The Kelly Range is on the north western border of Arthurs Pass National Park. Rangi Taipo is the high point on the Bald Range, which hinges with the Kelly Range on Kelly's Hill and runs west to the junction of the Taipo and the Taramakau Rivers.
The rolling tussock tops and tarns and phenomenal views from these ranges make them the finest of tramping country but they're undervisited due to the lack of a good circuit route.
We headed off on Saturday with a plan we hoped would make for a good two day round trip.
It was getting on into the afternoon when we turned up the rough 4x4 road into the Taipo River. Following the trail of a regularly visiting Unimog through storm damage, slips and washouts was an interesting event in itself. It took about 45min to get from the highway to Seven Mile Creek.
At 4.00pm we set off walking. The track climbed steeply on the true left of Seven Mile Creek. It was very hot going as the air was still and warm and the humidity high.
Part way up we met Michael Ostash coming down. We'd known he might be in the area so were hoping we'd catch up with him along the way.
A thousand metres higher we broke out above the bushline. The Taipo twisted around the hills and on out to the Taramakau.
The tussock barely moved with the light breeze, but it was cooling enough after the torrid heat of the climb.
We travelled on across the Kelly Range, up and down past ridges and hollows. Each dip had its own tarn in the bottom. It looked like there had been a spell of dry weather recently as each tarn was a metre or two below its normal level.
Just before we got to the Carroll Hut we stopped and washed next to a stream. Despite the warm day the water was very cold, but it was well worth it.
It was 8.00 pm when we finally reached the hut. There were only two people there.
Libby and Ann were on their final evening of a five day walk from Klondyke Corner in the Waimak. They'd crossed Harman Pass to the Julia Hut hot springs and then walked down the Taipo to the Seven Mile. They were great hut companions.
In the morning the perfect weather continued. It was so pleasant chatting with Libby and Ann about trips done and places to go, etc that if it wasn't that they had a ride to meet we might still have been sitting there at lunchtime.
But we did manage to get moving at 10.00. Our route took us back across the saddle and around Kelly's Hill onto the Bald Range. The walking is easy and the view gets more stunning with every kilometre.
Again there were numerous tarns along the ridge. Most of them had good populations of tadpoles. One had countless hundreds of them.
There were so many I was concerned I would scoop one or two into my water bladder when I filled it.
It was fascinating just sitting there watching them all going about their amphibian business and interacting with each other.
And the warmth of the day made it doubly hard to move on.
Further on the ridge narrowed for a couple of hundred metres but it wasn't difficult to travel along. It just added to the interest a bit.
At one point I had the option of climbing over a knoll or sidling around it. I was immediately glad I sidled.
My course took me right to a small group native broom shrubs. These Carmichaelias were covered in masses of scented blossom.
I hadn't expected to see much of a floral display on the weekend, other than gentians of course. But as we climbed onto Rangi Taipo the ground was everywhere covered in edelweiss and harebells too. And the ever present bright red fruits of the ground hugging coprosmas added their own contribution.
The summit of Rangi Taipo is a fantastic view point.
To the north, across the gravel bed of the Taramakau 1300 m below, bright blue and green of lakes and farmland contrasted with dark sombre forested hills and the closer golden tussocks of our own heights.
Misty cloud hung languidly in the warm air.
West, the Taramakau wound around the hills and out to the shoreline of the Tasman. Inland Mt Alexander loomed bulkily across the valley. To the east, the Taramakau took a straight course direct from Harper Pass.
South, was the heavily forested Taipo.
Ranged all around were named summits. Tara Tama, guarding the lower valley. In the distance Murchison standing tall. And even Rolleston stood out prominently showing the serrated silhouette of its bony Otira Face.
We couldn't linger as long as we wanted. We had a big descent ahead of us.
Just getting to the start of the track at the bushline needs routefinding care. In the bush the track is steep, and slippery in places with dracophyllum leaves. Simon Lewis and Mauricio Lloreda have done some incredible work cutting and remarking it to make it easily followable. But it's still quite overgrown in places.
It took us 2 hrs 45 min from the summit to the valley floor. It was still hot in the valley even at 6.00pm.
And well yes it was a great two day round trip. I would say it's the best way to enjoy the Kelly tops and Rangi Taipo together.