Traverse circuit with a Twist (and some turns) - bazancik

Some parts of the Traverse - Sabrine circuit is a little uninspiring, if not boring. After our first tramp in the area we did not fancy too much of the valley walking either side of the Travers range - especially knowing that there are better options up the range with amazing views and a little bit more challenge. With some  stable weather and with some small changes, the trail easily turns into a great walk for 3-5 nights.

First mod is the Robert's Ridge to the Angelus Hut: though exposed, the ridge, passing by a number of small tarns, offers some fantastic vistas.



The ridge route is much better than the 'low' trail - but not advisable in bad weather - especially in heavy wind or when wet. In a couple of places the path is narrow and slippery, with steep drops on either side.


The ridge will take you to the Angelus Hut - perched on the shore of two lakes the place is magical. This of course comes at price - the hut became extremely popular with backpackers and camper van crowds. Expect noise as well as occasional muppet with no experience or equipment...


A tent might be a better option - further away from the hut and with ample space between tents (there are only 4 pitches).


In the changing room - watch out for a little crazy fantail that perfected insect hunting in front of the window - pretty cool dude.

If you confident enough and the weather permits - instead of heading down the Cascade Track, and then following the Upper Travers Valley head to the Sunset Saddle and then make your way down the Hopeless Hut.


There is no official track to the Saddle - though there are some markers and cairns put by walkers. The path skirts east side of Hinapouri Tarn to the saddle - watch for cairns as you start climbing.


The views back are fantastic and make you smile thinking of the noisy and hangovered crowd back in the hut that is missing the best of the views. 

After the Saddle there is no formed track for most of the way down. After the two small tarns you need to keep to the right. The sheer rock drop in front is unpassable (or at least not a good idea). Keep an eye for cairns again: and add some extra rocks to these for others.

We made the mistake of turning some 150m too early - and ended up scrambling back up to the ridge to find our way.


Once you cross the small stream, you are mostly dealing with scree going down a steep slope. 

Going in late spring meant we still could speed the way dow a bit by using snow patches on the higher parts of the mountain: considering the scree, this was the fastest part of the route (especially when bum sliding is deployed). 


Once you reach the tree line, the walk turns to a typical bush path: muddy, no views and pretty uninspiring. This is pretty much the case till you get to the higher parts of the Traverse Saddle.

Can't comment on the views - we had 20m visibility for the most of the way across and down to West Sabine Hut. 

Once across - we finally got some brief breaks of blue sky and some visibility on the way down. 

When we made it to the hut it was packed - with quite a few people heading to the Blue Lake -  we decided to give it a miss at this time and go at some quieter time of the year. Especially after experiencing one night with a pretty inconsiderable bunch of walkers who behaved as they owned he hut and everyone was to obey them (ironically one of them was a volunteer DOC warden and a retired teacher from Wellington - go figure the consequences...) 

Weather looked pretty unstable anyway with heavy rain coming our way the next day. So we were considering to make it back to St Arnaud from West Sabine. A bit naive plan it appeared - the two days of pretty heavy walking was showing already and once we made it to Sabine, although it was still pretty early, we had enough for the day. It turned a brilliant decision - an hour later heavy rain made it across.  


The last leg was straight to St Anaund, with a lunch stop in Speargrass Hut. While this bit looks easy - there are a few sections that after rain turn to be pretty challenging. Otherwise - uneventful part of the walk... 


All things considered, both Robert Ridge and Sunset Saddle are the most rewarding parts of the walk (possibly the Traverse Saddle - though hard to say since we could not see anything. 

Two lessons from the trail: 

1. Good walking poles in that terrain are a life saver. By good I mean proper, strong sticks that can take your weight on and do not snap. These were indispensable on the Sunset Saddle and, strangely enough, the last part of the walk when we were mud sliding up and down the trail. 

2. for the Sunset Saddle plot the path before so you don't waste time climbing back because of being 100m off the (none) trail... 

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