The Secret Seven, a group of trampers named Campbell, Jan, Karen, Bernard, Paul, Monika and Vivienne, are always ready for an adventure, big or small! Something very strange is happening in the Cobb Valley, and the Secret Seven are desperate to find out what. It looks like the Seven have another mystery to solve …
Up at five am to catch flights to Nelson, then a shuttle bus to the top of Graham Valley Rd for lunch at the Flora carpark. The thirty or so cars had us thinking we would be tenting that night, but most were day trippers climbing Mt Arthur.
About one and a half hours of easy climbing through sub-alpine scrub with lots of big neinei (Dracophyllum) brought us to the cosy 8-bunk hut just below the bushline. A family of weka entertained us scavenging for anything they could carry that might be food, and we got in some practice for guarding our belongings—we met families of weka at every stop along the trail during the next four days.
A short stroll beyond the hut gave us magnificent views across to Nelson.
At 7.45 am we set off on the easy-grade track to the summit. About an hour and a half up, we hid our packs at the Gordon’s Pyramid turnoff and continued climbing for another hour and a half to the summit. Lovely weather, beautiful alpine flowers and magnificent views.
Gordon’s Pyramid looked easy—just a few ups and downs along a ridge—but how wrong we were. Packs back on after lunch at the junction and the first steep descent then steep climb warmed us up.
The rest of the day was very hot, lack of fitness took its toll and I had a cold. For various reasons, especially the hot weather, we always took longer than the official track times, but it wasn’t a problem as we had plenty of time. The summit of Gordon’s Pyramid rewarded us with more wonderful view, with Salisbury Lodge visible in the distance.
A very steep descent through bush and interesting limestone formations, then a long but gentle climb to Salisbury Lodge.
The glorious evening enticed six of us to erect tents while the one member with earplugs slept inside the full hut with a noisy three year old. A nice hut with twelve bunks, but the narrow seat attached to a table was a trap and we nearly had a casualty with concussion.
Weka here were very busy so tents were kept zipped, but in the morning someone forgot about the weka, which was last seen running off to the bush carrying “someone’s” bag of rubbish! It would have been chased if “someone else” was not rolling on the ground laughing.
On the third day, the white stuff on the tents was frost, ironical since that day became came one of the hottest of our trip.
The four ladies enjoyed the loop walk to the Potholes and Sphinx Stream. We didn’t solve the mystery of where the cave was, but we loved exploring the sinkholes in the limestone with the gentians and bulbinella flowers.
We returned to drop tents and head across the tablelands: Salisbury Lodge to Balloon Hut, then Lake Peel for lunch and out over Cobb Ridge to Trilobite hut (see photo above) at the head of the Cobb hydro lake. This took most of the day as it was very hot, and overheating and blisters slowed us down. From Cobb Ridge, we had a great view of the lake with its very low water level.
Nice camping conditions, so some of us tented beside Trilobite hut. As we were heading to bed, the extended family, which included two young children, arrived from Salisbury Lodge. They came via a different route, and the children did well (they were carried through the spiny speargrass, which was face height for them).
On day four we went up the Cobb Valley past rustic Chaffey hut, recently restored, then to the NZ Forest Service tent camp for lunch. Also nicely restored, it’s a classic design dating from the pre-1950s deerculling days before huts were built for the cullers.
Due to blisters, three people chose to stop at Cobb hut for the night while the rest of us continued for another thirty minutes to Fenella hut. Cobb hut is a classic old 4-bunk hut while Fenella is a luxurious 30-year-old hut, famous for its loo with stained glass window and door, and a handbasin with continuous piped water.
Fenella has marae-style bunks and mezzanine, and we enjoyed the afternoon sun and views of the mountains.
A 10-minute walk up through the subalpine scrub was well worth it for the glorious swim in the lake and much needed wash.
Jan and I photographed bog plants and dragonflies nearby. If we’d had the energy we could have climbed nearby Kakapo Peak, but after the swim it was nice to snooze on a bunk in the sun.
We met an older gentleman who was climbing the nearby mountains with his daughter. He told us about Friends of Flora and Friends of the Cobb, two groups of volunteers responsible for the abundance of weka and robins in the area, thanks to their dedication in setting hundreds of stoat traps along the tracks and elsewhere.
Sadly, we didn’t hear or see kea anywhere, except near Flora carpark. We hope that efforts to control stoat will bring them back to our mountains.
On the last day we went back down the valley to Trilobite. Three of us detoured to Lake Cobb, enjoying the dracophyllum forest and several very friendly robins.
The mystery solved? Remove the predators and the birds will return to our forests. It was such a joy to be greated by a robin nearly every time we stopped. The Whangapeka-Leslie trio joined us near Trilobite hut.
Big thanks to Neil and Gillian for the long drive from Collingwood to collect us and take us back there for showers, clean clothes and New Year’s Eve dinner with members of all the other parties. Thank you, team for your wonderful company.