Hellfire, Misery, Branch, Judges, Coldwater and Lee creek circuit, Raglan Range - Jan 2019
Day One - Lee Creek carpark to the Hellfire creek tarn - 14.5km, +1400m, -450m, 10-12hrs
Day Two - Hellfire Tarn to Bottom Misery Hut, 11.7km, +450m, -1380m, 8-10hrs
Day Three - Bottom Misery Hut to Campsite above Branch Biv, 10.7km, +950m, - 360m, 8-11hrs
Day Four - Campsite to Coldwater Tarn campsite, 5.2km, +950m, -650m, 4-6hrs
Day Five - Coldwater Tarn campsite to Lee Creek Tarn campsite, 5.2km, +650m, -530m, 4-6hrs
Day Six - Lee Creek Tarn campsite to Lee Creek carpark, 9.4km, +330m, -1371m, 5-7hrs
A 56km, 5-6 day circuit with over 4000m vertical metres of climbing in the Hellfire, Misery, Branch, Judges, Coldwater and Lee creek catchments. Our party of four from the Nelson Tramping Club started from the Lee Creek carpark on the Rainbow road. We crossed the swing bridge and then walked down beside the Wairau river to Hellfire creek. There is a major area of windthrow in the lower reaches of the Hellfire that needs to be negotiated which can add 1-1.5hrs to the trip after which you need you climb over a saddle around the 900m contour. From there it relatively easy travel up the valley to the tarn and a few good campsites. A small scramble up a chute at the head of the valley gets you into the Misery headwaters and easy travel down the scree/tussocked slopes to valley floor and down the valley to past Top Misery hut to Bottom Misery hut. Easy travel up the Branch to Branch Biv but from there you need to climb above approx the 1200m contour to navigate above the gorge. We went too high (1280-1300m) and encountered a few tricky slips and waterfalls which was very slow going. After clearing the gorge we encountered a large area of windthrow and regenerating breech around GR 020530, lower down may have been a better option. Once this was negotiated it was easy travel up the rest of the valley. The 40-45 degree scree/boulder chute down into Judges needs a bit of care negotiating. The scree once out of the shute provided good access to the valley floor and then a scree climb up the opposite side 500m higher up the valley onto a terrace before a final climb to an open saddle and a good scree slope to descent into Coldwater creek and the tarn with more good campsites. From the tarn you have to negotiate a boulder field as you descend to the Coldwater valley floor and then climb up the head of the valley and climb a scree slope up to the saddle into Lee Creek. The top portion requires some scrambling over crumbling weekbix but once at the saddle its another easy scree descent to the Lee creek tarns where there are good campsites. Our final day required one last scree ascent up thru a chute and out onto a scree slope that drops 800m plus to the Lee creek valley floor 2 clicks below the hut and an easy walk out to the vehicles.