A Week at Lake Angelus
In March I spent a week being volunteer hut warden at Lake Angelus Hut. No helicopter trips unfortunately but DOC agreed to drive me to Mount Roberts carpark. Tramping along the ridge I was buffeted by a strong westerly wind, but clear weather and great views down to the tarns on the east side, and Mt Arthur and the Owen Range on the west. About 7 hours later I reached a stunning view of Lake Angelus from the ridge above the lake.
The hut warden's accommodation has two bunks, gas stove, shower, private balcony and magic view over the lake. Also included were radio for contacting Rotoiti Base and a big supply of tinned food, mostly tuna, beans and tomato. I had to carry in all fresh stuff. My most important duty was to check all visitors had booked and paid online. Without this check DOC's income from the hut would probably decline. The hut fee is $20, and camping next the lake is $10. My other duties were to clean the toilets daily, keep the hut clean and tidy and welcome trampers and answer any questions. I also had to post a weather forecast every morning and that was a good time to talk to people about their best route out which could be via Speargrass Hut if there were strong winds over the tops. Adventure groups turned up frequently, usually about 8 or so young people, some doing their first-ever tramp, with a couple of Kiwi leaders. They were mostly Americans, Brits, Germans and French with a sprinkling of Israelis, and a few were in their sixties or even seventies.
One party of 15 camped out by the lake and this was a surprise because they had no booking, so I went out to investigate. They were 13 young Americans with 2 Kiwi leaders, all cooking their meal over a stove in a freezing wind blowing mist off the lake. DOC's policy is to charge an unbooked 100% penalty payment, so I said I would need to charge them $300. The leader said he couldn't pay and they would all move down to Hinapouri Tarn where they could free camp (being more than 200m from the hut). With a 15 minute walk back to the toilets, that was a bad idea. In the end I agreed to charge them $150 with DOC following it up later. Making them all move would have been pretty rough treatment. Free camping with large groups is a problem especially where they camp in the same place each time.
One day I did a trip to Sunset Saddle, climbed Mt Angelus and had lunch lying in the sun among alpine flowers and vegetable sheep (Raoulia and Haastia species). On the way back I saw a bird sitting on a boulder next to Hinapouri Tarn, and I stalked it, getting a few photos within about 4 metres. It was a karearea (photo above) or NZ falcon. In 2016 I met up with a karearea at Hinapouri Tarn (on a different boulder) and that time it allowed me to get up quite close (3m) and take dozens of shots. I won a prize at the TTC photo competition with one shot and I've got a print on my lounge wall. Comparing the 2016 and 2018 images the bird looked identical which is not really surprising since Hinapouri Tarn is probably the centre of its territory. It must have been an Eastern Karearea (one of three races in NZ) which lives in the open spaces above the bushline in the South Island. It lives on small birds such as NZ pipit (photo R) and rock wren, also geckos and skinks that live in cracks in the rocks and come out to bathe in the sun, and mice (there were lots of mice around the hut). Grasshoppers are another source of a small meal and there are millions of them hopping around on the rocks. The boulders must be ideal spots to survey the surroundings for any sign of movement. I also met my karearea up on the tops at about 1900m, so it obviously moves around quite a bit. It is interesting to speculate about revisiting my karearea and getting to know it.
- Party members
- Ken Fraser (scribe).