Big Tops, Koropuku, Townsend Hut

5, 6, 7 April 2014

Koropuku Hut is one of the least visited huts in APNP. Its gets an enthusiastic mention in the Remote Hutswebsite.Townsend Hut above the Taramakau River is almost as remote so the club devised a hard trip that takes in both huts. Five hardy trampers signed on to do this trip

leaving Bishopdale at the ungodly hour of 0600. A prior phone call to the farmer at Aickens gave us direct access to the Otira River and a safe place to park. Rain the whole way from Chch dampened our spirits but we unpacked the vehicle in light rain and got ready. By the time we started walking(0930) the rain had stopped and soon we’d crossed the Otira River in low flow. We chose to take the vehicle track rather than the foot track on the Taramakau’s true left and made good time to Pfeifer Stream so decided to take the “scenic route” via Lake Kaurapataka. In mild, still conditions the lake was beautiful but we pressed on after a short stop.

The track down to the Otehake River is quite steep. It connects well with the track up to Big Tops on the opposite bank. Hours of steaming up the forest track eventually got us to the scrub line where cairns directed us south and up along a ridge to reach a gully that points down to Koropuku Stream. Thanks to Frank and Honora, where progress in the gully gets difficult a ribbon on a tree signals a bush track, though the track leads back into the gully—now a small stream. Fallen logs barred our way in places and the light grew dim. With Bill path-finding and head-lights on,we finally reached an exit point where we were back in trees. The land levelled out and when we reached “the orchard” we knew we were near the hut. The new club GPS confirmed this. It was good for telling the altitude and with its built in maps, showing the lay of the land. It did beep a few times to say it couldn’t see satellites when we were in tight spots in the gully.

We reached the hut at 7.30 with great relief all-round and set the simmerlite to boiling water for six packs of 2-min noodles with de-hy mushrooms thrown in. The noodles take 2 min to cook but 5 min to open the packets and flavour sachets. Custard, gingernuts, fruit and chocolate chips made for a traditional dessert. Four bunks for five meant one of us sleeping on the floor. The noble Bill, with his new inflatable mat volunteered.

Keith was disappointed to see that the guitar was lacking some strings and out of tune so he was unable to stage an impromtu concert. Lack of strings wasn’t the only barrier. In fact Keith has never played the guitar. The facilities at this hut listed in needs to be amended to reflect the missing stringsbut the other items mentioned seem to be there, right down to the egg beater.

Lake Kaurapataka from Big Tops. Taken 2004 in clear weather. The 2014 view was misty

The late Paul Smith (left) with Graham Allely in Koropuku Hut, back in 2004

An electronic rooster crowed at 0600 and everyone got up smartly and had breakfast by candle-light. At 0730 we headed through a dense jumble of ferny forest to find K Stream. From there it was a boulder-hop with only two excursions into scrub to bypass stream bottle-necks. We were tempted to enter a gorge looking for a direct route up the true-left branch of the stream but took the surer option up a rib, then sidling to where we were able to look down on waterfalls and be thankful we’d avoided the gorge option. On an easy, level section we stopped to observe chamois. A young one didn’t keep up with its elders, calling and even approaching Bill before deciding that Bill didn’t look like its mother. A steep climb got us to a low point on the ridge between points 1681m and 1750m where we had lunchas a cold drizzle began. Following the Remote Huts route guide we descended to about the 1400 point, then sidled a long way before dropping to near the bushline and heading NE for a 3pm arrival at Townsend Hut, safe from a brisk southerly drizzle.

The track down to the Taramakau is steep but well maintained. It uses the gravelly stream-bed in its lower portion. Where the stream reaches the big river it has ripped through the forest and made a wide stretch of devastation. We were soon on a vehicle track and walking briskly. Bill diverted to check a headless deer carcass—this was the “roar” season and there were hunters about. A monster rimu tree felled by recent floods lay horizontal on the river flats. By 2pm we were back at Keith’s vehicle. As we drove to the road, rain started falling, so as on the first day, we’d dodged the rain by minutes. This is an excellent trip but should be done during daylight-saving months, to assure longer days.

We were: Julie Wagner, Keith & brother Bob McQuillan, Bill Templeton and Kerry Moore. (KM)