Snowy Gorge walk
Snowy Gorge trip.
Snowy Gorge is one of those places I've looked at and often thought I'd like to go up there and check it out.
Well over the weekend of the 25th and 26th of November 2023 with good mate Ash we headed in.
So just where is Snowy Gorge I hear you ask. If you take highway 8 from Cromwell over the Lindis pass and about 18kms before you get to Omarama you come to a huge sweeping bend and on that bend is the turn off to take you up the Ahuriri river/valley. From there it's about another 25kms of travel to get within opposite the valley on your right. You can park in a few spots as there is a lot of public land. However right from the get go you have to cross the Ahuriri river then it's about a 3-4kms across the river flats slightly heading up hill before you start to get into the actual Snowy Gorge valley itself.
After crossing the Ahuriri river and about half way across the river flats looking to where we are heading. Snowy Gorge center right still along way off.
The river crossing wasn't too bad, just over knee deep, I wore my Crocs to cross then dried off and put my walking boots on the other side. The Crocs make good hut shoes.
One slight problem I had was leaving home about 6am I left my good Cactus gaiters, my Highlanders shorts, my usual long sleeve hunting top and my walking poles at home. What a rookie. ( I put them on the arm of the sofa, went to the toilet and walked right past them on the way out the house.) So just had to make do. I walked in using the shorts I was wearing, no gaiters which I really missed, I had another walking top in my bag so used that and Ash had two walking poles so he had one and I the other. They make all the difference and were really useful on this trip.( I'll explain later)
The weather was going to be great for this weekend so we didn't have to be concerned with any rain that could change the crossing of the river. If there was it would make a significant difference as to crossing the river. Any higher and it would be an issue getting back across. There are no bridges anywhere close, one about 15kms downstream.
There are two huts in the Snowy Gorge one, Hideaway Biv which is slightly off from the main Snowy gorge but not that far away that really matters too much so we decided to walk over to check it out and it is really a gem and well worth the visit. Built in 1867, alot of history so it was here we had our first break.
Hideaway Biv, built in 1867, a pretty cool old hut.
Over the course of doing some research into walking into Snowy gorge I couldn't see any tracks shown and looking at mapping software, both Topo and Satellite, again could not see any tracks or trails that you would follow, from looking from the start of the valley the best way to walk up was the left hand side however you would need to cross Snowy creek well out on the river flats then head up hill to get enough height to sidle around and up the valley.
The opposite side the right side (looking from the start of the valley looking up) looked very steep and alot of rock fall area. However as it pans out that is the way to go as there is a track which goes atleast half way up the valley. I'll get back to this later.
Myself in 'Glassing' mode nearly at Hideaway Biv.
So we headed up the right side of Snowy Gorge river and as you go you slowly gain elevation, we headed around into the first valley, past the small lake and got to Hideaway Biv in time for morning tea. A muesli bar and a Back Country Cuisine Berry Smoothie which was delish. From here, as we didn't know if there was a track or not and thought it didn't look good heading around this side into Snowy gorge we decided on plan B.
As the weather was great and we had plenty of daylight hours we decided we would walk up the valley behind Hideaway Biv, cross the small creek then follow up the ridgeline over the top of the high point, which is shown as 1508m, following the ridgeline to the next high point of 1622, then about a km further up the ridgeline it drops into a saddle where we would drop down a scree slip face into the valley then onto Snowy gorge hut. Atleast that was the plan.
Ash heading up the ridgeline behind Hideaway Biv (its behind his head)
And so off we went heading in that direction. It was a good plan as it enabled us to 'glass' ( this is a term used by hunters to use your binoculars to look for animals) We did have a rifle with us and given the opportunity where keen to get some meat. By now it was about 11am-ish and any animal in their right mind would have hidden away from the hot sun and be resting in a shady spot. So the likelihood of seeing anything was slim.
Ash 'glassing' a likely looking spot. It was starting to get hot.
We headed up our ridgeline, it was very hot and luckily we had plenty of sunscreen which we used alot of. One thing I tell everyone and this is even more so in summer is having a good wide brimmed hat as it protects the head, neck and ears from getting really badly sunburnt. Mine even has a neck protector flap and also a neck tie to prevent it being blown off.
Although the fancy baseball caps look cool they are pretty useless at protecting those vital areas and face, neck and ears and they will get badly burnt. As Ash found out. Having to apply alot of sunscreen lotion and eventually putting a light fishing neck protector over his head to add to the protection.
Anyway eventually we got to the top of the hill (high point 1508m) looking down into Snowy Gorge, pretty awesome country. Very moon like on the top, just rock, not even alpine vegetation. We walked along the top ridgeline with Snowy gorge on our left onto the next high point of 1622m. From here we could see the headwaters of upper Snowy gorge, over the tussock saddle to the Maitland forest which takes you out to lake Ohau and there way down in the valley floor we could see our final destination, Snowy Gorge hut.
Ash on the first high point, Snowy Gorge behind him.
From the high point we then dropped down to the lower saddle and proceeded to follow a scree face down into Snowy gorge. It was here that the walking poles were just awesome. The rocks we were crossing were a mix of small to medium and slipped and slided and just generally were bloody hard to walk over. Poles made it just that much easier. Carry poles. It was a tough hot descent into the valley.
The view from the next high point, Snowy Gorge hut is abut center in the river flats. The Maitland forest away in the distance.
And this is where not having the gaiters really where missed. Going down the steep face kneel first meant all the small fine gravel went down the inside of my boots and I spent a lot of time removing it, very painful and a complete pain in the foot. Also once in the valley, pushing through tussock there was hidden spear grass and the very spiky matagouri. What a rookie. Lesson learnt.
Not far now to the Snowy Gorge hut, about center of the photo.
6.25pm we made it to Snowy gorge hut. Hot, weary and very hungry. It had been a long walk of about 16kms with about 14 of it going up. At the hut we were sitting in the shade and I said to Ash 'A nice cold beer would be good' he said Ohhhh yeah and with that I pulled a couple of Speights from the inside of my pack, still pretty cold, just what the doctor ordered.
Myself outside Snowy Gorge hut, that nice cold Speights went down well.
Dinner that night was one of Back Country Cuisines new 'Elite' meals Korma Chicken. Added the correct amount boiling hot water and let sit for 20min. It just so happens I had another couple of cold Speights in the pack so one each with dinner. The new Back Country Cuisine Elite meals are designed to give more energy or replace lost energy so was looking forward to testing them out.
First off, the new 'Elite' Korma Chicken is delicious, very filling and I ate it at about 730pm then next meal was breakfast about 615am So nearly 12 hours between meals, I woke up not feeling like I needed breakfast. For breakfast was another 'Elite' meal, Oats and Apples and again is designed to give you energy. It is just like porridge, super delish and very filling. Both meals where superb and would highly recommend them. You could not ask for more from dehy meals.
Back Country Cuisine's new Elite meals, bloody awesome.
We packed up, cleaned the hut then made tracks, glassing as we went. On the way out we saw a few Tahr and red deer. We got some great pictures of three bull Tahr but we were not going to shoot these guys and one in particular will be a good trophy maybe next year or the year after while the other two younger bulls will be good trophies and a few more years.
Three Bull Tahr, One is pretty good the other two just young ones.
Ash had the opportunity to shoot a female Tahr ( nanny) but decided against it as it was in an area that we probably would not have been able to retrieve it and we were not going to shoot the bulls. I was very impressed with Ash showing good hunting ethics.
About an hour downstream we spotted on the opposite side of the river valley this would be the true left or the left hand side of the valley looking down stream we spotted a marked waratah with what looked like a trail heading down the opposite side of the river. We took a chance, stripped off the boots, crocs on and crossed the river to see if it actually was a track.
Heading back down Snowy Gorge, the jumble of rocks, walking poles are the way to go.
And as it happens it was, not great and easy enough to lose in places but you would find it again after awhile. The track made walking out alot easier and the opposite side was not the way to go up or down the valley in the end. So there is a track and I'd guess if you walked up it to the Snowy gorge hut from the where you parked your vehicle it would take around 5-6hrs or there abouts. If you really wanted to you could easily walk over the saddle to the Maitland forest and walk out in a day. Perhaps about 28kms.
We got back to the vehicle about midday, around about 12kms from the hut back to my truck. It is a great walk and just some stunning country. It was well worth the effort to go into and check out. I guess as I've got older I have come to appreciate the beauty of this country. It was an awesome walk.
Although I'm a hunter I love seeing animals but don't have to kill them every time I see one. It was nice to see some game, there is not huge numbers of animals in there and it's pretty tough country to walk into and to shoot something and have to carry out would be hard work. It would be well deserved.
A couple of nanny Tahr, not shot as not retrievable.
My conclusions of this area. It is a spectacular bit of country and well worth the visit. Both huts do not have fire places as there is nothing to burn, there is no firewood anywhere. So if going in there in the colder months, make sure you have a bloody good sleeping bag and gear. The huts would be cold. In the warmer months you can travel abit lighter.
Crossing the Ahuriri, if it rained you would not cross it until it dropped this would dictate where and when you came out. Even Snowy gorge river would be a dangerous prospect with some rain. It wouldn't be hard to get stuck in there.
Walking poles are just so useful in this country, if you're going in take some. The added balance they give you, you would not regret taking them. I missed mine and having one of Ash's made a huge difference. In summer it would be very hot in here, drink lots, take lots of sunscreen, have a good wide brimmed hat and ideally light long sleeved tops and bottoms. Otherwise you will get turned into a crispy.
Ash applying sun screen. The difference between the wide brimmed hat and the cap. Although I still also put on sun screen.
Would I go back into this area again, yes I would, stunning country and although not huge numbers of animals about, they are there. You might have to cover some country but that's hunting. There is atleast one reasonably good bull in there and if there's one they might be more. A truly magic bit of country.