Tramping: Penn Creek Hut

  • Date: 06/05/2018 – 07/05/2018
  • Party: Rachel, Kristyna, Larry
  • Night location/s: Penn Creek Hut
Penn Creek trip 06.05.2018 – 07.05.2018

Hosting a tramp overnight on Sunday is an experiment – how many keen shift workers are around? With howling gales and rain forecast, the answer is just one. So Rachel and I gear up to walk to Penn Creek, when a mutual friend (MB) puts us in contact with Kristyna, a young tramping Czech tourist she met on the Routeburn – and again, en route(burn) to Queenstown airport. She’s keen to visit the Tararuas on her tramping adventure, and MB knows just the two no-mate trampers to take her there. So we three head out, leaving Otaki Forks at 11.15am (100m).

Selfie time
Nice god rays heading up early Judd Ridge

We pootle up Judd Ridge. For a whole hour, it is gently graded – you could push a pram. Then the track gets much more interesting, but keeps that same gentle gradient. At 1:40pm we reach Field Hut (880m, 2.5hrs from roadend). We stop for lunch and a cup of tea.

Field Hut

From the hut book, the 10 people who spent the night yesterday had a ‘fun time’. In the comments section they’ve written ‘Caught 10 rats :)’ There’s a story there, but we see no evidence of the massacre. At 2:30pm we continue on, up into the cloud and onto the tops 15 minutes later.

Tararua standard
Instantly brisk!

At 3 we reach the turn for Penn Creek (3.15 from roadend?(minus our lunch)). The well-maintained Southern Crossing track is instantly behind us; we squelch through the alpine mud. A DOC sign warns us against continuing. The ‘recent’ in ‘several parties have been recently rescued’ is undermined by the age and permanence of the sign. We continue by, badasses now.

Penn Creek warning

The track through the alpine muck is slick, boggy and overgrown; it’s a real meal dropping down. We have a blast.

Kristyna navigating a particularly brilliant bog

Getting around the muddy hole left by one overturned tree on this 800m descent, my boot slips and I twist my knee. Temporary agony that keeps me careful of twisting the rest of the trip. As I right myself and test for real injury, Rachel slips in the same spot.

We soon pass this messy section, and reach a nicely marked track, well-enough trodden to be clear, adequately marked – no problem at all. As we drop, I keep wondering where these active slips are. We pass a nice resting place halfway down with pistachio nut shells scattered about (1.5hrs from Field), yet still no slip. We reach Penn Creek – still no slip.

Penn Creek
Well there’s one, but it’s south of the track

The dusk gathers – night crawls earlier and earlier and we’re worried to end with a night walk. Fortunately we soon reach the intersection with the Pakihore Ridge track and close by Penn Creek Hut, at 5:20pm (6hrs from roadend, 3 from Field Hut).

Penn Creek just in time. The deer antlers were removed by the DOC ranger (reason not provided, just an apology)

The hut is a gem. An upgraded classic, the bunks are comfortable, the layout great and the condition is beautiful. A much loved wee spot with character next to the roaring stream.

Penn Creek Hut

We run around taking photos and getting water – as soon as we get inside, the rain buckets down. Timing is everything.

We rehydrate one of my meal experiments (successful) and enjoy a lovely night with the light of the lantern and games of Bananagrams which become more of a Kiwi Slang lesson for Kristyna!

Rachel always stirring the pot

We light the fire long enough to toast marshmellows. It’s just great – we retire at 10:30, late for a night out in a hut!

In the morning we head out the way we came in. We had considered the river route but were advised against it – and there is a colossal slip 200 metres north of the hut to put weight behind the warning. We leave around 8:30, and reach the intersection at Table Top at 11:30 – 3hrs.

Group hut photo
Some of the beautiful bush on the Penn Creek track
Robin in-flight during out 1.5hr breaktime
Same robin just hanging out. So cute
God rays out
Alpine veg and my hand
Everything looks better with some sunlight

We climb up to Table Top for lunch. From here we can see the snow cap on the Kaikoura Ranges, and all around. Beautiful. Sitting and enjoying it, it’s slightly overwhelming – while I eat I catch myself looking at a flax bush instead.

Toward table top from the Penn Creek track intersection. Otaki beach is out there, hard to see in photo.

Heading back down, the sun shines through the forest. It’s so beautiful and calm, we enjoy our trip back. We pass Field Hut at 12:50pm, and are down at Otaki Forks at 3.

The light is special

We stop by Parawai Lodge just to take a look – a fresh paint job has the place looking spiffy as!

Parawai Lodge
Parawai Lodge

A great little trip – we saw one runner at table top, but crossed paths with nobody – perfect for a weekday trip, and another tin-arse run on the weather. The forecast was for snow down to 1300 metres earlier in the week!

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