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Nelson Lakes

Trek to Lake Angelus and the Travers Mountain Range

sunny 60 °F

We left James and Barbie Wilson’s Green Shed last week following one of our most enjoyable wwoof residences so far. After spending our last 3 days in their wonderful ocean front Bach we had one more hot breakfast before leaving. Leaving took a little work. Kari forgot her Nalgene down at the Bach and had to run and get it while I tried to pack all of our stuff back into Mister Shifty. It is amazing the system we have in place so that things fit and we don’t have too much stuff piled in the back seat.

We headed south back to Sophie and Mark’s place in Blenheim on Wednesday the 9th . They were happy enough with our paint job on their roof to invite us to leave some of our stuff in their house while we went for a tramp into Nelson Lakes National Park. The drive to Nelson Lakes took us up through the valley that is home to the best Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the world. It was a truly amazing site to watch row after row pass the window for almost 100 km.

Patrick enjoying the evening trek past Lake Rotoiti
In the shadow of Mt. Roberts

St. Arnaud is the town at the entrance to the park. In many ways the area reminded us of Lake Tahoe, only New Zealand size (small). There are two beautiful lakes that are surrounded by towering 6000 ft peaks. Our tramp took us out along the edge of Lake Rotoiti to Lake Head Hut for our first nights stay. It was an amazing 2 hour walk from our car along the edge of the lake to a river crossing that took us another hour to navigate. When we woke the next morning there was a hard frost on the ground that made the ground look white and the river steam. This created a bank of fog that hung just off the ground not far from the hut. We ate breakfast, warm oatmeal instead of muesli and dried milk for this trip, and headed out on what was to be our only taxing day of the trip.

Kari next to the morning river crossing
After the morning river crossing the sun breaks into the valley

It started with crossing back over the river and then following it up the valley for about an hour. At this point the track turned off the main river valley to follow a side stream up into the mountains. What we had ahead of us at this point was just over 1000 vertical meters (≈3400 ft) of elevation change over the last 6 km to Angelus Hut on top of the Travers Mountain range. The trail followed along the stream as it quickly climbed the mountain giving us many beautiful waterfalls to look at as we trekked upwards. After a few hours we broke through the trees and into a clearing caused by past rock slides and were able to see our destination. Only it was straight up the side of a steep and rocky slope that the stream cascaded down. The rest of the hike danced between the rocks and the intertwined sections of the stream as we headed for the source of the water, Angelus Lake, our hut for the evening.

Stream side on the Trek up the mountain side
Patrick crossing the high mountain stream
First look at Lake Angelus
Kari exploring the deck at Angelus Hut

The hut was conveniently located right at the top of the climb so it was a true sense of accomplishment to crest the ridge and be done for the day. When we arrived there were only about 6 other people at a hut that we had been told could be one of the busiest in New Zealand. We got a good pick of bunks and set out our stuff and took some time to relax and enjoy the lake as we read our books. A few people started to trickle in and we thought that maybe it would be close to full for the night but nothing to bad. Since people were arriving we decided to eat early and get out of the way…Good Thing… Just as we were started cooking 6 Israeli men about our age showed up and we heard them talking about the rest of their group coming in behind them, a large group. By the time we finished cleaning our dishes and dusk had fallen the hut was packed. We woke up early so we could get back to Blenheim before dinner and found that the hut was a bit of a disaster. There were beer and wine bottles scattered around the tables and tons of food and cooking equipment on top of the cooking areas. We moved this aside and cooked breakfast before the sleeping hoard woke up and took over again.

Early sun hitting the peaks around Lake Angelus
The Travers Ridge looking down past a small alpine tarn
Kari above Lake Rotoiti

Our hike this day was going to take us along the ridge of the Travers Mountain Range and then down a steep slope right above Lake Rotoiti. But we didn’t leave before soaking up the early morning light on Lake Angelus. We made a quick climb up to the top of the ridge from Lake Angelus and got another wonderful view of the small lake before we headed off to the north. The view from the ridge line was amazing and showed us both valleys and the mountains stretching away to the south. The way was easy and Kari and I had no problem navigating the rocky outcroppings and slips of stone. We came to the last peak, Mt Roberts, before the slope down to Rotoiti and saw a few buildings scattered around on a small plateau below us. We later found out that these buildings made up a hike in ski resort in the winter months. The hike down from there was mostly switchbacks and as Kari and I have discovered we don’t like switchbacks at all. I don’t like them because I have to listen to Kari complain about how much she hates them the whole time, otherwise I can tolerate them. They did however provide for more stunning views of Lake Rotoiti and we were quickly off the trail and into the car.


Posted by patandkari 17:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking

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The view of Lake Rotoiti is stunning. The hiking sounds like it is fun, hut house not so much! I hope you take some pictures of the huts. I am curious about them, how big they are, what the insides look like, etc. Thanks for much for the scenic pictures. Lovely!

by Kristi Kay

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