Opera Range, Jervois Hut

29 – 30 January 2011

Bill Templeton suggested this trip. It’s in Sven’s guide, described as “a fairly obscure sort of round-trip to a seldom-visited hut”. Sounds encouraging?

The round-trip was in from the Boyle and along the Opera Range, dropping into the hut and back out via the Waiau and the Steyning. Later updates suggest allowing more time for the inward leg and possible troubles with overgrowth in the Waiau. We resolved at all costs to avoid battling the broom in the Waiau. We bit the bullet and did a there and back, the same way, up and down along the range, twice.

We chose a Friday evening start to get into Magdalen Hut for the night which meant leaving work very early to depart from Bill’s place at 4.45pm. We made a minimal stop at Culverden and drove on to Boyle Village, driving toward a fantastic NW sky. Dinner was snatched at the car while gearing up and we were walking by 7.10 in warm, calm NW conditions. We headed up the Boyle end of the St James walkway with daylight all but gone and arrived at the swing-bridge near Magdallen Hut at 9.40pm. With torches on now for the twenty minutes it took to walk back down to the hut—another new one that I hadn’t been to before. Candles burning brightly suggested another party at the hut. But we woke a sleeping Paul Smith, who had stopped in on his way back to Christchurch.

SATURDAY: Expecting a long day, we were up by 5.30am and away at 6.40am on a fine morning. Being an in and back the same way trip, our route back was fine-tuned in a number of places, so this description in, is of the preferred route. Critically, start out to the east of the fence-line near Magdalen Hut. Don’t go up Maritana Stream. This fence-line will take you directly to the stream beyond a small gorged area. From there an animal/hunter track continues up the true left most of the first half , then crossing to the right for the rest of the way to the “Y” junction with the eastern fork in the stream. 1hr 50min on we passed through a hunter’s campsite where some track-clearing had been done below it. Go twenty metres beyond the “Y” junction to climb up into the east branch. It is then an easy walk on the true right in open forest to the bush-line.

After a drink stop in the shelter and sun here, we started up the open valley, but awful tall tussock had us floundering. We changed plan—right-hand-down-a-bit and climbed up the side to a low saddle of sorts between points 1521m and 1656m. Travel along the ridge was now straightforward with a moderate NW wind. Somewhere beyond 1644m, we stopped for an early lunch in a moderately sheltered spot, with a view along the range to St Mary, Jones Stream to the left and the Waiau to the right.

By 1.55pm we were at the top of the bush-clad spur that we needed to descend into Jones Stream. We got off the spur a little at the top and had to sidle left, but then it was good going much of the way down. Dropping into the stream at 3.30pm, we found we had drifted left somewhat and were further upstream than intended. It’s best to aim for the big clearing beyond the true left of Jones Stream when descending. That was the easy bit. Walking down to the confluence of Jones and Jervois, we knew the hut was thirty metres up on a terrace. We climbed to the terrace area almost from the corner, but then battled through bush with no obvious route in sight. By chance, we fluked the eastern edge of the hut clearing, but could easily have passed it. So we arrived about 4.15pm at a battered old 3-bunk hut, with hunters’ gear in it. Ten hours in, but mostly not-too-hard going.

We set up the tent at the bush edge 50m from the hut. With plenty of daylight, Bill explored down to the Waiau. The unsociable hunters returned with their dog and departed without acknowledging we were there. It was another lovely calm, dry, starry night, ideal for sleeping out, although a few sand-flies were fairly late to bed.

SUNDAY: Up at 5.30am again and away at 6.45am. My worry was how severe was the forecast NWer going to be for our return along the range. We went to the western end of the clearing, dropped off the edge and out to Jervois Stream about 400m up from the confluence—still not easy. This time, approaching our spur to climb out, we went about 100 to 200m up a side-stream before the spur and then climbed out. Lots of good animal track on this spur quickly turned into the spur proper, which we then followed all the way to the top. The NW wind was fairly strong at the bush-line. We stopped at 12.20pm for lunch not far along the ridge. The struggle along the ridge into the NW wasn’t easy, but once we turned south at point 1656m, we cruised down the ridge with the wind behind us to the bush-line and the familiar track down the true right. We were back at Magdalen Hut at 3.10pm and from there, this time in daylight, we took the direct route across the Boyle and climbed to the St James track lower down.

We were at the cars by 5.50pm.Most places were closed on the way home, but as on other similar occasions, the Nor’West Café in Amberley was very welcoming to three scruffy trampers. It had been a great weekend on a new route for all of us. We were, Dan Pryce, Bill Templeton and Merv Meredith (MM)