Loktow Road to Littles Clearing via Black Birch Range, Aug 1 2012
The original plan was to go from Makahu Saddle car park to Pinks car park via Middle Hill Hut, but with heavy rain just gone and more on its way – and the need to have the van taken from one end to the other – it was considered to be unwise. So with a change of plan, eight trusty trampers set off for the safer and shorter alternative offered by the Black Birch Range.
Having turned off the Whittle Road into Loktow Road, the start of the track is about 5k down what is a narrow, often steep, metal road with two fords to cross and several washouts to go around – all expertly navigated by our driver, Alison.
We started tramping at 9.00. Five of us intending to do the whole track, Vic and Ken decided to take an easier pace following on behind whilst John headed further along the road to climb Don Juan from the road end. We climbed steadily for about an hour when, just as the energy was flagging, we reached the ridge. The track to this point is through bush with more and more contorta taking over the higher we climbed. The route has recently been cleared by scrub cutting, leaving a well defined and wide track. From there, it was relatively flat all the way. At the halfway stage and well in front of the DoC time estimates, we visited the bivvy which is about five minutes off the track. It has been re-painted and the area was in average condition; there was an open fire place complete with pot racks and billy hangers which would be very handy if staying the night.
The track along the ridge is lined with contorta which unfortunately has grown to a height that blocks out the views towards the Kawekas. The track for the last half hour before reaching the end has a lot of boggy bits that need skipping around but not deep enough to be more than a messy nuisance. The final section dips down into two gullys so as to cross small streams and then back up the other side each time. The beech trees and bush contrast favourably with the ridge line and the contorta. We arrived at the Littles Clearing end of the track at 11.30 for an early lunch.
After half an hour of lunching and chatting, we were beginning to feel the cold and so we set off on the return. This took about two hours, quicker because we were going downhill at the end and of course we missed out going to the bivvy for a second time. The other three were waiting at the van on our return so we had a quick exit and an early trip home. Despite the forecasts, we had a dry day. The rain started on the road home.
Trampers: John Marshall, Alison Greer, Diane Hills, Ken Ross, Vic Bullock, Peter Slagter, John Burrell and reporter Kelvin Shaw