Freedom Found (Part One) – Wild Mans Hill(1856m)

“On a Mish” #40 Freedom Found (Part One). Top Hut / Wild Mans Hill(1856m). Hakatere Conservation Area. 18.5.2016. Freedom is found in the more than 60,000 hectares of stunning Canterbury hill country west of Christchurch city. Golden tussock decorates mountains of rock, snow and ice, and below is a collection of incredible river valleys and stunning alpine lakes. The place is one where you can get some exercise while all around is very pleasing to the eyes. True freedom to me is roaming the wild hills and a long time ago I found an excellent place to roam over and over again…

Hakatere is wild land that farmers have attempted to tame since its discovery, with varying results. The epic missions of the area’s first pakeha visitor Samuel Butler are legendary tales of hardship and endurance in order to claim the prize of Mesopatamia. I can tell that along with potential farming land, it was the pure beauty that made it so alluring, and made each venture to and from worth the incredible amount of effort.

Luckily discovery and habitation hasn’t hindered the area. The mountains still stand tall, the lakes still glisten in the sunlight, and the vast freedom makes every wander a special treat.

On this trip my plan was to hike up the Cameron Valley to a point where I would cross over the Wild Mans Brothers Range to Top Hut in the Upper Hakatere / Ashburton Valley. Since my first visit to the Cameron Valley I have returned for more time and time again, and each trip has provided the adventure I was seeking.

With three days worth of supplies I headed up to the entrance to the Cameron Valley while pack-soaking drizzle / rain fell down from above. The forecast was for more rain, but at this stage the river was clear and at a normal flow and not many puddles had had a chance to form.

An easy stroll on the well-beaten track up the valley ended once I needed to turn off toward the saddle. I went from open track to dense spikes as my route took me through a patch of Matatgouri. This needed to be negotiated to gain the saddle to the Upper Ashburton Valley. Knowing you’re for a scratch attack isn’t very motivating, so I had to draw on the fact that it would lead me to some pretty epic country.

As I got closed in on the pass the peaks of the aptly-named Big Hill Range grew in size and mountainous grandeur. I can confirm that the hills in the ‘Big Hill Range’ are definitely rather large!

After hiking down from the saddle I came across a well-kept private high country hut. I would have been satisfied stopping here but the fact that it was private kept me moving further up the valley.

Following the hut was my biggest and most dangerous challenge, the Upper Hakatere / Ashburton River. Mindful that this a country where drowning in a river was the norm for many unfortunate early pioneers. I spent my time wandering up and down the watery barrier looking to find the best place to cross. Where the 4wd track fords the river the water was reasonably deep, so I headed further up the valley to where I found a better place to cross over. Nothing like the feeling of first the water flowing around the waterproof protection of your boots, then seconds later the chill of the waterproof layer losing its battle with its liquid foe.

From the crossing point it was a short walk with wet feet up to Top Hut. The hut is located on a terrace in the Upper Hakatere / Ashburton Valley. It’s elevated location means it is seen long before you get there. As the rain set in I had no trouble increasing my pace. With the rain now pouring down I burst into the hut and was happy to get there and get the fire going to dry out.

In an area deprived of trees and firewood is a challenge unless brought in by 4wd. It would really seem that luck was on my side as there was a pile of dry pre-cut logs ready to go. With the fire now roaring it was time now to kick back and enjoy the freedom found in Hakatere…

Top Hut in the Upper Hakatere / Ashburton Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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