Routeburn-Greenstone-Steele Creek-Caples

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Routeburn-Greenstone-Steele Creek-Caples

Postby Lindsay » Wed 16 Feb, 2011 3:17 pm

Just back yesterday from NZ where I spent 5 nights following a route that took in the Routeburn, Greenstone and Caples tracks and a trek up the little used Steele Creek route. I planned to camp all the way and this was my first outing with the Golite Ultra 1+ quilt and Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus pack. Total weight at the start was 11.9kg.

Transport form Queenstown had me at Routeburn Shelter by 1000 on 08 Feb. An easy 2 hour walk to the first campsite at Routeburn Flats. Due the popularity of this track access and camping are strictly controlled and thus I had to spend most of a day at the first campsite, unable to move on. Not too much of a drama as the weather was great and the view spectacular. Had a walk around the flats and read a book until an early dinner and bed.

New Zealand 2011 013.JPG
Routeburn Flats


Up early to a foggy, drizzly morning. Much condensation inside the tent. This was to be a recurring problem in the damp and dank climate. Packed up and on the way by 0700. Today was to be a long day all the way to the camping area at Greenstone Saddle, on the other side of Howden Hut. I would be done with the Routeburn and on to the Greenstone. A damp walk up to Harris Saddle, fog and occasional drizzle, interrupted by breif hints of sunshine meant that the spectacular alpine views were not forthcoming but even so the scenery was magnificent. Very brooding and Scottish highland looking.
While taking a break in the shelter at Harris Saddle some Kiwi trampers showed great interest in my gear, expressing surprise that I could equip myself for 6 days in the bush totally self sufficient with less than 12kg of gear. They said they were too fond of their comforts to ever consider going lightweight, whipping out salami, cheese, dip and biscuits for morning tea while I nibbled on a muesli bar :)

New Zealand 2011 027.JPG
Lake Harris


Headed down the other side making for my next camp on the Greenstone track at Greenstone saddle. Met lots of other walkers, including a Japanese lady who was making rather heavy going of it, being assisted andencouraged by a guide to just go a little further. Arrived at Greenstone saddle at around 1700 and looked for a dry spot to set up. The grassy meadow is mostly waterlogged and a dry spot is hard to come by. Eventually 6 tents were sharing a small patch of ground, so close together it looked more like a music festival than a wilderness camp.

Up early and away down the Greenstone heading for the Steele Ck track junction. As I passed Mckellar Hut the warden informed me the the weather was due to turn nasty and to take care if crossing the Steele Ck pass. I decided to head for steels Ck hut for the night and decide from there. I reched the track junction at about 1530 and the hut at about 1730. The hut is used mainly by deer hunters and does not have many visitors. According to the log the last person to overnight had been 2 days before, with only a dozen or so this year. It was basic, but dry and comfortable with new wooden bunks and mattresses.

New Zealand 2011 073.JPG
Steele CK hut


Next morning the weather looked ominous so I decided to stay put. By afternoon it was windy and raining so another night in the hut was in order. On Sunday morning The weather was better and I decided to make the crossing, setting out at 0800. The route was easy to follow at fist however after the first crossing of the creek and the beginning of the climb it became more difficult. Above the tree line the route markers were often obscured by chest high scrub and there was no formed track to follow. However although difficult it was not impossible and I reached the top of the pass around 1300.

New Zealand 2011 079.JPG
Looking north up Steele Ck pass


The other side of the pass was much steeper and more exposed, descending about 800 metres in 3ks, with strong winds and rain squalls. As I made my way across this exposed section I twisted my ankle, not badly but enough to hurt. I decided that first aid would have to wait until I reached the tree line as there was nowhere sheltered or flat to sit and a dropped boot would disappear down the mountain side. Once in the trees I strapped the ankle and continued on feeling very much better. Unfortunately I then snapped by trusty BD pole, probably by too much sideways pressure making my way crablike down the slope. I was able to use the top section after a fashion and so made it to the Caples track junction at about 1530. I headed along this easy track for another couple of hours to just beyond Mid Caples hut, where I camped in a clearing off the track at about 1800 and went straight to bed, being woken during the night by a heard of cows grazing around me :shock: Fortunately they left me alone and I was on my way by 0800 the following morning for the last easy 8ks or so to Greenstone car park, where my transport would pick me up at 1200.

New Zealand 2011 090.JPG
Caples valley from Steele CK pass


Overall this was a great experience and I was very pleased with the performance of the GG Mariopsa Plus pack and the Go lite quilt. The pack was so comfortable I almost forgot I was wearing it and it easily held all I needed for the walk. It handled the scrub bashing with no dramas and although there were some sweaty back issues this in no way detracts from the overall performance. The quilt was warm and comfortable, even a little too warm at times, and although temperatures only got down to around 10 degrees I am well satisfied that it can handle much lower.

The only real problem was the sandflies, who seem to thrive on Bushmans repellent, and my orange plastic trowel broke on me in a moment of need.
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Re: Routeburn-Greenstone-Steele Creek-Caples

Postby HitchHiking » Wed 16 Feb, 2011 5:03 pm

Bummer about the broken trowel eh! Always at just the right time. Excellent TR and photos. Same sorta weather when I was there a year or so back now for the routeburn and caples. Good to the gear worked well.
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