Top Hope Hut

22-23 Jan 2011

The group of nine started tramping from Windy Point just off the Lewis Pass highway at 9:15am. A few group members had been doing some sums and studying the topography, most concluding that to get to the Top Hop Hut with 2 hours spare to undertake the side trip to the hot pools was ambitious

. Mary had advertised the trip as 8 hours, plus the hot pool trip. The challenge of distance (25km one way) appeared to motivate everyone and we set off at a good pace, especially Mary in her new boots. The Boyle swing-bridge was crossed after about 20 minutes and on we headed, up the Hope Valley. The nor-wester was giving us a warm headwind but no rain so far.

Mary gave everyone a break every hour for the first few hours—morning tea by a stream, first half of lunch on some grassy flats, and then the second part of lunch by Hope Half-Way Shelter. The terrain had been mixed to this point, walking through farmland by a fence line, beautiful open forest, and grassy flats. Early on in the journey the track was on a terrace up above the main river valley, with quite a few small ups and downs. Closer to Half Way Shelter, the track was flatter and ran along the river flats.

A swing bridge was crossed at the point where the Hope River and Kiwi River merge and the track headed due north. It was shown as a four wheel drive track on the map, though it was a fairly rough version of a vehicle track and not much faster than the previous non-4WD stretch. There had been a lot of water through the valley recently as the track was washed out by side-streams at several points, leaving big piles of rocks, gravel, trees and debris. It would be very difficult to get a 4WD vehicle far at the moment.

Saint Jacobs Hut was a welcome sight at 4pm. Lois and John had come prepared to be independent, and this was to be their home for the night. Ann negotiated an arrangement with the trip leader which allowed her to join Lois and John for the night at this hut. The straps on Ann’s 17 year old Macpac Torre pack partially gave way early in the trip - the plastic and stitching breaking apart. The 6-bunk Saint Jacobs Hut was a very pleasant and cosy base for a windy night.

The remaining 6 party members continued along the 4WD track which was more overgrown, deteriorating at times due to more side-stream washouts and fallen trees. The route to Lake Man was signposted at the halfway point between the two huts on a wide flat. It had only taken 30 minutes to this point so we thought we were making very good time. Soon after this, the track was marked as going up into the bush. This was probably the flood track but after some discussion, we took this route as we would be sure of not missing the hut, but it was rougher going than the river with the occasional fallen tree and lots of stream washouts. The track crossed several grassy terraces. At one point we thought we saw the hut but on closer inspection we discovered it was a fallen tree! This track is not marked on the topo map but from what we could see across the valley through the trees, we knew we had further to go. We eventually reached Top Hope Hut 1¾ hr later, soon after 6pm. The hut was identical in design to the St Jacobs hut with a 2 bunk anteroom and back room with 4 bunks, but without a fire. John Robinson got there 30 minutes prior to the others, having taken the river route rather than the bush track. After a fairly intense 8 hour tramp no-one was keen enough to venture up to the hot pools, which would be another 2 to 3-hour return trip plus time for a soak! However, there was quite a lot of discussion about possible future trips to the area which could incorporate the hot pools under a more leisurely schedule and perhaps a circular trip. I believe this mad dash in and out has opened the eyes of many group members to an area with a network of tracks and various options for easy-moderate multi-day tramps, all only 2 hours drive from Christchurch. It was nice to see the names of several other PTC members in a little-used hut book.

After a very gusty night, Sunday dawned drizzly with partial sun. The wind was still norwest for most of the day so we had a tail wind out. On the way down-river we were treated to a number of rainbows. The pace was, again, quite brisk in general and it took 8 hours, with breaks, from Top Hope Hut to Windy Point.

It was a great weekend and I am sure the group would share my thanks to Mary for her excellent organization and also for her contributions to this trip report!

Tim & Mary (leader) Hines, Lois Moore & John Rice, Miriam Preston, Deb Rhode, John Robinson, Helen Harkness and Ann Schofield. (AS)