Leatham Conservation Area – North Raglan Range

An Easter 4 day hiking loop trip through the lovely Raglan Range including a side trip to the summit of Mt Impey.

We piled into the club van for the 6.15pm sailing on Thursday night, settling quickly and introducing ourselves to those we had not met before (for me, that meant every one). Our original plan was to have a look around the Mt Owen area (and summit), but the weather forecast meant we had to switch to plan B – which was to stay further east and allow the high plateaux of Kahurangi NP to soak up the rain that was expected from the west before it got to us.

The Leatham Conservation Area is a place seldom visited by trampers – it is about 90 km from Picton, not far from the Wairau River valley. There was a newly marked “Wye” Track that we would explore, and a possible diversion over Mt Impey. Hidden Hut would be our turn around stop, before heading back out to the van via Boulder Stream. The area is initially farmland, with beech forest further in.

Spending a moonlit night at a convenient DOC campsite, we upped sticks and got ourselves to the end of Leatham Road and tramping by 10 am. After a short tramp along the 4WD track following the very pretty Leatham River valley, we followed the Wye Track up to and along the ridge that would take us to our campsite for the first (and third) night of the trip. This entailed a long steady climb from below 500 m to a height of 1149 m, and with some ‘powerful undulations’, which had our party puffing in no time.

At lunchtime we maintained the EM tradition and took great advantage of the warm sun, and basked, before we picked up again and moved to our campsite for the night, beneath the saddle between Mt Impey and Mt Bounds. At this point I should comment that the club recipe book is a winner – all the meals we had on this trip from this recipe book were top notch.

Leanne Jenkins visiting NZ from the UK views the southern hemisphere from the summit of Mt Impey

Day 2 and we were packed and away by 9.30am. We headed for the saddle where we would stand, stare and make up our minds about how we would attack the rest of the day. Once we got there, some of the options apparent on the map were denied. The route from the bottom of the saddle to 1430 m, and beyond to 1451m, while not necessarily impassable, was given a miss in favour of taking the track to Hidden Hut. Once there, we could ascend Mt Impey from the hut via Parkers Spur.

The trip down from the saddle was enjoyable and allowed a good stretch of the legs and a solid pace, although it also introduced some members of the party to Spaniard grass for the first time! Once we had reached the hut, we (who were still tenting) set ourselves up and basked in yet another extended lunch, until 3pm, when the party of Mt Impey ascenders set off on their journey. The 850 m climb up and return took it out of the team and all welcomed the warmth of a riverside fire, another well cooked dinner and ‘s’mores’ (2 chocolate biscuits sandwiching a toasted marshmallow).

Day 3 had us return to Day 1’s campsite via the same saddle, after a late start of 11 am – as we waited for the worst of the rain to burn off. The late start also enabled us to enjoy the morning chorus that is so impressive in these parts and for people to comment on me having potato flakes for breakfast. Once we began walking we made pace and arrived at the campsite after about 4 hours. Once we had unpacked, Tony had us hunting through the trees for standing dry beech so we could set up another fire and enjoy some more toasted marshmallows after dinner.

Day 4 had us packed and away by 8.45 am – early so we could make the ferry with time to spare. The trip out was initially along the same ridge we came in on, but we then took a turn and headed down one of the spurs into Boulder Stream, where there was a 4WD track that we could follow out (2 of us eschewed this and stuck to the stream).

We all then arrived back at the van and were ready to return to civilisation!


Reports of other WTMC trips in the Leatham Conservation Area:

For a Lees Hellfire Circuit trip go to Lees Hellfire Circuit – The Bounds of Hades

For a Leatham Molesworth Circuit trip go to Finding dinosaurs and magic on the Leatham – Molesworth Circuit

For Tararua Range photos go to www.tararuaphotos.com

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