Kirwans Track LoopIntermediate
Submitted by Isaac Burwell
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Back country - remote
Native bushRiversideOpen ridges/tops
Long Term DOC alert:
Parts of Kirwans Track and Waitahu Valley closed. The track between Kirwans Capleston/Boatmans Track entrance through to Kirwans Hut is closed. This is due to extensive flood damage, including damage to the track, timber bridges and swing bridges.
This part of the track will remain closed until the track damage can be assessed and repaired.
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From the carpark at Capleston at the end of Boatmans Road, the track heads off through farmland for a short 300m section. After 200m, a track heads off to the right, this is the track you'll come down at the very end to complete the loop. The track then enters the forest and follows a mostly well-formed and wide track up the valley. You pass some old mining relics, go through a tunnel and over a swing bridge in the first 3km.
The track climbs at a relatively gentle gradient up through the forest and the next track intersection isn't reached until the ~12km mark. Most of this uphill section can be run because the gradient allows it. At this intersection, a track leads off to Kirwans Hut, only ~500m away, which I would recommend going too. The hut is just at the bush line, so gives excellent views and also a source of water. Another track also heads off to Kirwans Hill (1297m), which is approximately 2.5 - 3km one way and the track becomes unmarked along the ridge - this is NOT included in the distance or profile for this route.
After returning to the main Kirwans Loop track, the track begins the drop down to the Montgomerie River. This section of track is much steeper than the uphill section and can be very slippery. You'll pass the Kirwans Reward Mine and the Lord Brassey Stamper Battery, the latter of which is definitely worth a stop for some pictures. Upon reaching the Montgomerie River at ~17.5km, the track flattens out, but the track itself is not as well formed. The track follows the Montgomerie River for 4km until the Montgomerie Hut is reached, which sits on the banks of the Waitahu River. The Montgomerie Hut is a small hut with no running water.
The track now follows a 4wd track down the Waitahu Valley - this 4wd track varies from very well-formed, to non-existent at times. Several sections have been washed out, so the track climbs up the valley sides to skirt around the washouts. The track markings remain very good. At ~29km, a track heads off to the left over a swing bridge over the Waitahu River. Don't follow that track - stay on the 4wd track. After ~34km, a very short section of sealed road is reached, and just before you reach the road bridge over the Waitahu River, a track heads off to the right. Take this track, which takes you back to Capleston and completes the loop. This track climbs very steeply until you enter a cleared forestry plantation. The track remains well demarcated through the forestry block, but care is required. The track then drops back down very steeply before joining up with the main Kirwans Track 200m from the carpark.
Features of interest
Mine workings, tunnel, swing bridges
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 30%
Moderate Single Track: 35%
Easy Single Track: 10%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 25%
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Head north out of Reefton on SH69. Turn left at Cronadun onto Boatmans Rd (~11.5km out of Reefton). Follow Boatman Rd for ~6.5km to Capleston and a carpark at the end of the road. There are 2 gates which you may have to drive through.
Good parking at the start of the track. No public transport options available.
There are very few intersections where errors could be made, however, particular care is required at the following spots:
1. If you decide to go to Kirwans Hill as this track becomes unmarked on the ridgeline and is not included in the GPX file.
2. In the cleared forestry plantation near the end of the loop. The track could become difficult to follow if maintenance is not kept up in this section.
Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map.
There is water at Kirwans Hut and at various streams along the track. There is no water at Montgomerie Hut.
Weather conditions can change very quickly at the top, particularly above the treeline, with it having the potential to become very cold very quickly. The downhill section to Montgomerie River is slippery, even in dry weather, and the uphill and downhill sections in the last 4km of the loop over to Capleston are boggy even in dry weather and are very slippery.
Mainly the weather conditions. Weather at Kirwans Hut, or along the ridge to Kirwans Hill can be very different to that experienced inside the forest.
Post run indulgence
Broadway Tearooms & Bakery
31 Broadway, Reefton
Decent cafe fare.
59 Broadway, Reefton
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