Trip: Doubtful Hut, Lake Man Biv, Top Hope, Hope Halfway Shelter

This trip was a while ago now (last Easter), but I never wrote a trip report about it at the time. I thought I might try to document some of it now while it’s still in my memory.

Lunching at Lake Man Bivvy, Lake Sumner Conservation Park
Lunch at Lake Man Biv

Dates: 6th – 9th April, 2007
Location: Lake Sumner Conservation Park.
People: Dirk, Dave C, Emile, Dave J, Justin, Dave B, Paul, Lisa, Kathryn, and me.
Huts visited: Doubtful Hut (0 nights), Lake Man Biv (0 nights), Top Hope Hut (1 night camping), Saint Jacobs Hut (0 nights), Hope Halfway Shelter (1 night, camping).
Intended route: Walk west along Doubtful River towards Doubtful Hut, up a spur and sidle around a bit to Lake Man Biv, over a convenient saddle in the Doubtful Range, then south-ish down a spur on the other side to Pussy Stream. Turn west at the junction with Hope River to Top Hope Hut. Visit nearby hot pools (half an hours walk further west), then head east and south-east along Hope River, past Saint Jacobs’ Hut. Continue along the river to Hope Halfway Shelter, then back to the road. (And walk or hitch several kms back up the road to collect the van.) This route is approximately the same as one that’s currently promoted on the DOC website.

This post is a trip report. You can find other trip reports about other places linked from the Trip Reports Page, or by browsing the Trip Reports Category.

We had intended to catch the Thursday night Interislander from Wellington to Picton, then start driving south and camp somewhere along the road, before getting an early-ish start on Friday morning. Unfortunately an accidental mix-up meant we were booked on the ferry a week early, and with the long weekend, the only tickets still available had been for Saturday morning. This complicated things a little, but we still managed to get around the entire circuit intended.

We stopped for some lunch at Murchison, then headed on to the road-end. Meals had been organised by Emile, Kathryn, and Lisa, and they divvied out the ingredients just before we set off. We began the trip with the crossing of a rather brisk-flowing river. It wasn’t overflowing in an obviously dangerous way, but I came away thinking that I’d somehow avoided getting very wet.

We spent the rest of Saturday walking west along the southern side of Doubtful River, looking for nice places to camp. A couple of people were already at Doubful Hut — or at least what I think was Doubtful Hut, although it doesn’t seem to correlate with what’s on my Topo map and where I thought we went. There was still time during the day, so we carried on west and eventually found a nicely sheltered spot on the track a bit further west.

Saturday morning began with a brief continuation west along the river, but it wasn’t long before we found the track south up one of the side rivers, eventually heading higher up the hillsid, and sidling around to Lake Man Biv. By now there was some light but persistent rain, and everyone had wet weather gear. We stopped for lunch at the biv, waving to a couple of people who were just leaving. The biv wasn’t really big enough to comfortably house our comparably large party of 10, and I wandered around outside for a but.

Dirk on the saddle

That afternoon we continued up to the grassier tops, but didn’t spend a lot of time wandering them. The weather was a good incentive to simply follow the pole-marked route over the saddle and into the trees on the other side. The track eventually morphed into what was quite a thin and steep spur. There was at least one quite big slip to negotiate the top of, which Emile and Katherine had apparently started a bit of a landslide on as they passed through before I’d arrived. It took a little time and care to descend down to Pussy Stream, where we stopped for a short bite to eat. Following the stream down, we eventually ended at Hope River, although not before Paul C accidentally slipped during one of the many cris-crosses. There was no harm done though (except for a little dampness), and on reaching Hope River we turned west towards Top Hope Hut. There was some thought about going straight to some hot springs that were further than the hut, but realistically it was getting later in the day and we collectively decided to figure out what we’d be doing for the night instead.

Campfire dinner

Top Hope Hut was already inhabited by the time we arrived, which wasn’t too surprising. After investigating a few locations nearby, we decided the best camp-site was below a tree at the other end of the clearing from the hut, about 100 metres away. We had a campfire, and it was a very relaxed atmosphere. Sunday morning was also quite relaxed, because we had made such good time, and a contingient of people, including myself, set off towards the hot springs. Lisa and Dave C stayed behind at the campsite. Lisa was busy reading, while Dave was busy staring at the hundreds of sandflies crawling around his face on the outside of his bivy bag.

Hope River, Lake Sumner Conservation Park
Hope River on Sunday morning

Personally I wasn’t as interested in the hot springs as in going for more of a walk. When we reached the springs, I ditched the others in favour of walking further up one of the side-streams off Hot Spring Stream, just to see what was up there. By the time I returned though, there was a stranger sitting in the spring and he told me the others in my group had left 10 minutes before, so I spent the next 30 minutes or so playing catch-up, just managing to overtake them about 5 minutes before we got back to the hut.

By now it would have been about 10.30am. As a couple of Keas flew high overhead, we packed up our things in preparation for walking back east-wards along Hope River. Sunday turned out to be a very relaxing day, on which we didn’t even have to get our feet wet. There’s a very civilised track alongside the length of the river, and we reached Saint Jacobs Hut at about 1.45pm. We stopped for a brief look around, browsed the hut book for a few minutes, then continued to follow the Hope River as it curved around towards the south.

We spent much of the day looking for reasonable swimming holes, and I was guilty of almost losing the group after wandering about 200 metres from the track, back towards the river, without having made proper arrangements with everyone. I returned within a couple of minutes, but then realised I had no idea of whether everyone had gone past or not. In the end, I back-tracked about 1km to the last place everyone had last been grouped, before satisfying myself that they definitely weren’t behind me. When I caught up about 20 minutes later, everyone was waiting at quite a nice swimming hole shortly before the turn-off over a swing bridge to the north side of the river.

By now it was half past two. Justin was beginning to notice some problems with his knee, which wasn’t ideal news for him since he had plans to do a trek to Everest Base Camp within six weeks. After confirming things with Dirk, he and I decided to press on. We continued for a few minutes along the track, looking for the intersection that would split the track, according to the map at least. It wasn’t long before the two of us arrived at quite an ambiguous sign for Hope Kiwi Lodge, and the track continued. This was quite confusing because it wasn’t where we wanted to go, yet there hadn’t been an obvious intersection, or an obvious bridge over the river. I wandered ahead for a closer look at where the track went, but it wasn’t until I turned around that I saw the other side of the sign, indicating the other track that almost double-backed on where we’d come from. I even saw other people in our group crossing the bridge, which had been just behind us the whole time.

The rest of the walk that day was fairly similar, except it followed the other side of the river, and involved walking over some additional grassy flats. The far side of the river was made up of some wide green hills. They reminded me a lot of the hills along the coast between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, except that I wasn’t being run over in the middle of State Highway 1 as I gazed at them. We were also about 600 metres higher in altitude, and I expect there would have been more snow on them at the right time of year.

Hope Halfway Shelter, Lake Sumner Conservation Park
Hope Halfway Shelter
(is actually a hut)

It became muddier towards the later parts before we reached Hope Halfway Shelter, but it didn’t really cause any problems. Hope Halfway Shelter isn’t actually a shelter as the name implies. It’s most definitely a hut, even though it even calls itself a shelter in several places inside. There were bunks and everything, despite DOC’s definition of a shelter being somewhere where people aren’t supposed to stay the night, as far as I understand, at least. A charming person had left a sign inside the door claiming that the water supply was out the back, although the only artefact we found was a 10 metre length of pipe lying on the ground, which wasn’t connected and didn’t look as if it ever was. The river wasn’t exactly far away, however.

There were already a couple there, but still six free bunks, and some of those in our group decided to accept the luxury of a hut that evening. Paul and I both set up our huntech flies, Dave B and Lisa set up their own tent flies, Justin assembled his tent, and Dave C set up his bivy bag in the middle of the field. The hut was surrounded by quite a large flat and there weren’t many good places to anchor tent flies in the middle. Given the distances between where we pitched our tent flies, a casual passer by might have thought we hated each other. This wasn’t quite the case. We had a campfire that evening, and exchanged a few stories with the other couple who were staying there.

The frosty Huntech fly
on Monday morning

It must have been quite cold overnight. There was a frost on Monday morning, and I found ice all over the outside of my tent fly. It handled it very well, but it was a bit of a pain trying to dry it out. Dave B, however, found ice covering the boots (and socks) which he’d left outside. Dave C needed to scrape ice off his bivy bag and pack cover, and his sleeping bag got a little damp. He didn’t have to worry about sandflies that morning, though.

By now I seemed to be getting a reputation as someone who walked quite fast, which meant I didn’t get much sympathy in being the last person ready to leave, at about 8.45. I had been still busy trying to fold up my tent fly after optimistically waiting for it to get some sun. I managed to catch the back of the group within about 10 minutes though, after scrambling through more mud.

The rest of the day was a fairly standard walk, which reflected the majority of the trip, without any significant ups or downs. Justin was once again noticing problems with his knee, and over time Paul C and I stayed at the back with him, eventually carrying some of his things. The three of us reached the end of the road some time after the rest of the group, at about 11am. Emile, conveniently, had already hitched a ride down to the earlier road-end to collect the van. Before long we were piled in, and on our way back north. As the first South Island club trip that I’d done, it was a nice and relaxing long weekend. Certainly some good scenery.

Paul C and Justin walking
out to the road-end.
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