Archives For tramping

By Andy Thompson, Technical Advisor Recreation, Christchurch

As a passionate hunter I love exploring our backcountry—so much country, so little time!

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River.

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River

The backcountry—its huts and tracks—are our inheritance.

For me, the places where I first took my kids on an overnight tramp, and where they shot their first deer or chamois, are ingrained into my character and our family’s folklore. It’s a legacy I want my grandkids and their grandkids to have.

Andy Thompson's family on the Kepler Track.

A day walk with the family at the bottom on the Kepler Track

I’m also one of the lucky DOC staff working with the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium, who are keen to look after and maintain New Zealand’s backcountry facilities.

The consortium is a partnership between the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association and Trail Fund NZ.

Reischek Hut.

The great wee Reischek Hut in Canterbury

My heroes are the people that go on major missions, who use these places and then choose, in their spare time, to put something back.

Andy Thompson's family on the Hollyford Track.

Whānau and friends on the Hollyford Track

This isn’t about DOC shedding its responsibilities to look after backcountry huts, this is about doing more and looking after the places where many of us spend our holidays and weekends and enrich our lives.

Stanley Vale Hut.

One of my favourite places and backcountry huts—Stanley Vale in the St James Conservation Area

So, if you’re a tramper, hunter, mountain biker, 4WDer, horse rider, caver, kayaker, mountaineer or more, and want to find out what we’re up to come check out the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium website.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway

Ever wondered what DOC rangers do in a typical busy day? Well, Rangers Daryl and Keith help look after a wonderful piece of New Zealand’s bush very close to Wellington.

Ranger Daryl Stephens at Papatahi Hut checking off a list.

Ranger Daryl making sure Papatahi Hut is up to scratch

Rimutaka Forest Park is a 40 minute drive from Wellington city.

From the Catchpool Valley (the most popular entrance to Rimutaka Forest Park) you’re only a 2-3 hour easy tramp away from six awesome DOC huts, with full kitchens—including cookers, cutlery, crockery, and firewood. One hut even has a gas BBQ, inside flushing toilet and a hot shower.

A DOC ute before being loaded up with gear.

The trusty DOC ute

As these huts are very busy someone has to make sure that they are always in good working order.

This is where Ranger Daryl and Keith come in.

Every month they load up their trusty DOC ute and spend 3-4 days at the huts, making sure everything is spick and span.

They have lots of different jobs to do. Some are fun (cleaning the toilets), and some are less so (having a nap on the bunks to make sure the mattress is comfy).

Driving the DOC ute off-road beside a stream in Rimutaka Forest Park.

Off-road

Their day starts early, loading up the ute with all they think they need, from soap and toilet paper, through to firewood, gas and chainsaws.

Ranger Daryl Stephens checking a hose pipe near the stream.

Checking the water supply

Once they are at the hut they have an extensive list to go through to make sure the hut is okay:

Clean the loos, the gutters, the floor, wash the decks, check the cookers, check the water in the tanks, check the water pipes, check windows, check all the walls of the hut, a visual inspection of the roof, check no bush is too close to the hut, check the animal traps, check the signs, remove all rubbish and of course sign the hut book!

This is done for all six huts. They also walk the main tracks and check for windfall and track damage. I’m tired just thinking about it all.

Last and not least some advice from Ranger Keith:

“Empty wine bottles do not make good candle holders as they can fall over and start a fire, so please take them home with you.”

And if you do take away empty wine bottles, Ranger Daryl guarantees that:

“You will get good tramping karma and it will never rain on your tramping trip ever again.”

Ranger Daryl Stephens inspecting the water tank at a hut.

Water tanks

So, the next time you spend a night in one of our wonderful backcountry huts think about these rangers who spend their day making it comfortable for you to use, and make sure you leave a nice comment in the hut book.


The six huts in the Rimutaka Forest Park can be booked on a per night basis and sleep 4-14. They’re perfect for families and people wanting to know for sure that they have a bed for the night. They are also sole occupancy huts (meaning you don’t need to share with anyone else!). These huts can get busy, so it’s best to book early.

Haurangi Hut | Jans Hut | Turere Lodge | Raukawa Hut | Papatahi Hut | Boar Inn

Snow blanketing the Croesus Track is today’s photo of the week.

The Croesus Track crosses the Paparoa Range, between Blackball and Barrytown, on the West Coast of the South Island.

It is a beautiful and easy walk—ideal for people new to tramping.

Croesus Track blanketed in snow. Photo: Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Originally constructed in 1881, the track is an old mining trail and features many historic sites, as well as a variety of vegetation, wildlife and panoramic views.

The track is now the premier mountain biking track in the Greymouth area.

Photo by Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today’s photo of the week was taken on the Rees-Dart Track, a 4-5 day tramping circuit which follows the Rees River and the Dart River through farmland and the southern part of Mount Aspiring National Park.

A massive landslide recently cut off tramping access through the Dart Valley.

Tramping in the Dart Valley. Photo: Keith Miller.

An alternative temporary track was opened on Monday which has restored tramping access. Trampers are advised to stick to the alternative route at all times for their safety.

The track provides great views of the lake and landslide from this route, particularly on Sandy Bluff.

This photo was taken by Keith Miller | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

After selling their house in the United States in 2010, retired couple John and Jean Strother have been travelling full time. They love to hike and backpack and have had some amazing adventures around the world — including here in New Zealand.

We’re going to be sharing some of their stories (and incredible photos) over the next few weeks. 

We start with Jean and John’s experience on the Tongariro Northern Circuit…

John and Jean in the old Waihohonu Hut on Tongariro's Northern Circuit. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

John and Jean in the old Waihohonu Hut on Tongariro’s Northern Circuit

After more than two weeks of driving and sightseeing we were more than ready to see some mountains and do our first Great Walk, the Tongariro Northern Circuit in Tongariro National Park.

Looking across Central Crater at Mt Ngauruhoe and Red Crater. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Looking across Central Crater at Mt Ngauruhoe and Red Crater

We had heard that in New Zealand it rains on average one day out of every three so it seemed inevitable that we would get wet at some point on every Great Walk. Our goal was to try to arrange it so we encountered the poorest weather on the least scenic part of the track. Apparently the weather in Tongariro is especially difficult to accurately predict.

After a couple of days of cloudy rain with “fine” weather in the forecast we booked our tramp. In order to increase our chances of seeing the “best parts” under better weather conditions we decided to do the track counterclockwise, opposite to how it is commonly done.

Our best view of Mt Ngauruhoe on our first day on Tongariro Northern Circuit. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Our best view of Mt Ngauruhoe on our first day on the
Tongariro Northern Circuit

We left Whakapapa Village in cloudy drizzle and headed toward the Waihohonu Hut and campground. The trampers we encountered who were heading out stated that visibility had been less than 10 meters and that they had seen “nothing” during the previous three days on the track.

We consoled ourselves with the fact that this was the least scenic part and were grateful that it briefly stopped raining twice; once long enough for us to eat lunch and later to set up our tent.

This was our first experience with a DOC hut and while it is our preference to sleep in our tent we certainly appreciated being able to get out of the rain to cook and eat. However, we were happy to later leave the loud intensity and retreat to our tent. We were unaware at that point that at some huts tents campers are forbidden from using the hut facilities, but in those cases a cooking shelter has been provided.

Inside the Waihohonu Hut. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Inside the Waihohonu Hut

The next day continued to be cloudy and drizzling and we had some trouble leaving the warm dry (and now quiet) hut. Once we got going the track first climbed up through a forest that looked as though we had been transported back into the North Cascade Mountains. However we got above the trees and the clouds began lifting so that by noon we began to get great views of the Rangipo Desert…

Jean following the track through the Rangipo Desert. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Jean following the track through the Rangipo Desert

and the dramatic volcanic landscape of the Oturere Valley and Mt Ruapehu…

Mt Ruapehu, as seen on Tongariro Northern Circuit. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Mt Ruapehu, as seen on Tongariro Northern Circuit

The clouds continued to lift and break up as the day went on and we climbed higher. It appeared that our late start worked in our favor as we were thrilled with our views of the lower Emerald Lake, views that those who passed through earlier in the day would have missed.

Lower Emerald Lake. Tongariro National Park. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Lower Emerald Lake

The next morning the skies were only partly cloudy and we were treated to views of all three of the Emerald Lakes…

Emerald Lakes. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Emerald Lakes

and of Mt Ngauruhoe…

Mt Ngauruhoe and the South Crater. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Mt Ngauruhoe and the South Crater

and into Red Crater…

Red Crater. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Red Crater

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is purported to be the best day hike in New Zealand. It starts at the Mangatepopo car park, follows the same track as the Northern Circuit across the saddle before descending to the Ketetahi car park.

The 12 miles (19.4 kilometers) takes about 7-9 hours and is done by hundreds of people every day, some better prepared than others. A challenging part for the less skilled is descending the steep scree slope from the saddle.

Tongariro Northern Circuit. © All rights reserved by panafoot.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

Read more on panafoot — Jean and John’s blog.

pan-a-foot (păn’ ũh fʊt) v. covering great distances to see more of the world under one’s own power

All of the photos used in this post were taken by John Strother © All rights reserved. See more of their Tongariro Northern Circuit photos on Flickr.

A big thanks to Jean and John for giving us permission for us to publish this on the Conservation Blog!

Here’s a short, sweet, and perhaps surprising, statistic from DOC’s latest annual report:

14,000 km of track supported by DOC. Enough to walk from Wellington to Washington D.C.

Truth be told, that’s not short at all! But it certainly would be sweet to have the chance to walk it all. Who’s up for the challenge?

Learn more on the DOC website:

Tracks and walks

DOC’s Annual Report for year ended 30 June 2013

By Chrissy Wickes, Biodiversity Ranger, Te Anau

My partner, son and I recently went for a walk up to Fern Burn Hut along Motatapu Track which is out the back of Glendu Bay just twenty minutes drive from Wanaka.

Chrissy and her son walking through farm land.

The start of the track follows a river through farm land

The track starts in farm land and follows a lovely river all the way through beech forest and up to the tussock lands around the hut.

Chrissy's son playing in the mud.

Stopping for a quick play in the mud

It is a fantastic short walk and a great hut to stay in overnight. The track to the hut is the beginning of a longer walk. It took us three hours with my son Shannon walking the easier sections. The section through the bush is like a small goat track and perhaps not so suitable for a child to walk alone due to the drops into the stream below. But the track is relatively straight forward for big people.

There were heaps of fish in the stream and we came across a group fishing and they caught a lovely trout as we approached which was neat to see.

Chrissy and her son looking at the caught trout.

Fishing for trout

It is a hot area in the summer so I recommend hats and sunblock and avoiding the heat of the day.

We were lucky it was over cast but we still felt the heat and it is not even summer yet. The stream that the track follows is lovely with small waterfalls and pools which would be great to cool off in on those really hot days. We had a great time on this beautiful overnight walk in a stunning part of the country.

Walking along the track to Fern Burn Hut.

Nearing Fern Burn Hut


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