Tramping to Angelus Hut
Tramping (the Kiwi term for “long distance hikes through rough country. i.e.: bush walking, hiking, rambling) is probably just about a national sport in New Zealand, a short head behind rugby and possibly competing with mountain biking, sailing and, well, all the other outdoor activities you can think of. Trampers generally carry backpacks, wet weather gear and equipment for cooking and sleeping and there is a great deal of tramping to be done on both the South and Norther Island, with the Department of Conservation (aka DOC) supporting and leading the way.
With some pre-planning from our hosts, we decided to pack our bags and set out for tramping fun.
Nelson Lakes National Park has a variety of routes in various grades of difficulty. The circuit requires 4-7 days to complete and involves areas where you can expect freezing conditions at any time of the year, so it is best to go well prepared. We opted for Angelus Hut via the Robert Ridge route.
How did we know where to go?
The DOC website was pretty helpful and the mini guidebooks ($2) at the local DOC office was more than enough to prepare us.
We drove from Nelson to St Arnaud. A quick stop after crossing the Buller River at Lake Rotoiti (on the west side of the bay) and then a steep climb to upper Mt Robert car park. Some shade available to leave our car at. It is a 1.5 hour drive from both Nelson or Blenheim.
ROBERT RIDGE TO ANGELUS HUT
Walking time from the car park to Angelus Hut is 5-8 hours. It is steep, has no water and most of the hike is on a very exposed ridge, across scree slopes. In bad weather, it is subject to high winds and poor visibility.
This is the summary of the track:
- From Mt Robert Car Park – steep zig-zag track to Relax Shelter (S-T-E-E-P, but with a great view)
- Follow broad ridge by following the marked poles to Julius Summit (1794m)
- The broad ridge turns into a more narrow, rocky and sharp track (exposed at sections) You will spend most of your time on this ridge, alternating steep climbs, with scree slopes and false summits)
- Continue past the junction with Speargrass Creek Route (30 mins from the Angelus hut) onto a ridge that overlooks the Angelus Basin.
- Follow the poles down to the lake and hut.
Camping and Hut (36 bunks, serviced) You have to pre-book.
The hut is very modern and comfortable with sleeping rooms in bunk bed format, a kitchen area with running water, tables and a great view and space outside on a deck.
OTHER OPTION TO ANGELUS HUT:
1. The route to Angelus Hut along Robert Ridge.
2. A more sheltered access is via the track to Speargrass Hut (12 bunks, serviced) and then a poled route to Robert Ridge, or via
3. The Cascade Track up Hukere Stream (beware of ice here in winter). Allow 5-7 hours for either option (less if you take the water taxi for the latter).
We used the Speargrass Track. We decided to take this route back to the car park due to weather report predicting the faul weather. You will cross muddy sections, cross the river many times (unbridged) and I am sure if the water flow is heavy, this might get tricky. There is also the Speargrass Hut (12 bunk beds) at 1060 for a stop or sleep over.
The hike itself:
WHO CAN DO IT?
- It is doable if you are able to walk about 6 hours a day and climb 18oo meters, carrying your own food and clothing (I managed with a 30-litre backpack).
- You should be comfortable with extreme conditions (super-hot to pretty chilly), rough terrain, steep climbs and descents and without fear of heights.
- At all times: carry warm and waterproof clothing, have enough water and food with you and carry a map.
- In winter, it is advisable to carry and know how to use ice axes, crampons, and snow shovel. It is also advisable to carry an avalanche receiver and probe.
SHOPPING FOR GEAR:
Some outdoor stores in Nelson worth a visit and stock up at if needed: MacPac, EarthSeaSky, Katmandu, Hunting and Fishing, Torpedo7, Rollo’s Outdoor and a few smaller stores in town (just walk the streets).
SHOPPING FOR FOOD:
There is no shortage of supermarkets and outdoor food is available at most outdoor and camping stores, but a little cheaper at the supermarket. We opted for a selection of salamis, cheese, and Back Country at around $10-13 a bag (serves 2) it is not bad at all and pretty tasty.
Some supermarket options:
New World. You can also stock up on fresh produce at the local weekend markets.
Thank you to the crew: Christo, Danielle and Mike, and Charlie the Unicorn
Read more on the Angelus Hut and tracks on the DOC website here