"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you" - Isaiah 55:12

22 January 2016

Kowai Valley, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park - 14-15 January 2016

Initially we had planned to take the kids up the Hawdon Valley, taking the tents for a nice riverside overnight camp. However with strong nor'west winds forecast, bringing rain along the Divide, we opted for a trip further east. While not escaping the wind, this gave us a better chance of staying dry, an important consideration for our 2 families with 6 young kids.

The Kowai Valley was our destination. It's a valley I've visited twice previously, on trips to The Gap and to Mt Torlesse, so I knew the kids would handle it fine.
We set off early afternoon on a rather hot, sunny day. Entering the valley, we followed along a well formed vehicle track which led along a terrace above the river. This made for easy going, the only hardship being the heat beating down on us. Along the way we met a couple of guys on their way back out after a stay up at the hut. One of the faces looked familiar, and it turned out to be a fellow we'd bumped into on our way to The Gap. On this occasion the two of them had been up at the hut starting renovations, a plan to revamp the hut being undertaken by members of the Permolat group (see here for more info on the group, and also the link on the right hand side of the page). The overhaul will make significant improvements to the  hut space, so I look forward to visiting in the future to check it out.

The vehicle track led us down to the river, descending at a collection of beehives, but shortly before we got there we came across a chap parked up in a van with 3 dogs. Odd sort of place to be, and we moved on past, but one of the dogs decided to follow us...and didn't leave us until we returned the next day! The extra company kept the kids occupied on the walk which took their minds off the walking somewhat.
At the beehives we dropped down the bank to the river. A large slip has come down here since my last visit, creating some confusion on my part. I decided to scramble up the slip as it appeared there was a track cutting across it a short distance up. This proved correct, so we all climbed up and followed the high track along, needlessly as we discovered on our way back as the main track can be picked up lower down by wandering along the river gravels for maybe 200m or so. Also, the scramble back up the slip can be avoided by staying up on the terrace and following a foot trail in behind the beehives. I had deliberately avoided this as the bees were very active at the time we passed by.

From that point on, the tramp was fairly straight forward. We passed through a short pocket of bush, which provided some welcome respite from the sun, before climbing over a small knob mid-valley. A short descent through nicely cut back broom (thanks to those who are maintaining this as I remember it being a tight, scratchy section through here) took us down to Foggy Stream.
It was slightly slower going beyond there, as travel was on the river gravels of the main river, but soon the welcome sight of the hut and surrounding buildings came into view, generating much excitement in the ranks.

John Hayward Memorial Hut, or Kowai Hut as I've always known it, was built in 1973 by a research arm of Lincoln College (now University). Scientists used the hut as a base for studying hydrology and erosion in the valley, and the hut is named in memorial to John Hayward who was heavily involved in the work. From my previous experiences in some of the more rugged parts of the catchment, I can certainly see why those chose to study erosion here as the many small streams are heavily eroded, and following them often leads to one becoming bluffed with the choice of retracing your steps to find a better route, or climbing out on completely rotten, sodden rock! With that in mind, the best routes onto the tops are definitely by way of the ridges and spurs.
The hut presently has 4 bunks, although plans are afoot (and have begun as mentioned above) to increase that to 6 bunks.

We set up camp on the terrace next to the hut, thereby being able to use it as a site for cooking, a much safer alternative to lighting our stoves outside where things are rather dry.
After pitching tents and settling in, it was off to the river for some evening fun. It was glorious in the sun, the kids delighting in the natural playground on offer. Us adults set about building a dam (always good fun!) which created a nice pool above it.
All too quickly it was time to head back. The dry conditions scuppered the kids idea of a campfire with marshmallows, so instead we heated them over one of the gas cookers.
Evening drew in, the last of the light fading to darkness, so into the tents we went, but not after a spot of star-gazing. Iain and I were tempted to sleep out under the stars, but with a nor'wester forecast there was no guarantee it wouldn't rain, so we retired to the tents also.

The forecast wind arrived, building as the night went on. Although not excessively strong, it made for a noisy night in tents, and little sleep was had by most.
The morning dawned grey, with cloud spilling over the tops. With rain due later in the day, we set off early and made steady progress back down the valley, aided in part by the tail wind and perhaps by lighter loads (for some anyway).
After a quick morning tea stop mid-valley, it was plain sailing back to the car, stopping to tie up 'Spud' along the way.

A memorable family tramp, with hopefully many more to follow.

Ready to go

Easy tramping up the valley

Kids & water - a recipe for fun!

The high route over the slip in red. This is unnecessary if you follow the blue line and up the riverbed a short distance 

Mt Torlesse (1961m)

Looking up the Kowai River to Mt Torlesse

Finally found some shade for a snack

Hoisting the pack back on wasn't much fun, but was fine once on the back

Climbing the small bump mid-valley

Mt Torlesse - the line I climbed in 2015 visible here as I climbed to the saddle on the right then up and along the south ridge (skyline). It's a long route, but fairly easy

Having fun as we near our camp site

Slow and steady over slippery rocks

The kids took the lead, lost the trail, and discovered matagouri!

Climbing up to the terrace that houses the hut

Sam (5), Iain, and Beth arrive

The hut on its' terrace, looking back down the valley

The hut on its' terrace, looking back down the valley

Remnants of the hydrology studies carried out here in the 1970's

Campsite in the Kowai Valley, with The Gap and Red Peak in the background

Rugged section of the Torlesse Range from The Gap round to Red Peak

Daniel, Lincoln, and 'Spud', our surprise companion

Evening fun in the river

Kowai River and Red Peak (1853m)

Julia beneath Mt Torlesse

Girls just wanna have fun!

Time to cool off

Lincoln delighting in the fact he's just fallen in!

Last light touching the summit of Mt Torlesse

Sunset from the Kowai Valley

View from the tent

We're greeted by cloud being blown over the tops the next morning

Group shot at John Hayward Memorial Hut

Leaving camp, Spud still in tow 
Wild flowers alongside the Kowai River

Foggy Stream, with Foggy Peak (1741m) on the left in the distance

Snacking on our way out

Passing the large slip, which we crossed halfway up the day before

Final view up the valley to Mt Torlesse before legging it out along the vehicle track

The lads striding out

Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ

Access: Follow SH73 through Springfield, then as you near the start of the climb to Porters Pass, look for a layby under a group of large trees opposite the old roadman's hut.

Time: Carpark to hut 2hr 30mins (typical time 1hr)

Map: BW21 Springfield

Hut: John Hayward Memorial Hut (4 bunks, private, contact Brooksdale Station)

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