Wild Mans Brother Range Circuit Version II

Frank has written out a list of trips we can do involving the Eastern Foothills when it’s blowing nor’west and raining on the main divide. We’ve done a circuit of Wild Mans Hill a couple of times so this time he put in a variant where instead of going back via the creek opposite Top Hut in the South Ashburton, we would go up the stream that saddles with Spean Stream.

We walked up the Cameron and instead of a steep unpleasant route close to the stream that leads to a low saddle overlooking Wild Man Hut; we started the ascent a km downstream where obvious sheep trails leading up the terrace drew our eyes to a small cairn. We climbed steeply up a narrow sheep trail zigzagging up to the edge of the terrace then sidled along. This was so much easier and faster than the route we’d taken the last time that had involved pushing through a narrow band of determined matagouri.

Frank dropped down to a very green small area of land adjoining the stream but I continued to climb but then around the corner had to drop down to the stream anyway as further on the hillside then steepened so the stream was the place to be. Here were a few last merinos in the valley as further up the Cameron River a fence stops their progress. We continued up to the saddle, Frank ahead and me feeling tired for some reason, maybe low blood sugar from a commercial yoghurt which I don’t normally eat.

Frank was waiting at the saddle so we enjoyed a leisurely lunch overlooking the South Ashburton. We then dropped down to Wild Man Hut. To save my knees a bit I used a scree running on the east side of the saddle. We checked out the hut which belongs to Mt Arrowsmith Station and saw quite a few trampers as well as the usual hunters were using it, including the odd Te Araroa traveler doing a variant on the route. It seems that permission isn’t needed for trampers to stay at the hut, only for the hunters who like to do things on a grander scale seeing as they need to drive their heavy meat out.

We headed upstream towards the hut along the 4WD track. The amphitheatre of the Arrowsmith Range at the head of the valley looked magnificent. I took my boots off for the river crossing as I hate having to put on wet boots in the morning. When we got to the hut, I went out to the little seepage 50 m away to collect water from where someone has engineered a small rock for it to flow over and concentrate the stream. It’s a nice bright hut with its foil wallpaper. And so to bed after the same dinner as last time we stayed here – Thai Green Curry. The wind blustered a bit in the night but we slept fairly well.

It was quite warm the next morning and after a tidy-up and sweep out we carried on up on the true right and eventually came upon 4WD tracks despite a request not to drive beyond the hut due to black fronted terns nesting in the riverbed. We saw a few adults flying around plus a New Zealand dotterel pacing it out in the riverbed. We followed the 4WD track to the river’s edge and then found it again on the other side in the tussock. We needed to gradually ascend the old fan to reach the stream that drains from the Spean Stream saddle. The tracks climbed a bit then began to sidle so we abandoned it to high-step through the tussock. I tried travelling in the zone where the scree meets the tussock, the theory being with the extra water there would be fewer tussocks and more low grass and this did work to some extent though this zone was a bit hummocky. We managed to hug the edge of the scree in raised lines. The stream had steep banks but eventually flattened out and became very pleasant travel with the pretty flowers blooming among green grass. Then it steepened up again so we left it for easy travel on the edge of the scree following obvious handrails. Towards the saddle I crossed to the final appearing water then followed Frank up to the saddle. We paused for the spectacular views of various summits but with the breeze coming up, we weren’t able to get the map out and figure out the unknown peaks. However further downhill when we got a chance to check the map, the jagged ones did turn out to be Jagged Peak as I’d thought.

Once again I led off onto scree slopes on the true right to avoid a knee jarring descent down the stream bed. This was fast travel until bluffs forced us to drop into Spean Stream. However it was easy walking down the stream. Where the stream turned left, it became steep and gorged so we climbed up the bank on our left to reccie and Frank decided it made sense to check out a saddle on the true right. We stopped for lunch by the stream after he came back from the saddle, announcing it was pretty much a perfect route into the Cameron Flats i.e. leads of fine scree and no band of matagouri. Occasional gusts of wind were enough to fold my tortilla in half and scatter my lettuce about but otherwise it was a pleasant spot to linger.

From the saddle I climbed up to a little high point to gaze upon the moraine where Cameron Hut hides, beyond to the Causeway which is now treacherously unstable, the glaciers leading to the nasty rock of the Arrowsmith summits and the more benevolent cols saddling with Jagged Stream. We zipped down into the Spean streambed and followed the poles back down towards the car. It had been a very easy circuit but this soon ended here in the Cameron River where we were forced up through matagouri and even worse, speargrass to avoid crossing the high flowing river. I assume we were meant to cross earlier to avoid this very unpleasant experience but crossing back might have been a challenge anyway. The rest of the way down was better going with occasional use of tussocked terraces.

On the way out we passed a lone young hunter going in for the night. The Nor’west rain was occasionally spilling down the valley so we could feel the odd drop but it didn’t persist. We got to the car after an 8 hour day.