Wednesday, 20 December 2017

An Easy Hike - the Cobb Valley and Fenella Hut

I love hiking in the Nelson region. My favourite place to visit is Blue Lake in Nelson Lakes National Park. This year I hiked in the Kahurangi National Park. It's probably best known for the stunning Heaphy Track. Less well known but much easier are the tramping opportunities in the Cobb Valley.

I set off with two friends to hike to Fenella Hut and back. To get to the start of the track is about two hours drive from the centre of Nelson, it might look shorter on the map, but the roads are winding and a good length towards the end is unsealed road.

The Cobb Valley
 From the road end, the track headed up the valley at such a gently gradient it was hard to believe we were gaining altitude. Much of the track is across grassy meadows.

At times the track wound through small pockets of beech forest which were a welcome break from the hot sun.

The river looked inviting for a swim, but be warned there were plenty of sandflies there.

Along the way, we came across some restored huts. You could stay in these if you wanted to revisit a simpler time.
Chaffey Hut (top) and Tent Camp (bottom)
We stayed at Fenella Hut which was up a steep 20 minute climb at the top of the valley. Like most New Zealand back country huts it had the usual basic facilities - a toilet at some distance from the hut, a water tank, bunks and mattresses for sleeping, a table and benches, a stove - but it also had a gas cooker and pots and pans so we could have left our billy and stove behind.
Fenella Hut interior
The hut had views up to the mountains. All around korimako (bellbirds) sang and miromiro (tomtits) flitted around. We heard kea call up in the mountains.
Near the hut was a small tarn suitable for swimming...

... and rock gardens to explore.

The area around Fenella Hut and the Cobb Valley was a great place to look for flowers.

Top L-R: Ranunculus insignis, Veronica canterburiensis,
Bottom L-R: Caladenia  lyallii, Ranunculus verticillatus, Euphrasia
Birds seen or heard along the valley included: weka, toutouwai (South Island robins), tui, korimako (bellbird), riroriro (grey warbler), miromiro (South Island tomtit), kea, kahu (harrier hawk), tītitipounamu (rifleman), pīwakawaka (fantail), pīpīwharauroa (shining cuckoo), pīpipi (brown creeper), kawau (little shag).

The hike to Fenella Hut is an easy 4-5 hours. We chose to hike mid-week to avoid the crowds, so we had the hut and the hills to ourselves.

More information
For more about hiking in the Cobb Valley see:
Department of Conservation

Although this was an easy hike in good weather, we followed good hiking practice and took wet weather gear, warm clothes and a PLB (personal locator beacon). We made sure someone knew where we'd gone and when we expected to be back. For more tips on safe hiking in New Zealand see: Adventure Smart

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