Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes

This large and popular hut is set in a simply stunning alpine location. You will not find better than this anywhere in the country for a few days out. The hut is popular and you need to book online, although you can camp nearby if you have the energy to carry a tent etc up the hill with you.

Nelson Lakes are a couple of hours drive from Nelson and provide superb tramping. We organised transport to and from Nelson relatively easily and cheaply and headed off into the hills with a rather uncertain weather forecast.

The transport dropped us off at Mt Robert car park around lunchtime and we shouldered our packs and headed up the valley for Speargrass hut. In retrospect we should have taken the Robert Ridge Track as this is easy enough and is a nice and open ridge track, with some scrambling as well.

It took us three hours up to the hut, a lovely quiet place deep in the hills and on the edge of the bush. We had lunch and a snooze in the sun until the clouds rolled in.

Speargrass hut.

The track from the hut is not an easy one to follow. It is not well used and the orange markers are intermittent at best. The key is to follow the true left bank of the stream until the bush clears and you find your way into tussock country.

The track becomes clearer as you gain height past a couple of tarns. It is further than you might think and the last climb is a nuisance, but finally you breast the ridge and join the trampers from the ridge track and look down into the corrie towards the hut. A couple of hours at least for this, and a total height climb for the day of well over 1300m.

The hut is splendidly sited and just half an hour will allow you to scramble down the scree and put your feet up on the deck. This is a large hut and you will be surrounded by both Kiwis and overseas trampers. An Aussie had quite an argument with the warden as he was very reluctant to pay the hut fees. Likewise some campers, inside out of the rain, did not want to pay the day fee. Such people are really annoying. These places are valuable and cost very little, especially when compared to the Great Walks huts, so why will they not make the contribution?

Angelus Peak is visible ahead of the hut and this makes a nice outing for the day if you book two nights at the hut. As it was we had one night and only had time to walk across to the saddle.

Our exit was down the Cascade Track to Lakeside hut. This is a very steep descent and might be tricky in poor visibility as the bluffs are steep and the rock wet. Keep an eye out for the orange triangles and take care. The group behind us did not find it easy and took ages to descend. A couple of hours was all we needed, but my knees were sore by the time we hit the valley bottom.

The rain was well set in and, given the heavy rain of the last few days, we were uncertain of the river levels so we headed up stream for half an hour to cross the river using the suspension bridge before heading downstream to the hut.

Lakeside hut was very welcome and quiet. It had taken us over four hours down the track and we were relieved to be inside. The party behind us arrived several hours later, before which a solo male tramper arrived. It turned out he had been with his daughter but they had got separated. I assume they found each other but it never ceases to amaze me how daft people are. One group were incompetent on the terrain and could not read maps, whilst this chap had lost his 15 year old daughter.

The rain was very steady the next morning as we wandered up the lake for several hour to St Arnaud. It was tempting to hail a boat as we passed the jetty but it was full so we carried on lost in our wetness until the road and then the cafe appeared.

All in all we had covered 30km or so and a lot of height. We were tired after several days of tramping and ready for some home comforts. We set off to Nelson and a flight to Christchurch.

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