Over The Douglas Range
I'm about to enjoy my most serious couch-hike of the summer. I'm 'joining' the third stage of Daughter of Moosey's North West Nelson Loop Trip, walking over the Douglas Range. In her words, it's a 'brute of a route'.
Approaching Boulder Lake
The route over the Douglas Range is not a formed track, and requires good route-finding skills and visibility on the tops. A cairn every fifteen minutes is useful, and may be vital - but that pre-supposes that one can a) see the cairn and b) is going in the right direction towards the cairn anyway. Hmm...
Ah - I Remember When...
Years ago, when the Moosey legs were younger, Non-Gardening Partner and I had discussed doing this trip. We read the route guide, imagining seeing the Dragon's Teeth, the Drunken Sailor, Lonely Lake... I've always loved the idea of Lonely Lake, the name evoking a childhood Famous Five style camping adventure, maybe?
Heading for Green Saddle
The tiny huts en route are the safe havens, and they're absolutely gorgeous. The scary bits are, after all, just natural features. Daughter suggests that a bit of low cloud wasn't too bad an idea at times - better not to see exactly what was underneath that part of the ridge... Anyway, I've been so looking forward to this part of the Loop Trip. And here it is, dictated by Daughter in my kitchen - me typing furiously, trying not to ask silly questions, she calmly cooking our next gourmet meal. I'll try not to interrupt too much.
Tell Me About the Douglas Range...
- 'We were lucky to start it, as the bridge across the river at the first access had only just been re-opened, after floods. The trip kicks off with a 7-8 hour walk into Boulder Lake over Castles. Boulder Lake Hut is an 8-bunker, a gorgeous hut, with an awesome sidle at Brown Cow saddle, then a drop down onto the lake edge. Spectacular. Next day we woke up - as forecast it was cloudy, misty, drizzly, so we decided to sit it out for the day. We pottered around the lake, collected firewood, and tried not to eat too many chocolate bars. The hut was well equipped for a lazy day with 5 Wilderness Magazines, 3 BBC Wildlife magazines, and crosswords and sudoko from the local newspaper.'
- 'But the weather was worse the nest morning. We waited until lunchtime, knowing we had a 5-6 hour day. The mist didn't lift, so we set off along a well-marked goat track with cairns. It was still very disorientating in the mist. We dropped down into Adelaide Tarn just on dinner time (rehydrated rice, beans, and venison). Adelaide Tarn Hut is a 4-bunk corrugated iron shack. Only one person can stand up at one time. We went to bed early hoping (though not optimistic) that the weather would be better the next day. We were after the Big Views...'
The Dragon's Teeth
- 'Next morning we woke up just after 6am to a cloudless, stunning blue-skies day. Got going immediately - this was our Big Day, with lots of route finding. First we went up the tussock slope to the saddle above the hut, getting an awesome view of the Dragons Teeth and Anatoki Peak. Then we bush-bashed down to the Anatoki River, picked up a little goat-track, stayed off and on it for next two hours, crossed the Anatoki, and bush-bashed up a super-steep spur onto the Drunken Sailor ridge. By this time the clouds had descended, but now we were on a cairned route with a little track. We sidled around, then dropped down to Lonely Lake and Lonely Lake Hut.'
Lonely Lake Hut
Oops - a mother interruption. I couldn't stop myself. This sounded like a day in tramping heaven, and even just thinking about it was making me shiver. Such a huge trip, over such big country, with big risks and sore knees, to arrive at Lonely Lake. What a name!
'Was Lonely Lake lonely?' I asked. Daughter said no, it was a lovely welcoming little hut, a 3 bunker, having had a bit of loving restoration and renovation.
'But is the lake itself actually lonely?' I persisted. It sounded like a place where I could spend a happy, fulfilled week (or so) reading books, writing, and searching for the meaning of life. But rather than regale her with my daft, sentimental memories of the Famous Five series (a full set of which I have in Pond Cottage, hee hee), I let her continue:
- 'I'd been hyped up for this to have been a really huge day, but it was just thoroughly enjoyable. We had a yummy celebration meal - rehydrated venison con carne and potato mash, and chocolate mousse. Mum, is this getting a bit boring, doing a day by day account? It all ends up with the basics - weather and food. We could just do highlights?'
No, no, keep going, please keep going...
- 'We spent the whole next day following the Douglas Range ridge past Kakapo Peak (with some scree sidling), Waimaru peak (more sidling), and finally dropped down to Fenella Hut. We were lucky to have the hut to ourselves - it's rightly a popular hut, in a great location. We cooked up a big feed, got the fire going, did the washing, and were asleep by 8:30.'
The Douglas Range
The next day she walked down the Cobb Valley, feeling she'd finished something big, and wondering about just going home. Oops. After a pep talk from husband, and lunch at Trilobite Hut, the big trip continued as planned. Up they both went in the swirling clouds to Mount Peel, making for Balloon Hut on the Tablelands. But that's the next and last part of Daughter's narrative.
Wow. An amazing challenge completed and enjoyed, with husband's excellent route-finding making the most serious day a safe, if long one. And so part three of Daughter's Loop Trip finishes, with sore knees and a haiku to lovingly remember this 'brute of a route'. I can tell she loved every minute of it, though - can't you?
- Douglas Haiku
- Optional sidles
Around cows, over castles
Counting scree spiders
DOC does publish a route guide for this difficult trip. It may not be detailed enough for some. Small huts mean carry a tent. Carry extra food. It's serious up there.