(draft) Trip: Richmond Ranges West
Distance: 102.4 km (71.6 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate-hard terrain
Altitude: 96m to 1766m. Gain: 9072m. Loss: 8491m . Gradient: 10 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6) Winter - Iceaxe/crampons (4/7)


Distance: 7.8 km (2.5 DOC hours) - Road - Easy terrain
Altitude: 96m to 585m. Gain: 521m. Loss: 33m . Gradient: 4 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the Onamalutu Reserve a gravel road continues west up the valley. After about 3km this enters forestry and becomes a standard forestry track: ok in high-clearance 2WD. Zigzagging it climbs to the saddle where the start of the Forsters Hut track is signposted. Parking is limited.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-17. Experienced: 2007-02-06

From Forsters Track roadend to Fosters Hut via Forsters Track
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Distance: 6.6 km (2.0 DOC hours) - Benched track - Easy terrain
Altitude: 542m to 1122m. Gain: 642m. Loss: 104m . Gradient: 6 deg (Gentle)
Skills:
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the saddle on Kiwi Road a good benched packtrack from mining days sidles gently towards the main range. It's an easy walk / cycle on a rock/dirt benched track. The track hits the main range at Forsters Clearing. A signpost here marks the turnoff to Forsters Hut 0 500m to the east.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-17. Experienced: 2007-02-06

From Fosters Hut to Mt Royal via main range
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Distance: 8.7 km (7.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 937m to 1348m. Gain: 995m. Loss: 767m . Gradient: 12 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the saddle at Foster’s Clearing the ridgeline route to Mt Royal is signposted. It’s a very good route through mature, widely spaced beech as far as the clear tops of Mt Baldy for more views. The descent west of Mt Baldy is a bit scrubby, but mature beech resumes for the rest of the ridgeline until the treeline at Mt Royal is reached. This is a well-travelled route, and except for the descent off Baldy is easily followed.

The bare scree tops of Mt Royal are the first glimpse of the ‘other face’ of the Richmond ranges – it’s not all trees, and rock sections and rewarding views will become more common as you head west.

Last updated by: Madpom at 2015-08-18 01:20:02. Experienced: 2007-02-08

From Mt Royal to pt1198 via Mt Royal Track
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Distance: 1.3 km (0.8 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1116m to 1348m. Gain: 79m. Loss: 245m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Pick up the markers for the Mt Royal track to the west of the summit, and follow the well maintained path SSW along the ridge until it turns SE and drops off the ridge at pt1198. There route continuing along the main range to Mt Fishtail is not signposted, but a reasonable well-traveled ground trail branches off the Mt Royal track WSW along the ridgeline.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-08

From pt1198 to Fishtail Hut via Main Range
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Distance: 6.3 km (6.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 996m to 1628m. Gain: 778m. Loss: 596m . Gradient: 13 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

There route continuing along the ridge to Mt Fishtail from the Mt Royal Track at pt1198 is not signposted, but a reasonable well-traveled ridgeline route continues WSW to clearings at pt1250. The ridge swings W again here, and beech becomes scrubbier in places requiring occasional bush-bashing to travel the 3km to the treeline at Mt Fishtail. It’s a steep rocky scramble to the summit of Mt Fishtail – but the views of the entire range, the Sounds to the north and Wairau to the south make it well worthwhile. Mt Fishtail Hut is visible below amongst scree on the south face of the peak, but it is necessary to continue W to the obvious saddle before cutting back SE to the hut, as the south face is steep and bluffy.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-08

From Fishtail Hut to Mt Fell Hut via Main Range
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Distance: 9.4 km (9.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate-hard terrain
Altitude: 1011m to 1565m. Gain: 1107m. Loss: 1178m . Gradient: 14 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Climb to the saddle west of Mt Fishtail, and follow the ridgeline west over a couple of small peaks before descending steeply SW back into the bush. The ridgeline descends rapidly to 1100m through open, mature beech, and it’s easy to believe you’ve followed a spur towards the valley floor. However, a saddle eventually appears with steep bluffs climbing beyond. These can be bypassed to the south for an easier climb to the scrubby summit of pt1269 - from where the descent due W along the main ridge is obvious. The ridge broadens and becomes scrubbier as it climbs to pt1359, and some compass work may be required. From here its 1.5km of hellish stunted beech NW to pt 1327. Gators are recommended – or be prepared to lose some skin. The low saddle towards Mt Fell is obvious when you reach it, but not before – don’t be tempted to drop looking for it until you can see it below you and due west. Several small bluffs make the descent more interesting, and be careful to avoid side-spurs leading you towards the valley floor. The climb from the saddle to Mt Fell is much easier. Climb due W up the obvious ridge though mature beech, interspersed grassy clearings and finally tussock. For Mt Fell summit continue up and W. Alternatively, the poled / marked track to Mt Fell hut can be reached 1km south along the bushline (it may be easier to climb a little out of the tussock/scrub before heading south for easier travel).

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-09

From Mt Fell Hut to Richmond Saddle Hut via Mt Richmond route
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Distance: 4.3 km (3.0 DOC hours) - Marked route - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1209m to 1724m. Gain: 511m. Loss: 590m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

An easy-moderate marked tramping track, with a 500m climb / descent over Mt Richmond.

From Mt Fell Hut, regain the ridgeline W of the hut. A poled track sidles S up the east face of Johnson Peak before swinging due W at a col before the summit, to climb moderately steep scree faces to Mt Richmond itself. It’s a 500m climb from the hut to Mt Richmond summit, the highest point in the range. Amazing views are guaranteed – so long as it’s not cloudy, raining or snowing. A stone corral has been built on the summit and provides shelter to wait out the next gap in the weather. From Mt Richmond summit the poled track swings NW along a broad rocky ridge, before dropping W to Richmond Saddle, where the hut may be visible below. It’s a steep, 550m descent – but the rocks are stable and going isn’t as bad as it looks.

Last updated by: Madpom at 2015-08-18 01:37:34. Experienced: 2007-02-09

From Richmond Saddle Hut to Ada Flat via Main Range
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Distance: 8.8 km (9.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate-hard terrain
Altitude: 1198m to 1476m. Gain: 1035m. Loss: 832m . Gradient: 12 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

A difficult unmarked ridgeline route to Ada Flat, through frequent thick scrub and along a sometimes crumbling ridgeline. One steep, slippery descent down a loose gravel chute beyond pt1234. This is the hardest section of the Richmond Ranges due to thick scrub on the ridgeline. An alternative route would be to drop down the track to Top Valley, and follow the valley track climbing back to the ridge at Old Man. But then you wouldn’t have walked the ridgeline, eh?

It all starts easy: leave the track at Richmond Saddle and head WSW though mature beech then tussock to the 1st peak, pt 1393. The ridgeline continues west through tussock and occasional scree to Grassy Knob, before descending back to the bushline. From here things get tougher – the bush is thick and stunted beech, and it’s a case of picking your way SSW along the obvious rocky ridgeline towards pt1434. Where the beech gets even thicker! It’s a steep descent to reach the saddle between pt 1234 and 1331 – the loose gravel chute on the north side of the ridge is the only viable route I have found. Be careful.

The worst is now over. Cross pt 1331, then contour the north face of pt 1370 remaining in mature beech below bluffs and scrub to reach the saddle with pt1424. Again, stick to the north face of pt1424 below the ridgeline, climbing gently to keep below thick scrub (don’t drop too far or you’ll hit steep gullies). After about 1km the scrub higher up ends ends near a series of clearings, and you can regain the ridgeline and pick up a well traveled ridgeline route west to Ada Flat.

Heading SW over Ada Flat, pick up the poled route (‘The Alpine Route’).

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-09

From Ada Flat to Old Man via track
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Distance: 1.2 km (0.7 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1332m to 1498m. Gain: 166m. Loss: 69m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

The poled route (‘The Alpine Route’) heads south over Ada Flat, and descends to a saddle where a cut track swings SSW to Old Man. There is a water tank on the summit of Old Man – very welcome in the dry ranges. A signpost marks the track junction.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-09

From Old Man to Old Man Hut turnoff via track
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Distance: 2.4 km (1.3 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1310m to 1498m. Gain: 77m. Loss: 222m . Gradient: 7 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the junction at Old Man summit the track west along the ridgeline to Old Man Hut and Mt Rintoul is signposted and well maintained. A signpost points marks the junction of the Alpine Route and the track down to Old man Hut.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-09

From Old Man Hut turnoff to Mt Rintoul Hut via Alpine Route
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Distance: 4.8 km (5.0 DOC hours) - Marked route - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1251m to 1719m. Gain: 627m. Loss: 735m . Gradient: 17 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) Winter - Iceaxe/crampons (4/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

A moderate poled tramping track, including two steep 400m+climbs/descents over the two high and exposed peaks of Mt Rintoul. Would be very difficult in poor visibility as route is not obvious and poles are sparse in places.

Do not be fooled by Mt Rintoul. It is not a mountain. It is in fact two mountains with a steep, low saddle between them.

From the Old Man Hut turnoff the track climbs west to the bush-edge at the foot of the eastern peak, and then up good stable scree to the summit, a 350m climb. From the summit the disheartening low saddle before the west peak is visible, with an impossible knife-back ridge linking the two peaks. Fear not, you don’t have to walk along that ridge. Instead, the poled route drops steeply W down a series of loose gravel chutes to the scree-face at the foot of the southern face of the knife-back ridge. Poles continue, sidling below the bluffs to the base of western peak. From here they climb steeply up loose scree to regain the ridgeline between the two peaks, which they follow to the summit. Another 450m climb. If you’re not too tired- look NE from the summit for wonderful views over Nelson and to Motueka valley. From the western summit of Mt Rintoul the poled route crosses the summit, and descends to the bushline, from where a cut, marked track continues to the 6-bed Rintoul Hut, from where you can watch the lights of Nelson as you cook a well earned feed! 3h00, 4km

Beware of bad weather – the poled route between the 2 peaks is very hard to find in fog, and a number of parties have reported spending several days trapped between the two peaks waiting for visibility to improve.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-09

From Bishops Cap to Tarn Hut via track
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Distance: 3.3 km (1.5 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1021m to 1287m. Gain: 99m. Loss: 365m . Gradient: 8 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Taking the track south towards Tarn Hut from Bishops Cap, you’re back into mature beech. After 3km of ridgeline and sidling, a signposted turnoff descends east to Tarn Hut, whist the main track continues along the ridge. It’s only 200m and a 40m descent to Tarn Hut (5 beds) and one of 3 lakes in the Richmond Ranges – surely worth a look!

Created by: Admin on 2015-08-20. Experienced: 2007-02-10

From Mt Rintoul Hut to Bishops Cap via track
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Distance: 4.6 km (3.0 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1224m to 1498m. Gain: 351m. Loss: 309m . Gradient: 8 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From Mt Rintoul Hut a clear cut track continues to the bushline at Purpletop, from where a poled route leads to the saddle to the south of the summit. Circling the summit, the poled route descends back west into stunted beech, where a wide cut track leads to the junction south of Bishop’s Cap where a signpost marks the track junction.

Created by: Admin on 2015-08-20. Experienced: 2007-02-10

From Tarn Hut to Bushy Top Jn via track
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Distance: 3.0 km (1.3 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1021m to 1225m. Gain: 321m. Loss: 117m . Gradient: 9 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From Tarn Hut, return to the ridgeline track and follow it south. After 2km the first of two signposted turnoffs to Mid Wairoa Hut is reached. The second junction is 1km beyond near the northern summit of Bushy Top.

Created by: Admin on 2015-08-20. Experienced: 2007-02-10

From Bushy Top Jn to Mid Wairoa Hut via track
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Distance: 3.5 km (1.8 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 379m to 1225m. Gain: 15m. Loss: 861m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate)
Skills:
GPX info source: Drawn on map

A cut marked track descends steadily down the spur from Bushy Top, swinging later SW before pt812 to reach the river just below Mid Wairoa Hut. For those coming from the northern of the two signposted Mid Wairoa Hut track junctions, a track sidles the western face, avoiding a 200m climb, to join the main track west of the summit.

The river is crossed on a swingbrisge, and Mid Wairoa Hut is just upstream on the opposite bank.

Created by: Admin on 2015-08-20. Experienced: 2007-02-10

From Mid Wairoa Hut to Top Wairoa Hut via track
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Distance: 6.8 km (4.5 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 380m to 834m. Gain: 569m. Loss: 115m . Gradient: 6 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From Mid Wairoa Hut a sidle track leads up the Wairoa valley to the forks below Top Wairoa Hut. The track crosses several steep faces and has 8 river crossings of the Wairoa - but is relatively good for a sidle track (not too many ‘unnecessary’ climbs and descents of the valleyside). From the forks, the track is not well marked, but climbs the scree-face on the north face of the southern branch, 200m above the confluence. From the top, you’ll pick up markers again and the cut track to the hut.

Created by: Admin on 2015-08-20. Experienced: 2007-02-10

From Top Wairoa Hut to Red Hills Hut via ridgline
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Distance: 18.9 km (13.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate-hard terrain
Altitude: 834m to 1766m. Gain: 1179m. Loss: 1105m . Gradient: 7 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

A moderate to hard ridgeline route along a sometimes narrow and exposed ridgeline. Lots of boulder-hopping and scrambling early on. The ridge later broadens out towards the plateau, but becomes featureless, and careful map/compass word would be required in bad visibility.

The Red Hill Range is unlike anything else I’ve seen in NZ. A 16km-long collection of large boulders heaped haphazardly into a ridge – with no bedrock in sight. An almost entirely barren landscape of intensely red rock. And the most abrasive rock I’ve ever met, at that. Take too a look at your boots before you go – as they’ll never look the same again, the rocks will shred them.

From Top Wairoa Hut, follow the track west towards Mt Ellis, until you cross the 1st creek shown on the map. By this stage, the scrub should have abated, and you can leave the track and climb to the ridgeline. Circling around the heads of the two creeks beyond, it’s a short, climb over the first large red bounders to the ridgeline NW of Red Hill. Follow the ridge SE to Red Hill summit, where the remains of a trig-point can be found amongst the boulders. At 1791m this is the highest point in the trip.

The two unnamed and unnumbered peaks between Red Hill and pt1770 are very tricky to cross, and though many parties report successful but nerve-wracking crossings along the ridgeline, an easier option is to descend into the basin to the west of the ridgeline. From there it’s an easy climb back to the ridge at pt1770. South of pt1770, things get gradually tamer – the ridge broadens out, the boulders get smaller and the gaps between them less daunting. Occasional flowers can be spotted, though it’s still a barren place. By the time you reach Chrome, patches of tussock start to appear, and soon you’ll be wishing you were back boulder-hopping as you stumble over tussock tops for the last couple of km down to The Plateau. Head directly for the trig-point visible across the tarn-scattered plateau, (‘A4BF’ pt1131 on the map) and keep heading the same direction beyond it to find yourself directly above the Red Hills Hut.

Created by: Admin on 2015-08-20. Experienced: 2007-02-11

Distance: 0.7 km (0.3 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1105m to 1353m. Gain: 0m. Loss: 248m . Gradient: 21 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the junction, it’s a 1km, 250m descent through steep beech to clearings and a stream where the 6 bed Old Man Hut is located.

Created by: Madpom on 2015-08-18. Experienced: 2007-02-09


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