Andrews Stream – Castle Hill

2 - 3 April 2022

An up and back trip from the Andrews Shelter, our route was up the Andrews, along Hallelujah Flat, over Casey Saddle, then down Surprise Stream to the familiar junction with the Casey Stream. From there it was a steep climb and bush-bash north up the end of the Castle Hill – Green Hill Range, to a camp beside the tarns at 1391m, below 1545m Castle Hill. Our ultimate objective before returning on Sunday was Castle Hill, or maybe even the big tarn below 1585m Green Hill.

For me, the first time I did this trip was April 2002, leaving Chch at 6.45am and reaching Castle tarns at 3pm. We were back to the car by 4.20pm on the Sunday. The next time was May 2006 with Andy Duck and Margaret Clark, leaving Chch 7am and to Castle tarns 5pm. We got back to the car at 7pm! On neither trip do I recall a bush-bash up from the Casey. Maybe it was straightforward or maybe I don’t want to remember.

We left Honora and Frank’s at 7.30am, with a fine two-day forecast. This time we were four, three from Chch plus Helen who met us at Springfield. At Andrews Shelter there were a number of vehicles. One group of three from Rangiora TC, including Tini, was headed for Casey Hut. We started up the Andrews Track at 9.30am and soon caught them. Our lunch-stop was part-way along Hallelujah Flat, well sheltered from a moderate nor-wester. The walk on and down Surprise Stream seemed to involve more rock scrambling than I recall, but it was still pleasant.

Arriving at the confluence of the stream with Casey Stream and faced by bluffs directly ahead we didn’t look upstream for a likely route up. A short distance downstream revealed a possible route up via a bit of a gully. It was steep but eventually got us up on to the small bush-covered plateau we were aiming for. It didn’t get any easier from there, though. Maybe the under-storey wasn’t as high twenty years ago. We were relieved to emerge from the bush and had only to cope with a still steep climb up through open tussock. Only one of the tarns at 1391m still had significant water in it, so at 5.40pm our campsite for the night was obvious, though not ideal, with limited shelter from the occasional nor-west puff, but we took it gratefully and were able to cook easily below the top lip of the tarn.

Any nor-west breeze died overnight and Sunday dawned brilliantly clear, making this a great place to be. Our intention always was to go on as far as we could, governed by the time we needed to leave the campsite in order to be back at Andrews Shelter at a respectable hour. Having taken eight hours-plus, getting in, a 10am departure should get us down before 6pm. So, after breakfast, without too much rush, Helen and Honora set out for Castle Hill. Twenty minutes later they were little specks on the top ridge and returned with photos to prove what stunning views it provided. Meanwhile Frank and I had dismantled the tents, leaving little further packing to do.

Away from the campsite at 10.10am, we followed Frank’s GPS trace from the previous day. Frank micro-managed that very accurately, so while still a bush-bash, we descended exactly to the plateau and our entry gully, dropping out to the confluence at 12.50pm and a welcome lunch stop. The return up Surprise Stream, along Hallelujah Flat in the heat, then the roller-coaster up and down the Andrews track, was a long walk out after lunch. The eight-hour tramp got us back to our vehicle at 6.15pm—a satisfying trip.

We were: Helen Binnie, Frank King, Honora Renwick and Merv Meredith (leader) [MM]

The view to the Poulter River