In a NW we often go to the Black Hill area as the rain can spare this area. We checked out the forecast and it indicated a NW changing to the SW on Saturday evening and turning NW again for Sunday when the map showed it as being fine. We decided to do the above circuit. This is a mixture of stuff that Frank and I have both done and not done. He had done a circuit including Fosters Hill from Black Hill and I had done the Saturday bit on a previous trip, both in opposite directions so there was something interesting in it for both of us.
The Kinnebrooks Hut is a lovely corrugated iron hut, completely lined with timber, with a wooden floor and a well designed open fireplace. It is privately owned and features comfortable inner-sprung mattresses. It seems to be mainly used by hunters who have got permission from Woodstock station. The surrounding area is absolutely infested with pigs and there are feral merinos, some with a good set of horns and all featuring tails of course. The owner doesn’t give permission freely for access anymore as he likes to give his staff the opportunity for hunting. It also features a hermit (Murray Hills) living in Coal Creek who was recently been moved on but has now been welcomed back to ensure no one is poaching in his “meat zone”.
We got away from View Hill around midday and rambled along the Wharfedale track to a shady attractive stream for a lunch stop a couple of hours later. Along the way we ran into a couple of groups of mountain bikers who rank the Wharfedale track as Canterbury’s finest ride. As usual there were windfalls to challenge the bikers. I’m always surprised how the MTB clubs never seem to do any maintenance on this track. DoC has been through recently and done some sterling work with the chainsaw but already there’s plenty more to be done!
After lunch it was onwards to the saddle then the track junction ¾ of an hour later from our lunch stop. We turned off to Black Hill but this time only went to the second uphill section which was a broad spur. At this point where the track crosses, the ground is grassy and almost boggy. One time with friends we were mystified to find a good quality camo gore-tex parka hanging nearby in a spot where someone likes to camp. We blew our whistles and left the jacket hanging but it was gone the next time I’d checked. Maybe it was the hermit’s…
We headed off to travel along the spur which takes us down to the 4WD track leading to Kinnebrooks. Initially the going was easy on a deer trail with occasional dark green insulation tape tied to coprosma shrubs. Frank was a bit fecetious about how easy it was but it soon degenerated into a tangle of coprosma as we were in a damper slight basin. The plan was to use the true right of the broad spur as a handrail to avoid deviating onto the wrong spur where our spur bifurcated. After expressing concern as I was moving to the true left to try and avoid the coprosma, Frank went in front to follow the prearranged bearing of 35º. I kept to my strategy of bypassing thick patches of vegetation and noticed I was back on the insulation tape trail.
Then he surprised me by moving to the left, sidling and maintaining altitude in a southerly direction. Before long it was apparent that we were on the wrong spur looking across to the one we were meant to be on. Fortunately this spur had an extensive stretch of clearing to distinguish it easily as being our intended spur. We sidled back across, me maintaining altitude and Frank aiming directly for the shortest distance there by going diagonally across the slope. I put on my radio and established contact. His route was quicker and he said he’d wait for me. By calling out to each other I was guided to him but he seemed to be on an outlying high point. We checked the run of this spur with the compasses and took a bearing to what we believed was Wilson’s Hill. This data told us we were slightly off the spur so once again we headed across to the main spur, this time me following Frank on his diagonal journey which seemed to be a good idea as the vegetation was more open.
We entered the long stretch of clearing. The grass was uniformly cropped and it wasn’t long before we saw the feral sheep who were happily grazing, lambs at foot. They soon scarpered though. We carried on, very pleased to see that by being attentive and savvy we could pretty much travel on a trail that had been snipped from time to time. Was this more of the hermit’s handiwork? The varying vegetation zones were quite attractive. We passed through 2 small patches of manuka scrub, easily traversed as it was quite open. At one point I heard a pig grunt so I called out to Frank and it moved on in great haste.
At the forest edge there were signs of an old camp with empty half G’s stashed, presumably for storing water in the days before plastic bottles. We soon came to fences with signs suggesting the farmer and Murray wouldn’t appreciate our being there. We hoped they meant hunters, not trampers who only pass through and leave the targets unmolested. One sign talked about Johnny-come-latelies and their hangers-on. We established I was the JCL as this route was my idea. We next were travelling on a grassy track and I mentioned the 4WD road was now below, parallel to our course but we were going in the opposite direction to the hut. Frank wasn’t keen to fight his way through congested broom to get down there but I persevered along a pig trail which led us down to the road via the only feasible lead, a long grassy clearing.
We dropped down a steep shingly road to Foster’s Stream. On the 2 previous occasions I’d been here it had been blocked by a small slip, so vehicles couldn’t get past. I hoped the hut was vacant but Frank was carrying a fly just in case. At 7pm we came to Fosters Stream near its outlet into the Waimak gorge, the only point on our circuit where we needed to get our feet wet. We removed our footwear for a wade and I mentioned there were 3 crossings but there were 5! Our feet were quite sore walking on stones in between the crossings but we appreciated the dry socks and shoes/sandals for the next morning.
The other side of the stream was very glen-like with the soft lush growth of early summer. Wild cherries were en masse, with their tiny inedible fruit littering the ground. I had encountered friendly pig hunters and dogs here on a previous trip. We saw a line of piggies travelling through the thick bush. Cute but so destructive. We walked up the hill on to a level terrace which was good as it meant less height gain for the morrow. I told Frank that when we saw a bouldery stream, this would be our water supply for the hut and would indicate the hut was only be a couple of minutes further on. Soon we were there, filling our bottles and at 7.40pm we arrived at the hut which thank goodness was empty.
The fireplace was swept clean and welcoming with plenty of firewood cut but we eschewed the need for this. The hut had funky space-saving features and Frank wondered if this was so people could dance. We selected our bunks and made ourselves cozy. By the time copious drinks, soup, dinner and milo were consumed it was time for bed for me. In the morning it was unexpectedly overcast with clag clinging to Fosters Hill but at least it wasn’t raining. We tidied up, leaving the place better than when we arrived, wondering why these people who drive in don’t take out some of the junk e.g. broken tilly lamps. I left the eggs there that had been there since August in case someone found a use for them.
I had tried to go out via Fosters Hill, the winter before but the snow had been crusty and collapsing and I knew it would have been a very slow trip as my companion Paul wasn’t putting himself forward to share the step plugging. This time it was lovely. We found a good route through the scrub band of gorse, broom and manuka, only enduring minor scratches with no bush lawyer entanglements. Someone had marked it a little with white plastic bag tear-offs. Perhaps this was for them so they would always travel the same way and consolidate a formed trail. No pigs were seen but there was plenty of sign and rooted up spaniards etc.
I got ahead as Frank was busy taking photos but we were eventually travelling in the murk which gives a great feeling of isolation. I was enjoying this, knowing there were only us 2 and the animals. I arrived at a summit with a cairn and waited for him at what I thought was Fosters Hill, circling the summit to keep warm as he approached. After a while we figured we were one hill short which made sense even though it had fitted in with the bearings we had taken to ensure we stayed on the right spur! 2 hours after leaving the hut Fosters Hill came and went with the variety of terrain and vegetation very pleasing.
We went to the highest point of a mossy clearing with park-like stands of beech and entered the beech forest proper. Frank warned it was quite wet so I changed out of my flimsy waterproof/breathable into a sturdier parka. Once in the forest, it was full of fallen branches from snow damage the previous winter but easy going. We came to a series of junctions and ensured we took the right directions. At the summit of 1269, someone had nailed in 2 red permolat squares. We headed east, slavishly following our bearing of 85º until the spur became obvious enough to travel along it by the seat of our pants.
It was easy going with the occasional stunted section of beech around one rocky outcrop. Someone had occasionally snipped, sawn and marked a trail of white permolats. I had noticed this a previous time when I had gone down this ridge on my own to check out a mysterious green fishers’ hut by the river. Frank had followed, an hour behind but had never got to the hut as it got too dark and we had met up on the return journey the next morning.
We arrived at Black Hill at ten past one, now on very familiar terrain and hastened downhill to the hut for a late and protracted lunch having done 1600m height gain. The journey out to the car was done in good time, slowed down by Frank yet again banging his head by walking into a low branch disguised by leafy branches. I could hear the thud. I had sandal troubles as my right sandal sole had rotted out possibly due to being sprayed with insect repellant and was exposing a strap that pinched my toes together, forming a blister. Not bad value though for $40 and 8 months, use nearly every weekend…We counted off the significant points, 40 minute bridge, 20 minute bridge, 13 minute gate and reached the car at ¼ to seven. No other cars left. A good weekend to keep us fit for next weekend’s mission we hope.