Penn Creek hut direct from Table Top
September 6, 2009
This trip was first proposed by David Castle a few years ago, repeating a trip he had done in his youth. It didn't run that time owing to weather. My interest was renewed a couple of years ago when, having traversed the old Penn Creek track, we climbed the ridge from the Penn Creek/Otaki confluence and had found a good route through the leatherwood onto Table Top. That same route should provide access to the head of the Penn Creek Hut spur.
We arrived at Table Top at 11:20, about an hour later than was sensible for this trip. The weather was magnificent with not a cloud in the sky nor a breath of wind. We followed the faint trail through the tussock to the knob at the head of the Penn Creek/Otaki ridge. From the knob an indistinct animal trail winds north through the patchy leatherwood to a flat area beyond which is a wall of thick scrub. Turn due east and look for animal trails which wind down the face through the open leatherwood to a bench with a small tarn in the clear patch marked on the map at S26 009306. Just below the tarn the tussock runs into an old slip on the left. This is the uppermost head of the creek which runs down to Penn Creek north of the hut. The slip provides good going down through the scrub. At the point where the vegetation begins to clog the normally dry watercourse there is a good lead off to the north into the trees for access the Penn Creek/Otaki ridge. We pushed through the low trees to the right to pick up animal trails heading downhill. The trails tend to keep dropping to the left back into the creek but it is not difficult to keep right as you descend, looking for the line of the spur. Once on the top of the spur the going is a bit scrubby initially but it quickly turns into good bush. Initially the line is slightly south of east. At about 750m we ran into some permolat markers and aluminum tags on the trees indicating an old vegetation survey plot. At the bottom of these there is a decidedly northerly pitch which caused some confusion but we resumed our easterly bearing at the earliest opportunity. The spur is often quite broad and requires constant reference to compass.
We stopped at about 650m for lunch at which point I suggested that we should retrace our steps if we wanted to play safe and get out in good time, but a firm ‘no way’ from one in the party put paid to that idea. We had no particular difficulty remaining on the spur down to the long flat stretch at 530m. At about 490m altitude we turned due east to head directly for the hut. Most of the way down is very good going through open bush. The run of the land tends to push you to the left so we had to keep strictly to an easterly bearing. When the supplejack started to dominate we strayed more to the left following open leads on a faint spur. Eventually the open leads came to an end and we had no choice but to slither and twist through the supplejack. After about 40m of this we found another open lead to our left and a few minutes later we were in open bush about halfway down the side of the slip near the hut, the hut being visible about 50m below us. Animal trails wandered back and forth across this very steep but well-bushed slope. We arrived at the hut at 2:15. A quick stop before we set off for the slog up the track to reach the Judd Ridge track at 4:20. Two hours to do 1000m, and we felt every hard metre of it. It was a magnificent late afternoon as we pounded down the recently renovated track back to Table Top, as was the just completed lower part of the track down the forks. We arrived at the car at 6:30 in the last vestiges of light to complete an exhausting 10 hour day.
- Party members
- Sue Boyde, Sieny Pollard, Neil Challands (leader & scribe).