The Near End of the Richmond Range
8-10 October 1999
This Mt Royal-Devils Creek trip (dreamt up by the Fixture Card committee, for none of them had been there) proved a beauty. The area is easily reached in a weekend from Wellington, the road end in Quartz Creek being less than 70km from Picton. Our car lights failing to show up the hut marked on the map, we camped on the ample flat grass beside Quartz Stream (and found in the morning the remains of the hut's concrete foundations less than 100m away).
The valley was filled with fine weather morning mist as we followed the rough 4WD track through often thick broom to the Quartz Creek forks and on to the foot of the spur between, where DoC markers lead up to spot height 1198. It is steep and occasionally rocky; the views barely made up for the heat and humidity which rather took the shine off our energy for the rest of the day. But after lunch we were soon blissfully at our ease on top of Mt Royal, enjoying the sun now and the all-round view. Mt Fishtail was not far away, and seen from Mt Royal has the distinctive shape that gives it its name. But it was soon well after two, and we needed to push on.
The track down to Devils Creek is less used, and though it was once well indicated by white markers, we found many of these, especially higher up, lying on the ground, presumably buffeted off by the wind. Care is needed not to lose the route, but the going is easy enough, descending gently through impressively high, straight red beech trees with quite a few rimu rickers lower down that early sea-captains would have envied for spare masts and spars. The bridge has gone at Devils Creek, but it would need heavy rain to make the ford difficult. The hut is well above the stream and sits at the edge of a large flat area of grass that looks as though it is waiting to be mown. We enjoyed lying back as the sun set. Just behind is an old slab hut, with a slab chimney too, a picturesque ruin, unfortunately, but still of noble pioneering proportions. Wekas serenaded us just outside after dark, and later it seemed a whole menagerie of four-footed animals was cavorting around and all over the hut - but not inside!
The route up to Fosters Clearing follows an old miners' pack track, well benched and carefully graded, which not too long ago was reopened after being cleared of fallen logs and fern. Sunday's walking was as a result much more pleasant. The track has the advantage of crossing several streams as it sidles to the high saddle between Mt Baldy and Fosters Ridge hut. (There is also a water butt on the saddle.) At a height of about 700m on the other side, the old track probably turned sharply left and sidled down into Nutmeg Creek, for now through regenerating manuka scrub we found ourselves on a freshly bulldozed pathway. Shortly after, in a low saddle, we found what was almost certainly the start of the track marked on the map descending directly to Bartletts Creek. It showed no sign of recent use, and though it was tempting, we might have run out of time had it not worked out well. But we soon had more cause to regret it, for we were shortly on the clay and shingle forestry road, all seven or eight km of it, winding slowly and foot-wearingly back down in the hot afternoon sun to Mary's car. (The road has a soft shingle ford at the bottom, but is open to four wheel drive vehicles.)
Majority opinion was that the trip, though free of any difficult stretches, was long enough to be at the top end of Medium grade, and that it might be easier taken in the other direction. But it was unanimously agreed that it had been a great weekend.
Party members: John Thomson (scribe), Mary Connell (leader), Bev Daniel and Malcolm Cunningham.