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The Lakes of the Lockett Range

New Zealand - a place full of the most outstanding landscapes and scenery; I think most people know that. This my 3rd year here yet I feel I haven't even scratched the surface of this beautiful country.

Recently i've been day dreaming a lot, conjuring up new adventures in my mind, getting a hold of various topographical maps and speaking to others who have undertaken some cool hikes and steadily plotting a new awesome adventure.

Here in Golden Bay, we're very fortunate to be bordered by 2 national parks; the Abel Tasman and the Kahuranghi. 2 of New Zealand's 9 great walks lie within these parks; the Heaphy track and The Abel Tasman coastal track. However, both these parks hold hidden, lesser-known trails which offer exceptional views, ones of which, I wanted to see for myself.

The trip I had pulled together was by no means going to be easy, and in fact if the weather wasn't going to be playing ball, there would be no chance I would be attempting it. I was definitely more relaxed and in a sense, relieved when my Uncle, Richard Brown a highly experienced hiker himself, text me somewhat a week beforehand, having told him of my intentions, asking if he could join me. I was definitely pleased he was coming for it always meant for a heap of laughs along the journey.

Friday 31st March we set off for the Cobb Valley, a popular hiking spot within the Kahuranghi national park offering a famed valley floor trail with huts with historic value laid out along the way. The route we would be taking was to be very different however. The trail to Sylvester Hut is a relentless uphill climb on an old 4WD track from a small carpark over the Cobb Dam, through beech forest until you get out onto the tussock tops. There is a major view to the east, D’Urville Island in the Marlborough Sounds, the Richmond Range and if your really lucky, you can even see Mt Taranaki(North Island) on a clear day. We made a pit stop here before carrying on and with daylight fading we still had a bit of walking to do until we made it to our proposed first night camp site.

A little way past Sylvester hut through a section of small tress and tussock, you'll be greeted with the taking view of Lake Sylvester and it's partner, Little Lake Sylvester. We made way through the tussock cutting in between these pair of alpine lakes heading ever upwards, until we looked upon the comely sight that was, Iron Lake. Lying at the base of Iron hill, this alpine lake enjoys views out across to the other side of the valley to the Lockett range and also also the Peel range. With darkness coming upon us we would make camp here for the night.

Eager to try out my new tent, a Macpac Minaret (find details of this in the gear section at the bottom) I pitched up with my entrance looking out to the view of Mount Lockett and lying at its base, Lake Lockett. This is where we would hope to spend the following night, if everything went according to plan...

It's not often your treated to night up on the tops, and the odds of you having no weather issues are even slimmer. I awoke suddenly at 4am realising this, hoping to poke my head out and be greeted by a sky full of stars(this was all just hoping of course). When I actually did poke my head out, I didn't expect to see that was actually the case! I assembled my camera gear and dedicated the next hour of my tent and the milky way, which was clearly visible due to there being no pollution out here.

The next morning, feeling refreshed and ready to go, we began by ascending up Iron Hill (1645m) which was challenging, but with fresh legs it was a good way to start the day. At the top we came to views un-imaginable, looking right along the ridge line and out towards the distant peaks of the Roaring lion and the Anatoki range. You really do have that sense of being "at the top of the world" when your up here with the land laid out beneath your feet; I feel this being definitely a reason why many of us choose to do this, for this feeling. We took in the views from the summit of Iron Hill. It was of course April 1st( April fools day) and Richard got me in style with "an earthquake" happening while we on the summit, I've never jumped off the top of a summit and headed down so fast in my life. Bloody got me a good one there.

Onwards we went and next we were to walk along the Locket Range ridge line. With steep drops each side, carefully placed footwork was needed, but the view ahead of us kept us meandering along the rocky tops. We stopped for a while over our next lake on the list, Lake Lilly, nestled in a little basin at 1300m high, this small lake provides a great view out to Mt Lockett and further beyond that Mt Benson and the Snowden Range.

The furthest lake was our next stop and that was Ruby Lake, laying calmly at the far end of the Lockett range. The ridgeline was tough going and gnarly so much so we came to the decision of sidling around the tops so the drop into Ruby wasn't so steep; this turned out to be the probably the toughest part of our walk so far. The contour of the land allowed us just about to sidle around, but what we weren't anticipating was the other side of the ridge dropping into Ruby and just how to steep it was.

Obscured from our view initially, we had no idea it would be this steep and had we known it would be, we would have taken the gnarly ridge line, any day of the week. Too late to turn back now we thought and so we proceeded to drop down the face, clinging onto flax bushes to prevent falling further. Witnessing some epic falls from Richard in front of me, I couldn't help but laugh and wish I had videoed them, yet I could barely talk, taking some heavy bails myself. We made it down the face, unharmed luckily, and crossed the tussock into the quiet realm that was, Ruby Lake.

Here we found what was, the sound of silence. A world away from civilisation, not many I can imagine would choose to come this far, but I am so glad we did, for it offered a peaceful much needed lunch break. I stepped to the edge of the lake to notice the clarity of this water, and just like the name suggests; it was crystal clear. What you may have noticed having read this so far, is how much water and alpine lakes there are around these parts, and that speaks for a lot of New Zealand. An abundant amount of drinkable water, water that is probably nicer cupping into your water bottle from these lakes than is buying from the supermarket, a fortunate circumstance that not many places around the world can say the same.

It was time to move along, and what was next sapped the majority of our remaining energy. We 'bush-bashed' our way down "Ruby Creek" which eventually meets up with the Waingaro River. We crossed Ruby creek and headed down what looked like a nice flat valley floor from the tops but what turned out to be marshland with high tussock. We pushed our way through, soggy feet and all until we came to Diamond Lake, a place surrounded in golden tussock, which shined even brighter with the blue skies now breaking through the clouds. At the valley floor here, we could see the ridge in which we came along, to begin with from Iron Hill earlier that day, yet here we were now hundreds of metres below. We looked at the map and gazed at what we realised we still had yet to do in order to reach our next camp site, Lake Lockett. Between walking around the marshland floor of the walk and heading up for the forest or climbing straight up the face and then sidling along of Mt Lockett, we opted for the latter. Through beech forest we clambered our way through and ever upwards, hoping to see the shimmer of a lake between the trees.

A break in the forest meant we were close, and this was a big boost; we were nearly there. The sound of a stream stirred nearby, we followed this along through the tussock until we finally arrived, we were at Lake Lockett(1292m) at last. We were both heavily beat from the days walking and felt like nothing more than to jump in the lake, however cold it may be, it was damn refreshing thats for sure.

With the lookout across the lake to the gnarly face of Mt Lockett, I'm glad we chose this for our camp site; the place had a particular serenity to it. The sun was setting and golden streams of light hit the roofs of the peaks above us. 4 Kia birds flew over the lake singing in their iconic tune and the ambience around the lit fire was bliss. The mountains, it's never easy getting to these places, but they remain one of the only places the world today where one can experience the true sound of silence.

We had really struck gold with the weather this weekend, not a drop of rain fell on us and that night at Mt Lockett was once more a night spent under the stars. We awoke early that morning feeling very refreshed from what turned out to be a much needed 11 hour sleep. We said our goodbyes to Lake Lockett and followed the stream back down through the forest.

We opted to go with the lye of the land and dropping down to 1200m and sidling along through the forest, the defining sound of Diamond Lake stream nearby cascading down the rocks. The forest was winding but the colours vibrant, with green moss covering the boulders that were laid out across the floor. It would take us 3 hours of walking through the bush and following the stream until we came out at the Cobb quarry and shortly then on to the car park where we had begun this epic journey; It's amazing what you can do with a weekend. A memorable trip and a memorable place, and if any of you are wanting to look for hikes in north - western area of the south island, this one should most definitely be on your list.

THE GEAR

Jetboil stove kit

Since taking on a lot more adventures of late, I

feel investing in good, quality equipment is

always a good investment; it makes life in the outdoors that bit easier. Jetboil, produce a variety of different stove kits, different sizes and shapes, ones adapted for cold weather etc. These stove kits boil water at an insanely fast speed, which is definitely handy if your on top of a cold, windy ridge line and in need of a hot cuppa. I wouldn't go on a trip without one of these in my pack now, so take a look at their website www.jetboil.com and see which stove kit best suits you. I opted for the "Mini-mo" set-up which is rated for below freezing temperatures and even has simmer control.

Macpac Minaret Tent

Purchasing a tent is never easy, it is essentially your home in the outdoors and if you're deciding to take on much more challenging trips, you'll need one that's up to the task. Weight is always a big topic as no-one likes to carry more than they feel they should have to. The Macpac minaret is a 3-season tent built for the weight conscious. Coming in at 2.4kg and classed as a 2-man tent, this definitely was both spacious, light and it stood up to being pitched up on ridge line tops. It comes with a seam sealer which can seal the interior

fly seams to make it fully waterproof, no-one wants to put wet clothes on, right? The interior walls are lined with pockets to place ready to hand belongings and saves you digging through your bag.

Personally, I love this tent and can't wait to get out and use it more and more.

Strangely enough, I look forward to pitching it up!

Check out the link here and see for yourself. http://www.macpac.co.nz/minaret-tramping-tent.html

Macpac Epic 800 Sleeping bag

It's amazing how much the temperature drops when the sun goes down, particularly when your up on the tops. I always would prefer to be too warm than too cold with a sleeping bag, especially if the surrounds you're going to be in are those of the mountains. I opted for the Epic 800 sleeping bag from Macpac. It's designed in a 'mummy' shape which is close fitting which keep you warmer and is rated down to -20. It comes in a water proof sack which saves you the worry of pulling it from a wet pack and it being soaked as well. They come in different sizes short/tall as well to get you the perfect snug fit. Take a look and see what you think http://www.macpac.co.nz/epic-800-sleeping-bag.html

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Evesham, United Kingdom

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