Interior of Lagoon Saddle Hut...Spartan but waterproof!
 It is basically a metal shed but has a couple of platforms for beds, but is waterproof and the river is not that far away as your water source. There is no heating and no insulation so it is really cold. It can probably hold 5-6 if people are willing to sleep on the concrete floor.

  Lagoon Saddle Hut to West Harper Hut: 5 km's: 2-3 hours

The track then descends from Lagoon Saddle to the Harper River. The next section down to West Harper Hut has numerous river crossings but these are straightforward in normal weather conditions, the track is well marked and easy to follow.

In the open forest just past Lagoon A Frame Hut


Map: Lagoon Saddle to West Harper Hut


A clearing in the Harper River Valley, Craigieburn Forest
Eventually you will arrive at West Harper Hut, a historic musterers hut.West Harper Hut, with its dirt floor and canvas bunks, provides historical interest and welcome shelter in poor weather. Otherwise it is best to push on to the Hamilton Hut or stay at one of the Lagoon Saddle Huts. 


West Harper Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park

West Harper Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park

As you can see the hut is very largely still in its original condition...it is very basic accommodation. BTW, those canvas bunks are the most devilish instrument of torture ever devised by one man to punish another. 

There is plenty of space around the hut to camp if that suits you better.


The rustic interior of West Harper Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park
I stopped at the hut for a break, it may be basic but at least it protects you from the murderous sand-flies you get in the area.

West Harper Hut to Hamilton Hut:

Beyond the West Harper Hut  the route is an all weather one sidling alongside the river for about 2 hours. The Harper River is crossed on a swing bridge 20 minutes from Hamilton Hut. There is also a awesome 3-wire bridge across Hamilton Creek about 5 minutes walk from Hamilton Hut.

Walking in the Harper River Valley

The Harper River close to the swing-bridge


The Harper River swing-bridge, crossing the Harper River
In between Harper River swing-bridge and the bridge over Hamilton Creek

Eventually you arrive at Hamilton Hut, or 'the Hamilton Hilton' as local trampers call it. It is in a nice location high above the river on a terrace. Hamilton Hut is possibly the largest hut you will visit on the Te Araroa, it holds 20 bunks but I has a lot of extra space.

Hamilton Hut aka the Hamilton Hilton, Harper River Valley
There was a very handy wheel barrow at the hut which made it easy to hump firewood to the door, I wish more DOC huts had one.

Hamilton Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park
A well appointed DOC hut, Hamilton Hut has a mountain radio if you want to listen to the weather reports. There are two bunk rooms with a large communal living area.

Interior of Hamilton Hut from Tramping.net.nz

Interior of Hamilton Hut from Tramping.net.nz

Interior of Hamilton Hut from Tramping.net.nz


Access: SOBO from Arthurs Pass via SH 73 road walk or hitch to start. NOBO from Hamilton Hut, via the Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track to SH 73 at Cora Lynn Station
Track Times: 15 km's or 6-7 hours Cora Lynn Station to Hamilton Hut
Hut Details: Bealey Hut: standard, 6 bunks, wood burner, water tank, toilet; Lagoon Saddle A Frame Hut: basic, 2-3 bunks, water from stream, toilet; Lagoon Saddle Hut: basic 5-6 spaces, water from stream; West Harper Hut: basic, 5 bunks (canvas), open fire, water from stream; Hamilton Hut: serviced, 20 bunks, wood burner, woodshed, water tank, toilets
Miscellaneous:High alpine conditions over winter, watch weather in region, rivers flood easily in heavy rain, some fall and rock fall hazards. Avalanche zone from May-November.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Leave No Trace: Ethics considerations for the Te Araroa Trail


"...take only photos, leave only foot prints..."

I have a keen interest in nature and the environment so I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how I incorporate environmental concerns into my tramping. To that end I practice the principles of Leave No Trace while out in the back-country.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

Lets have a look at Leave No Trace and discus how it impacts my style of outdoor adventures


What is Leave No Trace


Leave No Trace is an ethical framework which provides us with a way of interacting with nature. The movement started in the United States in the 1990's but has since spread to various  areas of the globe. The framework is based on the realisation that the environment is fragile and under increasing pressure from mankindwe as outdoors people must all play our part in preserving it.

Irish version of the Leave No Trace principles
Leave No Trace means engaging with nature in its natural state, not altering it to suit your own purpose.Obviously there are few if any places around the world mankind has not impacted in some fashion. Following the Leave No Trace guidelines mean we can minimise our individual and collective impact on the extant environment.

The seven principles of Leave No Trace theory:

Leave No Trace has seven guiding principles, these are meant to shape the actions of practitioners while in the back-country. They promote a sustainable way to co exist within nature. 

These seven principles are:

Principle 1: Plan ahead and prepare




Principle 2: Travel and camp on durable surfaces



Principle 3: Dispose of waste properly



Principle 4: Leave what you find



Principle 5: Minimise camp-fire impacts



Principle 6: Respect wildlife & farm animals



Principle 7: Be considerate to other visitors



My approach to Leave No Trace

While I am no expert on Leave No Trace I have made a conscious effort to incorporate the seven principles into all of my outdoor activities. I also talk to people about the principles to disseminate the information as widely as possible. This is an approach we can all easily incorporate, together we can work to change everyone's attitudes.

Jon in his natural environment...


 Here are a few photos demonstrating aspects of the seven principles of Leave No Trace and how they impact on the environment.

First up...if you are camping try to camp on a durable surface like rock, sand or mineral dirt. If there is a pre-existing camp-site on these type of surfaces use it. Rather than damaging virgin bush use one of the over 200 DOC camp-sites scattered around the country.

One of the nearly 200 DOC camp-sites in New Zealand: Torrent Bay Camp-site, Abel Tasman NP


My Luxe tent set up in the established camp site at Cowshed Bay, Marlborough

Plan and prepare your itinerary and gear before undertaking any outdoor adventure. In the Army we had a saying Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance- if you plan thoroughly your performance in the outdoors will be much better. The Mountain Safety Council has a wealth of resources on planning a trip into the outdoors.

Plan thoroughly to prevent accidents...

Always, always pack out what you have packed in, do not leave litter in the natural environment. Don't burn plastics in a camp fire or wood burner. If you have space take any rubbish you find with you. Trying to minimise the packaging you use is also a good general method of environmental care.

Lucky Jon carrying the rubbish bag...

If you must start a fire make sure it is on a durable surface like rock, sand or bare mineral earth. If a pre-existing fire ring or fireplace is available please use it, try to avoid a multitude of ugly fire circles. 

Firing up the billy on sand minimises its long term visual impact...
...or use an existing fire pit!


 Better still, forget about that fire and use a small cooker...no embers, no smoke and no trace left behind!

Brew time on the bed of the Blue Grey River, Victoria FP in 2016

If you find some kind of historic structure or artefact please respect its scientific, cultural and historic values and leave it in place! Often its importance is tied to the location...removing it or vandalising it devalues its worth. This is especially important for Maori artefacts...they represent the history of their people and should never be touched.

Historic boat wrecks, Quail Island, Banks Peninsula


When I'm out tramping I stay on the tracks whenever possible, obviously this is not always possible but if there is a choice between track or virgin bush always use the track. Do not go around muddy spots on a track, doing so will encourage others and widen the track.

Following the St James Walkway in 2015, nice dry track, use the stiles and bridges provided
A muddy track...go through it not around it!

You should avoid building shelters in the outdoors unless it is an emergency. Moving the materials for these shelters can damage the local ecology by removing a natural home/food source and are visually offensive. If you must build a shelter make sure you return the materials to their original location afterwards.

Don't build shelters of natural materials unless absolutely necessary!


In New Zealand we do not have a lot of the larger mammals you find in other back-country regions of the world. Therefore our interactions with them are limited.

St James wild horses...one of the few large wild animals we have in New Zealand!


What we do have are birds...when you are out on your adventures ensure you interact with our native birds in a careful and responsible manner. Do not feed them, do not interfere with them and respect their boundaries.


Kea or New Zealand Mountain Parrot at Arthur's Pass...don't feed them!
A Weka or native Wood-hen, fearless scavengers of human detritus

When you are tramping do so in either a small group or solo. Large groups are far more likely to disturb any resident wildlife as well as causing greater cumulative damage to the flora they pass.

Tramping in a small group is less invasive to the environment


Educate yourself about the Leave No Trace principles and try to put them into use whenever you are in the outdoors.

Final thoughts on Leave No Trace

At heart I am an environmentalist, I believe that man is the most dangerous threat to the natural world. Nature is to be enjoyed but we must strive to minimise our impact upon it. For that reason I wholeheartedly approve the Leave No Trace framework.

Waimakiriri River Valley...the type of rugged beauty we are trying to preserve

When I am in the back-country I put these seven guiding principles into practical use at all times.  I would rather expend a bit more effort than deprive future generations of the right to experience the majesty of mother nature.

Me enjoying quiet commune with nature, Travers-Sabine Circuit 2018


If you would like more information about the Leave No Trace movement then check out the Leave No Trace website or look for a related programme in your local area. There are also many educational courses available which will allow you to educate others about the principles of Leave No Trace, check your local University, Polytechnic or Outdoor education provider.



The next time you go tramping I would urge you to follow the general principles of Leave No Trace, play your own small part in preserving our natural environment.

...take only photos, leave only footprints!

Useful Links: Leave No Trace

Here are some links that you may find useful:

Department of Conservation: Leave No Trace care codes

Leave No Trace.Org:  Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics

Mountain Safety Council of New Zealand: Trip planning resources 

The New Zealand Leave No Trace site: Leave No Trace New Zealand

Wikipedia: Leave No Trace