Another NTC Epic covering some new ground the club has not visited. What an invite then, a four day play on the Lewis Tops awaited. Weather dictated that we do the trip in reverse, adding another 300m climb, an easy pay off to get good weather over Boscawen saddle and summit, starting then on the Nina River Track to the Nina Biv.

 It was an easy start, mostly flat and muddy heading West towards the Biv. Boots were removed on creek crossings as the walkwires had been too! The biv has had a high school makeover since my last venture up the Nina and now sits in a clearing with a woodshed, thanks to Hurunui Valley restoration students. We arrived at the hut just before a drizzle, which subsequently intensified.

Don’t you love it though when you go to sleep with one weather system and wake up to another?  As predicted, blue skies and light winds prevailed. Eager we were then to scurry up to Boscawen Saddle, side trip to summit Mt Boscawen (1780m) and then head to Lake Christabel Hut.  

Neville ascending the creek to Boscawen SaddleNeville ascending the creek to Boscawen Saddle

We kept true Left of the Nina River, sidling high where needed, picking our way through Beech Forest. It took 2.5 hours to reach the stream heading West to the saddle E 1538367 N5297758. It was a better than expected ascent and dry boots prevailed, we stayed true left to start and then down to the streambed as it gorged up. A few interesting moves and grooves to ascend a small waterfall was the Crux move. Another 2.5 hours travel up the Steam and we were privileged to be on the saddle.

Simon looking down from the saddleSimon looking down from the saddle

With continued blessing of good weather it opened up the summit to us, an interesting rocky ridge with patches of snow and arriving back after 1.5 hours to the saddle. 

Heading towards the summitHeading towards the summit

Heading towards Lake Christabel following one of its feeding tributaries we would have been wise to pick up the Robinson River track ASAP. It would have saved an almighty low scrub bash true right of the stream and dodgy ascent. We got very intimate with the vegetation as it tried to penetrate all body parts! Sleep came easy, Simon choosing the lullaby of frogs and campfire by the lake.

Heading towards Lake ChristobelHeading towards Lake Christobel

Saturday cleared to another fine day as we followed the Rough creek track up to the ridge, a climb of 600m, before we off routed towards Monkey Biv. It’s such a delight as you come out the bush, the country here is beautiful with gently undulating tops and sweet views, from here we romped along the ridge to around pt 1390 before doing a long sidle, this time keeping to lower contours, usually we climb above the bluffs and take a higher route. Brass Monkey Biv, such a beautiful location, its name lending up to its shaded location ....Cold enough to freeze the balls off (or on) a brass monkey" is a colloquial expression used by some English speakers to describe extremely cold weather. It’s a shame DOC don’t seem to be repairing this hut, it’s out of commission and needs new linings due to mould. A perfect winter Hut for easy snowy tops travel, maybe NTC could make it their next project, they would have willing hands from CTC. 

There were a colourful smattering of Autumn tents and one gorgeous Golden retriever. We camped high, enjoying the last of the sun, Neville braved the hut.  Waking to mist and a chill, we were actually pleased to be climbing. The route out involves some climbing /rock scrambling and in parts lovely rocky ridges and then the gentle open tops again. 

All ended well, few cuts and grazes and tired but happy bods. Next time it will be in snow but we will have to drop down to Lucretia hut. Thanks to Simon for organizing, Neville (MTC) for your company. Few others couldn’t join on this occasion, but I hope they get to appreciate this area sometime in Autumn.

Participants: Simon (Leader), Andrea (scribe) and Neville (MTC).