Coleridge to Bealey Beer Run Intermediate - Experienced
Submitted by Tony Sharpe
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Back country - remote
Point to Point (one way)
Undulating, some big hills
Native bushPlantation/exotic forestRiversideOpen farmlandsOpen tussock/grasslandsOpen ridges/tops
Intermediate - Experienced
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Description is north bound on Te Araroa Trail from the head of Lake Coleridge to the Pub, taking in the Harper Valley Track and the Lagoon Saddle Track. Begin by picking up the trail markers and poles beside the Harper River. The first 6-7 km are easy trails and farm tracks up the north bank (True Right) of the Harper, until you reach the confluence with the Avoca River. The best ford for the Avoca is a bit upstream but in low flows you should be able to find multiple crossing points without too much drama. If its flooding you shouldn't be there at all, so check river levels/ rainfalls first.
Once across the Avoca head out back towards the marked farm tracks beside the Harper, still on the true right bank. Take care to avoid the large swampy area which is well marked on the topomap. The author failed and lost half an hour of grovelling instead! A few more km's upstream you'll be ushered across the Harper River by marker poles and onto the true left. Shortly up from here you'll be treated to the amazing views up to the Harper River Pinnacles. Beyond the pinnacles the trail weaves back and forth across the river, with numerous crossings.
Eventually the valley begins to narrow and you near the signposted turnoff to Hamilton Hut. Ignore the sign unless you want to bag the hut, instead stay in the river to streambash another few hundred meters until you notice a swingbridge overhead. Hop out of the river and pick up the track now on the true right heading upstream. Running becomes more technical and undulating from here, as the trail winds its way over a few spurs and up valley. After several forested lumps and bumps you'll reach the character hut known as West Harper Hut, a true gem, a piece of NZ backcountry history.Beyond here the going gets rougher as the upper Harper valley begins to close in.
Make sure you pay attention at river forks- take car to find cairns and markers in the river bed as it would be possible to take a wrong turn. Eventually the river section closes in further and the trail heads up into the bush on a steep section of spur. From here its a mix of steady climbing and small stream crossings until you reach a junction to Lagoon Shelter near the Lagoon Saddle bushline. One last burst of uphill and your hit the high point and round the corner to stunning sweeping views of the upper Waimakariri Basin and Arthurs Pass National Park Descending to Cora Lynn can be a bit muddy at times for the first couple of km's but this settles down when you eventually pick up the forest and complete the descent. Look out for stunning displays of native mistletoe in the lower sections around Xmas. Unless your pick up is the trailhead you now have 4-km of road bashing down to the main highway and round to the Bealey Pub to grab a well earned beer. Watch out for traffice on the main road though.
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Features of interest
Te Araroa Trail, Harper River, Pinnacles, Lagoon Saddle
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 5%
Technical Single Track: 40%
Moderate Single Track: 25%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 20%
Sealed Road: 10%
From the inland highway turn off at Windwhistle up past Terrace Downs. Keep heading up valley on the main road until you reach Harper Road, which you follow up past a series of small lakes until you reach the settlement at the head of Lake Coleridge around Glenthorne Station. This trail commences shortly after the bridge over the Harper River, look of the DOC sign.
If coming from the other end the Bealey Pub is the start finish
You'll need a drop off and pick up for this one, support drivers allow about 1 to 1.5 hours for the drive round from end to end
There are several places where there isn't really a trail in the Harper, but it is pretty well marked. Take care to pick up marked when passing river confluences
Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Compass, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Gaiters.
Lots of river crossings, plenty of water
Winter/ spring can be snowy. Take care to check river conditions and forecasts before setting out and tell someone (probably your driver) when and where you are heading
Multiple river crossings
Adverse weather has potential to make areas impassable when flooding or heavy snow
Avalanche risk in Winter/ early spring in some area
Navigation needed to be good in some areas
Post run indulgence
Beer and chips at the Bealey pub will taste pretty good
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