Hikers: Finn & Jen (March 7th, 2020)
I was a little nervous (but mostly excited) about this trip because it would be the first time Jen or I had done any tramping through unmarked land, but everyone I spoke to who had done it reassured me that it was really straightforward! I managed to track down a GPX file from Wilderness Mag and loaded it onto the NZ Topo50 South Island iOS app so I could see where we were going. You can download my GPX tracks for both days by clicking the button just below the heading for each day.
Thankfully, even though it was “unmarked”, it was so well walked that there was essentially a track the whole way!
Day 1: Brass Monkey Bivvy via Lewis Tops
I was a real sleepy head on Saturday morning so we didn’t properly hit the road from Christchurch until 10am. After getting fuel and a couple more snacks from the supermarket we didn’t get to the St James Walkway Carpark until 12.45pm! The time estimates were a little wide-ranging so we amping to get started.
Jen started us off by absolutely boosting through the forest and we were out onto the open tops in 45 minutes! From here there was a little track that mostly followed the ridge line, but Jen was nav’ing and we didn’t always stick to it.
The climb through the forest is pretty unrelenting, but it is over quickly! From there, the tops undulate (for a loose definition of undulate) before descending steeply down from Point 1580 and then back up and around the south-east side of The Apprentice and across to Lucretia (1643m).
While we were climbing around The Apprentice we saw a group of five come down from Mt Technical, and knowing Brass Monkey Bivvy was only a 2-bed hut, we picked up the pace! We caught them just after Lucretia only to find that they were friends of Jen and thankfully they were going through to Nina Hut! We joined up and chatted to them as we descended to Brass Monkey Bivvy. We all relaxed at the biv and they warmed up and recharged before heading down to Nina Hut in the dark.
Day 2: Out via Lucretia Bivvy
There are two ways out of Brass Monkey Bivvy via Nina Valley:
- Duchess Stream
- Lucretia Stream
Duchess Stream takes an unmarked track all the way through to Nina Hut while Lucretia Stream has a much shorter unmarked section through to Lucretia Bivvy and then out via Lucretia Hut Route and onto the Nina Valley Track. To avoid too much rough terrain we opted for Lucretia Stream.
The day starts by climbing back up towards Lucretia but taking a right hand turn down into Lucretia Stream. There is a little track from the saddle and a series of tarns which will guide you towards a rather narrow looking ridge into the valley. Rest assured this is the right way to go! I couldn’t find when James Broadbent cut the route, but there are references to it back to 2008.
CTC member James Broadbent cut and permolated the trail a few years back and it’s still in a reasonably good condition - Hiking Is Good (2019)
The trail is marked mostly by white rectangles of Venetian blinds made of metal - they and easy to spot and rattle in the wind you shouldn’t get lost!
Once the track reaches the valley it sticks to the true right of the river all the way to the bivvy. From the bivvy the track is quite well marked and crosses Lucretia Stream once to get onto the true left before meandering all the way down to Nina Valley.
We swum at the swing bridge over the Nina River but the sandflies were a bit extreme after a very short dip we headed off! We were looking forward to soaking in the hotpools at Maruria Hot Springs! The track down Nina Valley is extremely gentle and well-formed. We had good weather but in any rain it will get very boggy, so be ware!
Overall, we had an excellent weekend and really enjoyed our first experience of hiking on unmarked tops and getting a little more backcountry than our normal hikes!
– Finn 👋