Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Kaikura to Kahurangi

Mt Fyffe - Kowhai Saddle circuit
Seaward Kaikoura Range

Monday 13th February

I dropped Camilla off at her conference, stopped at the DOC office to get a hut ticket, then drove out to the bottom of Mt Fyffe. I did the short Hinau loop walk, then headed off up the road around 10.30am. With the fog coming in soon after I started and visibility down to 20m, there were no views, just occasional chairs and markers at 500m, 750m, and 1000m elevation. And at one point I saw what I think was a ferret run across the road.

Mt Fyffe Hut and Mt Fyffe at 7.30pm
I got to the hut around 12.30 and it was freezing cold — I soon had my thermals on, along with a jumper and a beanie. Fortunately someone had left a New Zealand Geographic (borrowed from Kaikoura library) behind, so I got to read about nudibranchs and the kiwifruit industry. There was also a crate of very old, very crappy Westerns, which I assume was for use lighting fires...

A couple of New Zealand trampers from Wellington turned up while I was cooking my pasta. And then it started clearing, and at 7pm it was bright and warm, and we could look down on a sea of clouds.

Tuesday 14th February

I was up at 6.45am, off by 7.50 after taking photographs, and at 1600m at the top of Mt Fyffe by 8.40. But I did the ridge descent to Kowhai Saddle too fast and pulled a muscle. This slowed me down in the steep boulder clambering down the upper Kowhai, but after the hut it was easier, cris-crossing the river on shingle banks. Most of the day was overcast and windy, but I had a fierce sun at my back for the final haul back to the car. I was soon back in Kaikoura.

towards Kowhai saddle - Gables End
Kowhai River valley from Kowhai Saddle
Kowhai River
The beginning and end of this walk are on roads, but there's some great country in between. And the views are excellent, looking down over Kaikoura to the east, and looking up at the Seaward Kaikoura range to the west. So this walk is highly recommended if you are in Kaikoura and have a day or two to spare. (It could be done as a day trip, either a long day on the route I took or by taking the short-cut down Spaniards Spur from Mt Fyffe to the Kowhai hut.)

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