Woolshed Creek Hut, Mount Somers.

Sometimes the bigger mountains of South island are just too much, or more likely too wet. The foothills of the alps nestling between the Canterbury Plains and the high mountains of the alps provide wonderful opportunity for tramping.

Mt Somers can be walked around in three days, but this is a shortened version which takes you from one end of the track to a snug new hut and back via some wonderful scenery.

If you choose to do this little tramp rather than the whole walkway, make sure you go up the Miners track on your way to the hut and out down Rhyolite ridge, otherwise you are letting yourself in for some pretty steep climbing right from the start.

We were here just after Christmas with our dutch friends, walking off huge Christmas lunches and enjoying the last warn dry days before the fronts spilled over the ranges. The wind was dry and warm, fires were threatening along the divide.

The hut is serviced and requires three tickets or an annual pass.

Looking towards the main divide

The walk takes you up to the mines that scatter the valley, long abandoned but interesting to nose around. A steep climb takes you up to the main mine before you head along the ridge to a trig point that overlooks the ridge. Looking back you can see the plains and perhaps the sea, whilst forward the mountains get bigger, drier and rougher before you can see the snowy slopes of the main divide.

This is empty country, a hunters delight,

The hut itself appears as soon as you reach the trig point, nestling in a lovely valley beside a stream. It is modern and clean, with a fire for the wet or cold days, and a river for water and/or a swim. The best swimming is just below the suspension bridge that takes you over the bridge on the way home.

The crags are good for rock climbing if you bring a rope and gear. There are some excellent routes at 16 to 23 scattered with an hour of the hut and there are usually photo guides in the hut.

When we arrived a family were just packing up having spent four delightful days exploring the area. The river, the crags and the hills are great for exploring and company will arrive in the evening more often than not as people walk around the mountain,

The walk out is a little more challenging. The bridge leads over the gorge and swimming hole and then the track heads up the slope to find its away around the deep eroded gullies in the hillside. As you gain height the summit plateau comes into sight just before you duck down to a big rock overhang, The Bus Stop. Rather oddly there is a bus stop sign here, fastened to the rock.

By now the wind was very strong and my hat blew away as I turned a corner. We hastened across the tussock and turned right onto the steep ridge. This is actually a little tricky in the wind and Gail was blown over by one strong gust. The front was spilling over the divide and there were some very loud and close claps of thunder as the cold and warm air masses collided. We just got to the car before the heavens opened, but our friends were not so lucky.

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