Keen trampers VICTORIA and EMILIE are on a mission to explore the wide variety of beautiful tracks and huts throughout the South Island. Recently, the pair set their sights on the Angelus Hut in the Nelson Lakes region and shared their story with us.
“I want to be the leader!” Miss Six announced, pushing past me in her determination to be in front. Momentarily off balance with my heavy pack, I narrowly avoided twisting an ankle on the sharp rocks and silently swore while cracking a bright smile. “Good for you, sweetheart!” Better to let her set the pace while the enthusiasm is still flowing strong, I thought, as I tightened the waist strap on my tramping pack, pulled my neck warmer over my nose and followed her along the ridgeline.
It was Boxing Day, and we had just gained around 600 metres elevation while slogging up the side of Pourangahau/Mount Robert on our way to Angelus Hut. Situated on the shores of a small alpine tarn, the hut is perched some 1650 metres high on the Travers Range between Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes National Park. Tramping blogs accurately describe the three-kilometre climb up the Pinchgut Track from the Mount Robert car park as “unrelenting,” and I would wholeheartedly agree. However, my company was cheerful, and the views were spectacular.
We stopped for a quick snack and to catch our breath at the Relax Shelter, adding windproof layers and sun protection to protect us on the remaining nine kilometres of exposed ridgeline before we dropped down to Lake Rotomaninitua/Lake Angelus.
My stomach was a mixture of nerves and excitement as I surveyed the vast open space around us. I had watched the Mountain Safety Council’s route video several times, checked the latest weather reports, spoken to the DOC staff at the Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre and secured my personal locator beacon. However, I knew nothing was certain in this unpredictable alpine environment. The spring weather was restless and volatile, and I didn’t want to get caught out on the tops with a six-year-old on day one of a multi-day tramp in Nelson Lakes National Park. I tried to swallow my nerves, remain calm and confident, assess the risks, and tell myself, Hey Mama, you got this.
Miss Six wanted to chat. “Mummy, tell me a story,” she demanded as we picked our way up a particularly rocky section of the ridgeline, the sunlight glinting off her caramel and golden curls. I began a story about a family of rock goblins who spent their days moving rocks around the mountaintops and tidying up after storms. One day a particularly nasty storm swept over and blew the rock goblins down the mountain. They sheltered from the wind and snow in a kākāpō’s burrow, making friends with the mother bird and her chick. In the morning, when all was calm, they dug their way out of the burrow and skipped across the snow, checking that all the birds and animals were safe and gathering seeds and berries for the mummy kākāpō to eat. I’m sure anyone with a science background will pick me up on numerous factual inaccuracies. Still, we liked these adventure stories of caring for the environment, and I have a repertoire of characters up my sleeve for long walks like these.
By now, the western side of Mount Robert sloped away steeply on one side of us, while tiny alpine tarns sparkled on the eastern side a few hundred metres below. “It looks like a mermaid’s pool!” my daughter exclaimed, waving her tramping pole. A tiny clump of bright green moss was a fairy’s carpet. I love seeing the magic of the world through her eyes.
“We’re on top of the world now, Mummy,” my daughter told me, squeezing my hand. “We can float on the clouds!” When I’d first showed her photos of the hut on the DOC website, nestled on the shores of Lake Angelus and surrounded by rugged mountains, she had agreed that she also wanted to visit “Angela’s Hut”. Now here we were, on our summer school holidays, 1400 metres in the clouds, the only two tiny humans as far as our eyes could see.
Kiwi Kids Getting Involved
For over 30 years, Forest & Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club | Hakuturi Toa (KCC) has been connecting Kiwi kids to New Zealand’s amazing wildlife and wild places. KCC now has over 5,000 members throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Members have the opportunity to go on KCC Adventures. Volunteer coordinators
arrange outings and meet-ups for members to explore their local beaches, forests and everywhere in between. Some clubs also get involved in local conservation projects like tree planting, creating lizard gardens or making nesting boxes for little blue penguins.