Dean Nelson is based in the Twizel Area Office, he recently took his partner Sandy and nine year old twins, Ryan and Kyle to stay at Angelus Hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park. He shares the adventure with us.
For me it was a chance to revisit a hut, albeit a new version, that I had not been to since a teenager – more than several decades ago. For partner Sandy and nine year old twins, Ryan and Kyle, it was all new country. The grind up Pinchgut track and along Robert Ridge became more challenging as the temperature climbed and the gusty wind had the boys hanging on to their hats and the ridge itself at times. However by early afternoon, we were gazing out over the beautiful Angelus basin from the ridge above.
The new hut is a stunner, well thought out in every way. The large entry vestibules are great for storing boots, parkas and packs and the gleaming stainless bench tops in the kitchen are excellent. There was an eclectic mix of people in the hut that night but it was great to see a number of kiwi families. Ian, the converted Aussie hut warden gave a great talk and everyone settled off to sleep reasonably early. Fortunately the loud snorers were conspicuously absent from our bunk room.
After going to bed in fine weather, the morning was a timely reminder of how quickly it can all change in the New Zealand backcountry. A dusting of snow and blizzard like conditions greeted us. Conversation was a bit more subdued as there appeared to be a few inexperienced trampers in the group however Ian imparted good advice. Most people packed and left early but we waited for a while on the off-chance it would ease a bit. It didn’t so we rugged up in all our gear and headed out into the swirling snow. This was another new experience for our boys as although they have done quite a few tramping trips, they have always been blessed with fine weather.
Fortunately by the time we climbed over the ridge and down into Speargrass Creek, the weather eased and before long the sun was shining again. An easy wander through tussock basins, alpine shrubland and finally beech forest took us down the creek to emerge onto a gorgeous, tussock filled clearing. Speargrass hut is a much smaller building than Angelus with sleeping benches for 12 people however this creates a more intimate atmosphere. We were captivated and despite having plenty of time left in the day to walk out to the car park, we decided to enjoy the experience of being in the hills. We whiled away the afternoon in the sunshine while the boys made huts in the beech forest.
Being on the track from Lake Rotoroa, it was inevitable that other people would turn up but the hut was far from full. The only drama for the night was getting up to investigate all the noise outside on the deck and finding the fat and healthy looking ‘hut’ possum getting into a plastic container of food that someone had left outside. It took a little bit of persuading to let go!!
Nelson Lakes National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park (established in 1956) is situated in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. This park protects 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The park offers tranquil beech forest, craggy mountains, clear streams and lakes both big and small.