Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park covers
approximately 21,000 hectares centred on the
Torlesse and Big Ben Ranges, in Canterbury’s
high country. The Torlesse and Big Ben Ranges
and the Torlesse Gap are features on the landscape
from as far away as Christchurch and the Port
Travellers on state highway 73 between Christchurch
and the West Coast gain an increasingly panoramic
view of the park as they approach Porters Pass.
Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park is a key
site for the promotion and protection of eastern
South Island high country landscapes and ecosystems.
[The following information
is reproduced from the Department of Conservation pamphlet 'Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
available from here.]
From very early times, the area
has held special significance for the first
occupants the Waitaha, and through many generations
to present day Ngai Tahu. The dual name indicates
the importance of the area to our local and
national culture. Korowai (cloak) is symbolic
of concepts such as embracement, collectiveness,
togetherness and prestige. It recognises the
historic connections the Ngai Tahu tupuna (ancestor)
Tanetiki had with the area.
The basins and ranges were an
integral part of a network of trails, which
were used to ensure the safest seasonal journeys
and best access to mahinga kai (food-gathering
Charles Torlesse, a surveyor
for the Canterbury provincial government, led
by local Maori guides in January 1849, was the
first European to climb the slopes of the range.
A few men with picks, shovels and a government
grant of 500 pounds, made the first track over
Porters Pass in 1858–9. The original (Cobb and
Co Coaches) road is still visible within the
conservation park boundaries.
Other historic European sites
within the park include the old pack track used
by the Porter brothers, Avoca Homestead (1907)
and the Mt Torlesse Colleries Coal Mines, which
operated from 1918 to 1927.
The Torlesse Range is one of
the most accessible in the country, located
alongside SH73, only 1 ¼ hours drive from Christchurch.
The main access points into the park are the
Kowai River (private), Porters Pass, Lake Lyndon
Road, Craigieburn Road, and the Porter Heights
Skifield Road. Access to some areas requires
permission from neighbouring landholders.
The area is popular for a wide
range of activities such as;
Tramping and hunting
Winter climbing and cross-country
Picnicking and boating on Lake Lyndon
Botanising, scientific research
and natural history studies
The Torlesse and Big Ben are
high, dry mountain ranges with remarkable flora
and fauna. Slim-leaved snow tussock/wï kura
is common and the high altitude tussock grasslands
represent the eastern limit of mid-ribbed snow
Other natural features within
the park include:
Mountain beech/tawhairauriki forest
Unusual scree plants such as vegetable
sheep (Raoulia eximia) and penwiper/porotaka
(Notothlaspi rosulatum), Haast’s
scree buttercup (Ranunculus haastii),
scree lobelia (Lobelia roughii)
and scree pea (Montigena novae zelandiae)
Native grasshoppers, weta, cockroaches,
lizards and butterflies
Kea, falcon/karearea and pipit/pïhoihoi
inhabit the grasslands
brown creeper/pïpipi are present in
the beech forests
All these trips are routes only – unmarked
and suitable for fit, experienced and well-equipped
people. Maps that cover the area are Topographic
Map 260 – K34, K35, L34, L35. Times are approximate
and one way.
From Castle Hill Peak experienced parties
can traverse across to The Gap. Beyond peak
1941, sidle just off the north side of the ridge
until you reach the bluffs above The Gap. Descend
down scree to the north for about 50m, to a
shoulder that leads directly back into The Gap.
From The Gap, a scree slope and rocky ridge
provide a good route down to the Kowai River.
Some rock scrambling is required.
Access is across Brooksdale Station, please
ring for permission. Follow an old vehicle track
up the true right of Kowai River to opposite
Kowai Hut (private). (1–2 hours)
The spur on the true right of the side stream,
by the hut, is the most direct route to Mt Torlesse.
spur starts off with a gradual climb, becomes
a steep ridge, and leads directly to Mt Torlesse.
If returning down the ridge, small cairns
mark the top of a narrow scree that drops steeply
into the side-stream.
Access is across Benmore Station, please
ring for permission. Follow up the gravel bed
of Thirteen Mile Stream until in the beech forest.
Markers on the true right show an entrance which
sidles through the forest to Benmore Hut. (3
Climb the spur behind the hut through regenerating
beech, to reach an easy tussock ridge that leads
onto the north east end of the Big Ben Range.
An old farm track starts alongside SH73,
halfway between Porters Pass summit and Lake
Lyndon. Climb up the track amongst diverse shrublands,
traversing open ridges to trig point M. above
Lake Lyndon (2–3 hours). From here, walk up
and along tussock slopes to Rabbit Hill.
The Old Homestead has 2 bunks with plenty
of floor space, in a tidy condition. The second
Avoca hut, next to the Old Homestead is also
in fair condition with 2 bunks and plenty of
floor space. Both huts are category 4 (free).
Access is via Craigieburn Road, which becomes
McFarland Road at the last railway crossing
by the Avoca Railway Station. Avoca Hut is finally
reached by crossing Broken River.
Avoca Station was one of the most inaccessible
stations in the Waimakariri Basin. The original
Avoca lay north of Broken River and was enlarged
in 1904 by adding a block on the south bank
taken from the Mt Torlesse run. In 1917, Avoca
was incorporated into Flock Hill. The old Avoca
was taken up by Charles Harper, son of the Bishop
of Christchurch. He shore sheep on the property
and brother George packed the wool out on bullocks,
three sacks each, then sledged it over Porters