Dart River - Rees River

23-27 April 2023

The Saturday got us to Glenorchy where our three stayed in a tiny cabin at Glenorchy Hotel. Sunday, we were up at first light and away early in mild weather to the Chinamans Bluff, DoC carpark for breakfast. Almost all the day was walked in beech forest, on the true left of the Dart River. With its massive schist rock, the terrain is nothing like we see in Canterbury. Afternoon drizzle turned to rain as we crossed Dredge Flat, so we were pleased to reach Daleys Flat Hut after twenty minutes in forest. This was Anzac Weekend so it was surprising to see only a group of three in residence at the hut. They had the Pioneer stove going but it didn’t seem to be warming the hut much. Rain prevented us from opening the ranch slider onto the deck which looks out on the broad Daleys Flat, up-river from the hut. 

Monday morning was almost frosty, and on the high mountain slopes a dusting of snow was visible. We had a break as we reached the vast Cattle Flat, then a lunch-stop at the far end of the flat. A few Rees—Dart people passed us heading for Daleys Flat Hut. From there we were back in forest and must have reached the big Dart Hut by 4pm. The circuit is not classed as a “great walk” so Kerry assumed his annual hut pass would take care of hut fees. Not so, and the hut warden from USA extracted $80 for his four hut-nights. Our three met a delightfully outgoing young Israeli woman who had walked from Aspiring Hut over the Cascade Saddle. At 5pm day-walkers, also Israelis, returned from Cascade Saddle.

Tuesday was to be a day-trip for our three to Cascade Saddle but only Dan made the effort to get up in time. Rain was forecast for the afternoon so Di and Kerry managed a little morning photographic excursion to a high point and then lazed. Dan made the eight-hour return trip in 7¼ hours and returned in light rain, triumphant.

Wednesday dawned fine and cold and with Dan’s in-built alarm clock we were up at first light again for the nearly 500m climb up Snowy Creek to Rees Saddle. We didn’t linger on the saddle as we were in cloud and a cool breeze blew. The descent to the Rees River was short and steep. Dan led down the river in scrubby terrain, looking for a patch of illusive sunshine for a lunch stop. By 2pm we’d reached Shelter Rock Hut where the same hut warden was filling the coal bucket. He’d moved from Dart Hut on the Tuesday.

Daylight on Thursday revealed a chilly frost for our 7:45am departure. After crossing the Rees, on a bridge, we were soon in forest, and later, easy river flats. The whole 16km distance to Muddy Stream car park is on easy terrain, except for a few swampy areas and we reached our car at 2pm. Thanks to Dan’s plan and a relocation service, our car was now at this track end. Back at our cabin we relaxed and prepared for Friday’s trip home.

Our Friday drive home in good weather got us to Chch around 5pm. Thanks to Dan’s planning this was a great adventure in Mt Aspiring National Park. Most people go Rees—Dart but our Dart—Rees strategy got us over the more difficult section alongside the big slip-generated lake on day-one, then on the last day we had an easy walk to our waiting car. We were: Dan Pryce, Diane Mellish and Kerry Moore. [KM]

Daleys Flat Hut

Approaching the long Cattle Flat in the Dart Valley

Dart Hut and the bridge over Snowy Creek

Looking up the Dart River from a point above the Dart Hut

Shelter Rock Huts in Rees Valley. The nearer one is a bunk-room only.

Rees Valley with a towering Mt Earnslaw at top-left