With the precedent set with hikes the previous two weeks with his older siblings, Theo was fully anticipating a hike this weekend, which was awesome – except the weather was not promising. I’d been looking at the Woolshed Hut for a while after reading this cool review of it, and with mixed weather reports for Saturday, but fine for Sunday, we decided to chance it and set off early afternoon. In some ways, the hike would fit the old sporting adage of “being a game of two halves” – with the walk in enduring atrocious conditions and the walk out being sensational.
After hooking west at Rakaia, the rain really started to set in causing a few second thoughts however Theo was determined to charge on! Fortunately, the drive was not a long one:
After arriving it was straight into rain jackets and hiking boots, beanies and mittens for Theo and we were off. If you want a 2minute overview of the hike, check out this video:
Day One & Hike Up To Woolshed Hut
Here’s the a couple of maps of the route:
Route map for Woolshed Hut – Via Miners Track by Sam McNeil on plotaroute.com
To be honest, we could not get a great sense of the scenery because of the low cloud and persistent rain and we were pretty focused on getting to the Woolshed Hut. Nevertheless, seeing the old Blackburn Mine entrance and various old mining equipment was a highlight:
We took some photos near the summit before dropping down into the valley where the Woolshed Hut was, but by this stage Theo was seriously cold and the photos were blurry anyway. On arrival, it was off with packs, wet clothes and into the hut where the kindly DoC Hut Warden immediately boiled a hot chocolate for us and I made some dinner to get Theo warmed up.
I headed out into the rain and pitched the tent and noticed that were was a small army of University of Canterbury students pitching tents across the the Woolshed Creek – around 60 in all! Consequently, the hut was heaving with activity given how wet it was, so we retired to bed warm, but tired.
Day Two & Exit Via Rhyolite Ridge Track
Route map for Woolshed Exit Via Rhyolite Ridge Track by Sam McNeil on plotaroute.com
The day dawned as perfect as the previous day was rubbish – it was cold, something I’d noticed when I awoke in the night, but I was not expecting the ice on the outside of the tent that Theo discovered when he was first up around 7am:
However, it was not long before the layers were coming off, with the windless blue skies really making for a beautiful day. I’d picked up a CamelBak 3L reservoir earlier in the week and this made it easy for Theo and I to stay hydrated whilst on the go – some of the reviews said it leaked but I didn’t find this and the freezing water we filled it with from Woolshed Creek stayed cold the entire walk back to the car.
We had planned to check out more of the activities located around the Woolshed Hut, such as the water caves, swimming hole and waterfall, however the poor weather the day before had put a stop to that. We were keen to march on, not quite sure how long the alternative route would take (most others departing were heading back via the “cheat” 4WD track to Miners Creek carpark!).
Nevertheless, the swingbridge was a hit – Theo crossed and recrossed it, and we also took the 5min detour to a different waterfall that was pretty impressive after the heavy overnight rainfall.
With the climbing out of the way and a break for a bite to eat, we were passed by some of the exiting University students who were heading back to Sharplin Falls Carpark – a much longer walk than we were undertaking.
We started to veer horizontally for a change and got photos at the “Bus Stop”
The track here certainly requires considerable care – it’s mostly well marked but there are some very steep, unfenced drop offs that could be dangerous. If you’re going to walk it make sure you’re confident around heights and pay attention with your footwork!
The overnight cold snap had dusted the higher peaks with a generous snow cap that was great to see, even though we remained hot in the clear skies with only a gentle wind to take the edge off.
It was not long before the final high point was reached, something that presented an awesome photo opportunity for Theo:
We paused for a break and watched a crop dusting plane making multiple runs across the still valley, spraying fertilizer or the equivalent out the back of the plane. From this point on it was a steady, and at times very steep, descent towards the carpark.
This sign was met with relief, as fatigue was setting in for both of us. We came across some hikers coming in the opposite direction who confirmed the timeframes. Whilst they predicted we we would be quicker, the steepness of the descent meant we were pretty close to an hour coming down and I for one certainly felt it in the knees! Again, you’d want to take care here as there are some very steep declines and edges and a serious fall would be problematic!
This was a terrific hike and whilst it was a shame the weather was really atrocious on the first day in, it did not stop us from enjoying it overall. The views on the hike out were like a postcard and, given the amount of surrounding walks and activities in the area, I think we would definitely come back again!