IntroductionThis is a pleasant 2 day tramp, crossing easy saddles on well-defined tracks through open mountain beech forest.
Andrews Shelter to the new Casey Hut
Note: The original Casey Hut burnt down in October 2015. A new 12-bunk replacement hut opened in August 2020. This hut is in a new location on the terrace overlooking the Poulter River and the last section of track has been rerouted to follow the river, rather than entering the beech forest. This will not be noted on older maps and descriptions.
Time: 6 - 8 hr
The easy open tussock flats on Hallelujah Flat and Casey Saddle are linked to Andrews Shelter. The new Casey Hut is well-marked and signposted.
If you prefer a more exciting route, you can follow Andrews streambed, as long as the stream is low. The gorge of Casey Stream is also fairly straight forward when the stream is low, although it is a somewhat more strenuous route than the Andrews. Both stream routes may contain flood debris.
Just upstream of the bridge near Andrews Shelter, a marked track begins on the true left and climbs steeply through open scrub to the beech forests above. It continues to climb but then meanders across regular side creeks, while generally keeping much to the same contour. Eventually it rejoins Andrews Stream at Hallelujah Flat (about 2 hr 30 min from the shelter).
From the start of Hallelujah Flat, follow the grassy flats over Casey Saddle. Old sections of the track in the forest on the eastern bank are now obstructed by wind-throw, and it is far better to stick to the open country. The saddle itself is a mixture of tussock and low scrubs, dominated by sprawling bog pine Halocarpus bidwillii and the lighter-coloured Hebe odora.
Parties travelling in the opposite direction should look for the track leaving Hallelujah Flat a little below the side-creek on the true left. This gives a view right up the creekbed to the scree and ridge-crest beyond, and is about 10 minutes downstream from the last clear view back up Hallelujah Flat to Casey Saddle. For the first 10 minutes the track keeps within a few metres of the stream bank; then it climbs into the beech forest.
When the stream is low, the streambed can be followed. Marked sections of track cut across small terraces on the many corners; you will cross the stream often. Mountain toatoa, koromiko, Olearia avicenniaefolia / tree daisy, and bush lawyer/tārarāmoa are common, with mountain beech/tawhairauriki along the banks.
About an hour upstream the stream forms a gorge (may contain flood debris). Towards the top end, one deep pool is easily negotiated by scrambling over the low rocky bluffs. After this, it’s easy tussock flats, best walked on the true right.
Where the forested banks draw together again the forest track is close to the river (on the true left). Where the track emerges, follow the flats to Casey Saddle as described above.
Beyond the saddle, keep to the terrace immediately above Surprise Stream. After a few minutes, the reasonably well-worn track crossing the saddle drops into the streambed below a small swamp. The forest track to the Casey Hut site begins a few minutes below Trinity Stream–Surprise Stream –Pampas Stream confluence. The track marker is tucked under the forest canopy on the true right, just past a bit of rough track through scrub on that side.
About 50 metres downstream from the marker on the opposite side, a steep eroded gravel bank drops into the stream. If you get as far as this almost treeless bank, then you have overshot the track. From the stream the track climbs a little, sidles then descends down a ridge to emerge from the bush on a large grass flat near Casey Stream.
The original Casey Hut site (now a camping area with a toilet) is back from the stream at the bush edge, midway down the flat. From this site, continue another kilometre along the Casey Stream bed to the Poulter River flats to reach the new Casey Hut.
At the original hut site, instead of taking the track to the new Casey Hut, take the track north across the Casey River (note this river can rise quickly) to follow another 4WD track across river flats for another 1 hour 30 min to reach the 6-bunk Trust/Poulter Hut.
Casey Hut to Pete Stream (Poulter River)
Time: 4 - 5 hr
From the new Casey Hut follow an old vehicle track in the Poulter valley to Pete Stream. The track through the open sections isn’t marked, but it is marked through the bush sections. The going is mostly through open tussock grassland with matagouri, mānuka and small-leaved coprosma scrub.
If you lose the track, finding it again is not difficult. Fine open vistas are soon seen from the broad bed of the Poulter. Upriver to the north is Mt Morrison on Snow Cup Range. Across the river on the south-western flanks of Poulter Range, hundreds of hectares of beech forest lie ravaged from a single storm late in 1981 which flattened almost every standing tree on these exposed hillsides.
The track passes down a delightful broad grassy avenue between forest margins, following the line of an ancient stream. The track becomes vague in the gravel bed of a side creek, but resumes clearly enough on the grassy expanse of Rabbit Flat.
Beyond Rabbit Flat there are views down river to the prominent Peveril Peak (opposite Pete Stream and the track over Binser Saddle). Across the river from Aeroplane Flat the very obvious slip at the head of Cleland Stream is a legacy of an earthquake that in 1929 split Falling Mountain at the head of the Edwards valley.
A small climb leads to the crossing of Mt Brown Creek, opposite the East Branch of the Poulter. Below the East Branch (and again both sides of Pete Stream) steps of river terraces bear graphic testimony to a landscape that has continued to change since Pleistocene-age glaciers withdrew from this part of the valley. The highest terraces are the remains of the old post-glacial valley floor. With subsequent uplift, the river and side streams have cut down into the outwash gravels, each new course being lower and narrower than the one before.
Midway between Mt Brown Creek and Pete Stream, the track climbs easily over a broad old alluvial fan and returns to the lower terraces. The poplars between the track and the hillside mark the site of the old Minchin homestead. E.C. Minchin—after whom Lake Minchin was named—began runholding here in 1857 and remained until 1870. In 1860 ownership of the run passed to Major Thomas Woolaston White, who built a new homestead near Lake Letitia on what became Mt White Station.
Over the Binser Saddle
Time: 3 hr 30 min
From the ford at Pete Stream, climb the terraces on the true right of that stream towards a marker on the terrace rim. It is easy to miss the turn-off to Binser Saddle, so be vigilant when nearing Pete Stream. Follow the outer lip of the highest terrace until a track winding through the low mānuka scrub becomes obvious. The track soon enters the forest, still keeping close to the edge of this terrace. It takes a fairly direct line on to Binser Saddle, beginning at an easy gradient but getting steeper further on. The forest is open mountain beech and for the most part the track is easy to follow.
Near the saddle a stream runs close to the track, so water is no problem. Areas of wind-thrown trees obscure and obstruct the track in places as you approach and cross the saddle, but the line follows the foot of the slopes on the northern side, and is not hard to regain if you lose it. The climb to the saddle is further than it may seem from the Poulter valley floor, being some 600 metres (2,000 feet).
Beyond the saddle, a pleasant little open flat has good camping sites, with running water a few minutes on down the hill. At the bottom left-hand corner (heading westwards) the track re-enters the forest. After passing through wind-throw and thick regeneration, the track becomes dry, open and mossy. After crossing a side stream it wends through more storm-ravaged forest and drops steeply down to the Waimakariri River flats, emerging just east of Lower Farm Stream. Note that introduced wasps can be an unwelcome feature of this part of the route in summer, be careful not to disturb their nests as their stings are extremely painful.
People heading in the opposite direction should follow up the vehicle track on the true left of this stream and look for the track sign at the forest edge, towards the upper limit of the grassy flats. Note too that the track is a little steep and rough in the early stages as it clambers up from the valley floor.
It is another 30 minutes to Andrews Shelter.
The track ends are within 30 minutes walk of each other on Mt White Road.
The track starts at Andrews Shelter on Mt White Road; turn off SH 73, 24 km east of Arthur's Pass village.
- Experience: Suitable for fit, well-equipped people with moderate tramping experience.
- Best season: Summer, autumn, winter.
- NZTopomap50: Cass BV21
- The weather is regularly drier in this southeastern corner of the park than in Arthur’s Pass Village and regions close to or west of the Main Divide. Accordingly, this tramp can often be undertaken when conditions elsewhere in the park are unsuitable.
- Allow adequate time. Note the times given for each section are guides only.
- Check snow and weather conditions. Mountain weather forecasts are available from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
- Take a map and compass. Topomaps for the area are available to buy or hire from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
- Never travel alone. This route is difficult.
- Know your ability. Arthur's Pass National Park is mountain country. Navigational skills and ability to judge weather and river conditions are essential. Be prepared to turn back if conditions are not safe.
- Poulter river has a stock exclusion fence across the lower river. This can act as a strainer for rafters or people in the river.
- Take care with river crossings especially after heavy rain. If in doubt, wait it out.
Note: True right and true left refers to the sides of the valley when looking downstream.
Stay safe when crossing rivers
If you plan to cross unbridged rivers, know how to cross safely and be prepared for if you cannot cross.
Do not cross if the river is flooded, you cannot find safe entry and exit points or are unsure it’s safe. Turn back or wait for the river to drop - which often takes a few hours after rain.