Have you had a busy week at work and just need to get away from it all? A nice easy overnighter into Jollie Brook hut might be just what the doctor ordered! This relatively popular jaunt is a perfect last minute destination and is a great intro to tramping in the Lake Sumner Forest Park. We managed to skive off work a couple of hours early on Friday afternoon and all piled into the trusty outback to hit the road. Turning off the main highway at Waikari we soon hit the stretch of windy, gravel road which would eventually deposit us at the car park near the sisters swing bridge - our ticket across the mighty Hurunui. We had a slightly iffy forecast going into the weekend, with a fair amount of rain predicted for the main divide which had scuttled our plans for a trip up the Taipo river in APNP. Our hope was that by moving north and further east of the divide we would escape the worst of it.
We set out at the trailhead late afternoon and negotiated the initial quagmire of a track for 15 minutes to the sisters swing bridge. When seeing the Hurunui it becomes apparent why the swing bridge is necessary. The river at this point is swift and deep, an untamed mass hightailing it towards the ocean at pace. Definitely not a river that could be crossed on foot. After taking the obligatory photos we set off again on the true left heading upstream. The track here skirts the edge of the range before striking out across a large sparsely vegetated plateau towards Gabriel Hut, close to the eastern end of the lake itself. Gabriel hut is a pretty grim, depressing affair - better than being in the rain, but worth moving on from if you have the ability to!
The Jollie Brook hut is a fantastic design, with a central room and two separate bunk rooms at each end. It has a roaring fire, and plenty of wood to go around. It has campsites galore and a meat safe out back for those of you who like to be armed while tramping. When we arrived our advance party already had the fire cranked and the billy on. Just what the doctor ordered.
Our group took three and a half hours from the car into Jollie Brook but it's worth noting we were racing against the fading daylight. Our advance group took closer to an hour longer so budget on 3.5-5 hours for the walk depending on how leisurely your pace is.
The rain held off for us, and other than gale force winds in the night we were pretty lucky with the weather. After spending a successful day hunting and gallivanting we decided to head out on the Sunday morning via the Jollie Brook to complete the circuit. Generally speaking you want good weather to do the full circuit as the Jollie Brook has to be forded multiple times on the way downstream and it would quickly become impassable in heavy rain.
In fact even without any rain for a good 72 hours we still found the Jollie Brook swift and deep for our first few crossings after leaving the hut. The track follows the river downstream, crossing from bank to bank here and there. A few good campsites were spied along the way, with future plans to explore the valley hatched throughout the walk. Soon we found ourselves at the confluence with Cold stream. Cold stream hut is 6 bunk hut about an hour upstream from this junction.
We continued our downstream meander as the Jollie Brook slowly grew in size. At no stage did we run into trouble crossing but as mentioned earlier it wouldn’t take much to make it dicey. Before the Jollie Brook meets the Hurunui we decided to cross and follow the track on the true left of the Hurunui back towards the sisters swingbridge and our cars. There is also a further swingbridge downstream of the Jollie Brook - Hurunui confluence which is another popular parking spot (the Jollie Brook Swingbridge). After hopping back over the swingbridge and dodging the mud we arrived back at the car for a celebratory beer before heading back to civilization.
The walk out took us a cruisy four and a half hours.
An overnight trip into Jollie Brook hut is suitable in most weather due to the bridged river crossings and would make a great family trip. The full circuit in good weather is very achievable with easy navigation and simple river crossings. If the weather is poor, or it has been raining heavily within 48-72 hours - perhaps give the circuit a miss. If you are going to attempt the circuit and are unsure of your river crossing ability then I would suggest travelling clockwise on the circuit as this gives you an easy bailout option if you struggle with the river levels.
All Arthurs Pass National Park Avalanche Peak Bealey Spur Bob's Camp Biv Cannibal Gorge Hut Canterbury Foothills Carroll Hut And Kelly Range Cass Saddle Lagoon Saddle Castle Hill Peak Crow Valley And Crow Hut Edwards - Stanley Rivers Fowlers Pass To Lake Guyon Gloriana Peak And Ada Pass Hut Hakatere Conservation Area Hanmer Springs Jollie Brook Circuit Kahurangi National Park Kepler Track Lake Sumner Forest Park Lathrop Saddle Little Mt Peel Manuka Hut Marlborough Maukuratawhai Mt Barrosa Mt Bruce Mt Cassidy Mt Potts Mt Princess Mt Somers Mt Tapuae-o-uenuku Mt Te Kinga Mt Torlesse Mystery Lake Nelson Lakes Packhorse Hut Poulter Hut Roys Peak St James Sylvia Tops Tablelands Circuit - Salisbury Lodge The Five Passes The Three Passes Travers-Sabine Circuit Tribulation Hut Waiau Pass And Blue Lake Wanaka West Coast