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Bealey Spur

Arthur's Pass National Park, New Zealand

Arthur's Pass National Park Links:

March 13th, 2002

6.5 miles
1920 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:54

Rating: 8/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

We were the only car parked in the small gravel lot at the start of the hike. The sky was completely overcast as we started the hike. We immediately started climbing steadily through beech forest. The guide at the wilderness lodge had told us that the trail was well-marked, and it was. Maybe overly so -- there was a bright orange plastic triangular marker on a tree every 50 feet. The path was so obvious that I never even brought out the map.

There was a carpet of moss on the ground beneath the trees. The trail was squishy, easily giving way as we walked and bouncing back up. Lichen hung from the branches. A solo woman hiker passed us as we continued climbing. We saw very few people on this hike -- only 9 hikers the entire day. That's a welcome contrast to the dozens of people we saw on the Queen Charlotte and Abel Tasman tracks.

Beech forest

After climbing for about 400 or 500 feet, the forest levels off for a while. All this time we were in beech forest with no views. Then we emerged from the forest in low brush, climbing again to be rewarded with some nice views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Soon we were passing through open tussock fields with great views of the Broad Stream valley to our right. We eventually reached a perch over the valley which provided the best views of Mt. Rolleston and all the valleys and mountains north of us. It was also quite exposed and therefore windy here.

Mountain rising into the mist

Mt. Rolleston (center, back)

View of the Bealey River

The trail then turns inland. We now alternately passed through tussock fields and beech forest. We heard a few birds, but didn't see any animal droppings on the ground -- no sheep here! The trail again levels out again as it crosses wooden planks across tussock fields and ponds. There follows a long climb through a tussock field and finally beech forest, tussock field, and beech forest, culminating in the Bealey Spur Hut. We reached the hut in about 2 hours, 20 minutes (with a few stops in between). The sign at the beginning of the hike says 2 hours, so that seems like a good barometer if you take your time.

Jean walking across some planks

The hut was a little scary. It was originally built sometime around 1916, and it doesn't look like anyone's done much since. Inside are 4 bunk beds, a fireplace, and a cooking area. It was quite dark and cramped and not well-maintained. Jean and I looked at each other and hoped that the huts we were staying in weren't the same quality. We needn't have worried, as there's a world of difference between a Great Walk hut and an historic hut like the one we were looking at.

Inside the Bealey Spur hut

Top of the Bealey Spur

There were two men sitting on benches outside the hut, having lunch. They were finishing up just as we arrived. They mentioned that there were icy winds at the top; since we wanted to get back early for a lodge activity, I didn't think we wanted to spend the time to go the top -- especially since it was still overcast. We sat down on the grass to eat lunch, sand flies buzzing around us.

Bealey Spur hut

As we were finishing up our lunch, the woman who'd passed us earlier came down from the top and said it was a tough climb going up to the top -- from the map it looks like another 300 meters of climbing, most of it completely exposed to the elements. So after lunch we turned around and headed back down the trail.

Looking down across the tussock fields. Notice the ponds, which is where the wooden planks are.

A close-up of some of the plant life

There's not much to say about the return trip. It remained overcast throughout the day. We made it back to the car in plenty of time to return to the lodge and rest before the next lodge activity.

Beech forest

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