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Kahurangi from East to West

A 10 day tramp from Mount Arthur to Heaphy River, traversing the Karamea and Beautiful Rivers, Center peak, Dommett Range and Gunner Downs. Then a quick jog back to Golden Bay via Heaphy track. Accompanied by wonderful tramping companion Rebekah (who taught me how to use a compass again) we faced some wild weather, great views, fresh veges and cold toes!

Day 1 – Hitchhiked from Nelson to Ngatimoti. Staggered up the 1 in 5 road to Flora Carpark. Slept in Gridiron rock shelter.

Day 2 – On-track walk across the Cobb tablelands and long descent to Karamea river. Slept in Karamea bend hut.


Day 3 – Strolled down Karamea River, crossing many times. Scrambled over some gorgy bits, big boulder hopped, got lost in a thicket or two, ended up at Roaring Lion hut. A great back-country hut, no visitors for a couple of months, and perfect for resupplying with rice after realising our trip was to be 10 not 8 days! Trout fishing guide said Beautiful river became “very difficult going” after first 2km. So it did! I fell in the river, followed deer trails, camped beside a slip in a cold air stream.


Day 4 – Followed deer trails up Beautiful River. Hooray for deer! A perfectly formed, min-tramping track meanders through mossy boulder and gut. Circuited Lake Barfoot. I wanted some views so we climbed a ridge to the tops. A 600m climb took 3 hours. There mist and cloud poured over the main divide, Mount Dommett covered in fog. Center peak loomed seemingly unclimbable. An early stop saw us camp on the tops to super views.

Day 5 – Rain overnight cleared to top notch views over the Tasman Wilderness. Center peak was an easy climb, soon we looked over heart-shaped Lake Aorere. Just in time we enjoyed our views before rain descended. A short scrub bask, pop around the lake and rocky climb took us to a saddle to the North of Mt Dommett. Then a long and lost descent/sidle(whoops missed the ridge) saw my usual grumpyness at ending up on top of a steep bluff in the bush. The west side has much thicker bush and bigger creeks! We decided to climb and in failing light chose a poor campsite. Rain intensified and I woke up in a puddle, damn! From here on we had no escape route- we had to continue!

Day 6 – Slowly climbed to the ridge crest. Navigating towards the Gunner Downs required some tricky bush and compass work. Luckily Rebekah was up to the task and showed me what to do- thanks! Following compass bearings we turned south and gained the scrubby ridge as the wind, rain and hail made it difficult to walk, forcing a lunchtime fly-camp and sleeping bag stop to warm up. Luckily the wind slowed and mist cleared enough for us to see the only trig within 10km! We were on the right track and a break in the rain showed a lovely, flat ridge ahead. Camped along here on nice moss.

Day 7 – Dropped down through lumpy, rocky holes to the Gunner Downs. Where showers of hail welcomed us. A huge boulder seemed to have a cairn on top- sure enough a spacious natural rock shelter took us in for lunch of dehyd scambled eggs (amazing stuff) pinched from Roaring Lion hut. The Gunner Downs are a large tussock area with numerous rock outcrops, overlooking the Tasman Sea. Following a creek then compass bearings took us to the point where we needed to head north. Then I proceeded to get us truly lost by changing the bearing, instead of sticking to one. In dense mist, then driving hail and sleet, we wandered around getting cold and upset until sensibly stopping and camping on the tops. the fly performed admirably in what was a wild night!

Day 8 – At 7am a lucky break in the cloud allowed us to spot the ocean and some landmarks to the north. We set off, only for the thunder and lightening to arrive and freeze us with rain, hail, then 5cm of snow. Not much good for the toes in running shoes! In an amazing example of the power of human instinct, we continued north until finally deciding to bear NW towards our descent of Bellbird ridge. And how happy we were to see permalat track markers! Following the 30-year old, unmaintained track downhill was difficult but saved us a day and a half of bush bashing in steep, west coat kiekie jungle. Arrived at Heaphy Hut and camped in the shelter.

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Day 9 – 40km walk along the Heaphy track. I love the Heaphy, its a fine walk. Camped on the Gouland downs.

Day 10 – 25km walk downhill to Bainham. My Mum and Dad arrived to meet us bearing hot soup and muffins which we scoffed sitting outside the Bainham store.


Comment from Andrew Barker
Time: March 11, 2008, 9:14 am

I’ve had a chance to browse the rest of your site. Great source of ideas worth trying for myself. Fantastic!

Comment from Liz Wynne-Jones
Time: May 8, 2010, 9:34 pm

Great to read of your trip. I think we & our 2 boys met you near the end of the Heaphy & drove you partway out till we met your parents car coming the opposite direction. The Bainham feed rings a bell! Are you still teaching at Nelson College & tramping??

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