Greenstone – Caples Tramp

The way there

After spending a week in Queenstown (see above) and blessed with wonderful weather, it was time for us to to travel to Glenorchy to get ready for our Greenstone Caples tramp. There were a few great sights along the way as shown below.

After a night in Glenorchy in a holiday park, we started the tramp!

Day 1 – Greenstone Hut

We set off bright and early. We were confident with our walking sticks and my new boots. After herding a few thousand sheep off the road near the tramp entrance. (this was recorded on my other camera’s video mode but I can’t get about 30 secs of the 5 min video up here yet.) Our goal was to get to the Greenstone Hut.

The path was pretty flat and the track itself was well defined. The walking stick really helped my sore knee and my boots were good on my feet. Both our spirits were high as we enjoyed the walk on a wonderfully sunny day. There were some great views as you can see from the days shots.

Towards the end of the day the path got a bit rough, but it was not too bad. It ended up taking 7 hours all up (with a few stops along the way) before we got to Greenstone hut. Everyone else at the hut seemed to be surprised that we had a tent. We were the ONLY ones that slept outside. It was cool that night but we were rugged up nicely.

Day 2 – McKellar Hut

We set off again on another wonderful day towards Mc Keller Hut. According to the map this was going to be a long walk so we didn’t waste much time. The path was nice and flat and track pretty well defined so our progress was good! We ended up in this gigantic valley for hours with a strong gale blowing in our face.

It was good to keep us cool, but possibly a little too cool. The views were great and the tussocks all through the valley made for some good shots. We both felt good as we made good progress. But as the day continued the track got rougher. By rougher I mean harder to see, more tree roots, big rocks etc When we get rough terrain our progress slows considerably. The path just kept on going and going.

We did get to see a lot of really nice waterfalls along the way.

It ended up taking us 9 hours to get to the next hut and we were both getting tired. Both my feet started to blister a bit, but luckily we were able to get some sports tape from a nice elderly couple who we had crossed paths various times on the hike. Again we were the only people in a tent, but the hut was extremely full so it was probably better that way! I had a little trouble sleeping as I knew the next day was going to be a long one.

Day 3 – Day of Days

We got up nice and early, packed everything up and set off again. There was reports of a rainy day, but thankfully the clouds held off and we had another glorious day. This day we had to go over the mountain so we knew it was going to be tough. After 2 hours we had hooked around the Lake McKellar and were about to start our climb.

There was a small swamp at the base of the mountain. I was able to balance on a thick fallen tree branch to get over the swampy part. Fem was not to sure of her balancing ability so she decided to go around it. She took one step off solid ground and ended up half way up her thigh on one leg in mud. With the backpack on her pack it was hard for her to get our of it. I was on the other side of the swamp and had no easy or quick way of getting back. After a few seconds she was able to get herself out, but it gave us both a bit of a scare! But from here the path got insanely rough. We were literally climbing up over rocks and thick tree roots and even dirt walls as we went up. We had to keep a good eye out for the these orange triangles stuck on trees that indicated the path upwards. As there was not much different between the “path” and the forest itself! During one of our breaks I was able to quickly snap off these photos.

This was so physically draining. Fem’s face in the second photo summed up the mood for both of us. We both had tough times mentally going up this mountain and wanted to turn back, but the other person was able to give encouragement, support and humour. The walking sticks proved to be incredibly useful by offering balance control and support as we hauled ourselves up over more rocks and tree roots and branches. After a very long 4 hours we were finally at the top!

We were so relieved! With us on the top, this basically meant the rest of the day and Day 4 would be generally downhill. We had a well deserved break and then continued across the board walk section over the pass.

By around 4pm we started down the other side. We knew we still have a few hours to go and this brought on our second problem: Daylight.

As it was mostly downhill we were able to keep a pretty fast pace, but the terrain was still very rough. Nowhere near as rough as coming up but it still just took forever to get through some sections.
The hours started to slowly dwindle away and we were both kept imagining we saw the hut in the distance through the trees “yes! I see it! it’s just through there!”.. “oh hang on..” . My sore knees, back and blistered feet pain evaporated away as I realised that we might be out here at night time. We stopped all breaks and just kept going as fast as we could. The track was continuous, rough and relentless. Where was this damn hut!

By the time 8:30pm came, the light levels started to really drop off, and we both were getting rather worried. I had also used up all my water in the camel back, so I had earlier refilled from a stream and used our water purification tablets to ensure its drinkability. The path was still pretty rough, with only these orange triangles on trees to mark the general direction. As the light fell even further, our progress slowed even more and those orange markers became harder to see. The question changed from “Where is the hut?” to “Where is the bloody path?!” We put on our headlight torches, but the batteries in mine started to fail which meant it was blinking every now and then. I did have spares so I put them in. We both were really anxious to get to the hut and those orange markers became really hard to see. I was so worried that we would go off the path. 9:30 came and we were in the forest in the dark. Luckily it was not too cold and there was a bright starry night so it was not black as black, but we just could not see clearly.

I wanted to keep going no matter what, as I really wanted to find that hut and felt it was “just around the next bend”. Fem wanted to stop and pitch the tent as she was not comfortable at all hiking a rough trail in the dark. We kept going for a little while but our progress was very slow and a few times we were not sure where we were going. Fem then tripped over behind me and scratched her arm badly. I was so focused on finding the path I did not hear her fall. She came up to me and insisted we pitch the tent as it was too dark to keep going and we had no idea where the hut was. I agreed and we looked around for some flat ground for the tent and could not find any. So we just put the tent on some flat-ish mossy ground with tree roots that were close to the path (we think) and camped there.

By this time we had been going for a staggering 12 hours. We could not cook any dinner and we could not get comfortable to sleep. I tried to sleep curled up in a ball but this did not help. Also the water purification tablets seemed to make my water too salty and my mouth went super dry after a few minutes each time I took a sip. I would start to gag and cough unless I took another sip. This process continued for the rest of the night. Fem also got little to no sleep. This was a very long and uncomfortable night.

Day 4 – The journey home

We got out of the tent at first light which was around 7:30am. Both of us had no sleep and we were both utterly exhausted. Below you can see where we “rested” the previous night.

I had used up my water during the night and the coughing has died down so we continued on. I refilled my water at the first stream we came across and used less tablets to prep it for drinking.
After an hour of walking and several stream crossings we made it to Upper Caples hut. We would not have been able to do that in the dark the previous night!

After resting at the hut for an hour, having the previous nights dinner and refilling the water bottles we set off again for Mid Caples hut. The path was thankfully pretty flat and clearly defined. A lot of walking was through vast meadow pasture. We were so tired and exhausted. The day was nice and sunny again for which we were very grateful for. We got some more great photos of the views as you can see.

After a few hours we made it to the Mid Caples hut. I was utterly exhausted. Fem asked me if we wanted to stay at the hut that night and continue on the following day. This idea was very tempting to me, but I thought “No. Let’s finish this today.”.
After a rest we set off for the carpark where Magnum was waiting. It was another 4 hour pretty flat hike and we made it. My feet were extremely sore and blistered, my knees held out (thanks to the walking stick) and my back held up rather well! So after about 8 hours hiking all up that day we made it back to Magnum.

Me right near the end

That night we spent in the Glenorchy hotel and we both had one of the best steaks meals ever for dinner. After eating my meal I was feeling very light-headed as I now nearly 2 days without sleep so we went to bed right after that meal. I got one of the best nights sleep in a very long time that night!

This ends the Greenstone-Caples hike. A hike that we will ever forget!

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Matt Corr

Tall dude.

2 thoughts on “Greenstone – Caples Tramp”

  1. Man…hiking in the dark is dangerous!! Should send you the news link of the guy who fell off the cliff at Cunningham’s Gap on the wend.

    Beautiful scenery though…

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