Frank assured me this trip wasn’t about engineering an opportunity to camp on Binser Saddle. Actually I’d often eyed up the clearing on the saddle wistfully as an inviting place to linger and camp. A few years back when Hallelujah Biv was still there we’d stayed in the biv overnight and then done a traverse over Mt Brown in very strong cold winds and dropped down to the bottom end of the Hallelujah Flats. The steep face down to the track had had a bit of regen but we’d followed the path of a boulder that had taken out quite a bit of vegetation, making it easier. I recall a possum there, out and about in the daylight.
So the plan was to now link from Binser Saddle to the top of the bush where we’d descended from the tops on that trip. This would be done via the ridge north of Binser Saddle. Tramping clubs occasionally do a circuit here as a day trip, usually a truncated one involving a direct descent from Pt 1709 via a spur to the track just beyond the ‘Y’ stream junction (where koromiko grows abundant). Our route along the tops would have us cross a saddle, just clear of the beech forest, that communicates with Mt Brown Creek on its eastern side.
We decided to park the car by the Andrews Stream shelter as we had plenty of time to wander up to Binser Saddle on a lovely sunny October afternoon. Sunday would be the longer day so it would be good to have the car waiting for us when we came off the track. It took us about 40 minutes to walk to the start of the Binser Saddle track. It would have been a lot quicker to have made a route through the matagouri scrub but we were in no hurry so took the easy way via the Mt White station road and a grassy 4WD track that takes you to the start of the track.
We set off up the track, stopping to enjoy drinks from streams en route. The track was good despite some high winds in the winter which had caused extensive windfalls on the eastern foothills tracks. We arrived at the saddle which was bathed in the lowering sun. The clearing looked a bit boggy in parts but at what seemed to be the highest point by a stream, the track through the forest had become very broad and flat. This looked like an excellent place to pitch the tent sheltered from the frost of a clear sky overnight.
We checked out the further end of the clearing and decided it would be nice to loiter here in the early evening sunlight to cook our meal on the soft dry thatch of dead winter grass. I set to, produced the goods then we pitched the tent in the hastening dusk. The evening was mild, not requiring a fire although Frank had brought along his bow saw. He told me later that he’d brought it along to deal with the odd windfall along the way but there’d been no need.
We got up in the morning when the sun had started to light up the track a bit. I shifted our cooking gear to a patch of weak sunshine across the stream which soon remained in shadow whereas the sun was hitting our tent. Never mind…it was mild and we hadn’t had too much condensation, being sheltered by the beech canopy. I found the perfect armchair in the sun while waiting for Frank to do his final packing after photography.
We figured one good way up to the ridge would be from the top of the clearing. This means we’d be well clear of any gully systems that led to the saddle between point 1203 and the open tops. From point 1203 we could wander along the bushy ridge to the saddle then take the spur through the beech forest to the tops and point 1532. This plan worked well.
The forest was reasonably open and we were surprised to encounter a line of white permolats with reflector patches on an old, lightly maintained trail along the ridge. This led us to the tops where we loitered to admire the splendid views revealed. Grey clouds and precip in the heads of valleys north told us we’d made the right choice in going to the eastern side of APNP and not too far up valley towards the main divide.
We carried along over Pt 1532, stopping for lunch in a little sheltered basin formed by the ridge dividing into two. Then we headed off north to point 1623, down to a saddle, climbed half way up then sidled on an obvious shoulder towards the saddle between 1694 and 1709. There was a bit of scree to cross but it was straightforward without any intimidating sections. At this saddle we checked out the head of Mt Brown stream as we have hopes of descending the stream sometime in a traverse from Andrews Stream to the Poulter. The map indicated the stream bed might be filled with debris from slips along its banks, making travel easier, and it looked as though this could be the case.
We headed up to point 1709. I sat on the sheltered side of the summit while I waited for Frank and studied Mt White, Peveril Peak (climbed finally last summer) and Gray Hill which is still on the to do list. We’d taken it easy with a few leisurely stops and I was thinking it might have been a good idea to do the short version but then the track out is easy and we had head lamps so I carried on without voicing any mutinous thoughts.
From 1709 it was all downhill in a slight breeze. As we approached the bushline we explored alternatives to our plan but decided the original plan was the best as we knew the descent route was straightforward without having to consider bluffs. At the bush line, the thick stunted beech forest edge looked impenetrable to my eyes so I led Frank on a time wasting diversion looking for weakness above the saddle. A glance at the map revealed my folly so we climbed back up a bit then I spotted a sideways lead though the forest revealing the open floor under the thick canopy. It was very attractive and easy as there was absolutely no undergrowth.
The saddle looked good, being a long narrow partially scrubby clearing with a tarn. Thoughts of camping here on our future traverse were voiced. It was the only body of water we’d seen on the tops.
Now it was time for a little climb up to the bushline to sidle round to the subtle spur that indicated our descent point. The forest on the northern side of the saddle had a bit of coprosma and stuff but was still relatively open-going. Here I pushed through a band of thinner beech trees to the open and waited for Frank to emerge as he’d climbed up a little bit further north. I sidled round just above the forest edge but he climbed a bit higher. I suppose it was to ensure he would descend to enter the forest on the right line downhill of the more defined section of spur whereas I just had vague roundness. Either way I halted at the right point on my sidle which seemed to be the maximum degree of convexness. Frank came down and we once again entered easy open forest. I said “you go first as you’ve got the GPS”. However I don’t think he needed it. Seat of the pants was good enough to avoid being lured onto a defined spur that drops down to a stream (yikes).
This time his route seemed to avoid those nasty bits of regen I’d remembered from the last time we'd dropped down here. We came on to the open flats just 100m north of the big boulder. We stopped at the next stream down valley for a drink and snack in the sun. It was 10 to 5. By half past 7 we were back at the car after a great circuit and future plans hatched.