Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Hot pools but no Hermitage

After my little sojourn to Dunedin for laser treatment on my right eye, I drove back to Wanaka, picking up my friend Emma off the bus in Tarras. Emma was living in Wanaka in 2016, and had worked as a tramping guide there, before moving back to Tasmania in 2017 and selling her car, to me!!

We decided to do a tramp together, and after much discussion and influenced by the recent heavy snow that had fallen on the Alps that week, we decided to walk the Copland Track on the west coast. This is a popular track, which starts 30km south of Fox Glacier and travels up the Copland River before going over a very tricky alpine pass to descend to Mt Cook village. These days the alpine crossing has become extremely precarious due to recent rockslides over the last decade, and we had no plans to be mountaineers anyway. We were going for the natural hot pools that exist just next to the Welcome Flat Hut, 18km upriver. We booked two nights...

We left Wanaka before 7am, driving that wonderfully scenic route to the west coast and arriving at Haast around 9 for a much needed coffee. Then, after refuelling the car as well, we continued north to the start of the track.

We headed off around 10:45am for what is a steady climb up the Copland Valley. First, Rough Creek must be crossed. I elected to wear my crocs and not put my boots on until I had made the other side. Emma put her boots on at the car, so she used the precarious log crossing to save her boots getting wet!

Then up the valley we went. There are numerous creeks to cross, and all the big ones have bridges, so aside from a bit of mud, it's possible to get to the hut with dry feet.

There's a few landslips along the way, and you are warned not to stop when crossing these potentially unstable areas, but they don't feel anywhere near as precarious as crossing over the creeks spanned by wire suspension bridges!

Welcome Flat Hut has a resident volunteer hut warden, and bookings are compulsory all year around. We arrive after 6 to a full hut, and spend an hour or two after dinner soaking in the hot pools looking up at The Milky Way before succumbing to sleep.

Our first night the hut was fully booked, but the next morning almost everybody leaves to walk back out again. We, and another group of walkers, have booked two nights, so we take advantage of the lack of crowds to take a long soak in the hot pools the next morning. This leads to lunch and then considerable lethargy, so instead of going for a walk further up the river I sit in the sun instead and read my book....

The hut begins to fill with more walkers, but it's not full overnight, as heavy rain is forecast and the track will be closed the next day. We are warned to leave early, as the creeks and rivers can rise fast, making the track impassable.

Most people leave earlier than us, but we take a more leisurely approach, as heavy rain is not forecast till later in the day. Emma has one more soak in the hot pools yet we are still away by 8:30am. It is overcast and only raining lightly, yet the creeks we cross have risen noticeably already. Even so, the walk out is no more taxing than the way in, and we stop for lunch at the small DOC hut halfway. The final crossing at Rough Creek is not appreciably higher, and neither of us bother to remove our boots before crossing, as we are almost at the car.

And then it begins to rain heavily.

We are safely out, so we drive the 30km to Fox Glacier, book in to the hostel and jokingly mention that we have just popped over the hill from The Hermitage (the posh hotel at Mt Cook village). And they believe us! We must look hardcore!!

A damn fine rib steak and a few mulled wines goes down mighty well that night, and we listen to the torrential rain falling from the comfort of a warm hostel room. The next day we drive back to Wanaka. Emma is off to do a mountaineering course and I've decided to abandon Wanaka for a while and head further afield. Although I still need to be back in Dunedin in a couple of weeks for my next eye review...

Southwards it is. That's next...


  1. Beautiful photos. I did the Copland from Mt Cook in the 70s. Took 13 hrs from Hooker hut to Douglas Rock hut. Wonderful adventure.

    1. I'm envious. I think you need high end skills, and a lot more fitness than I have these days....