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Rock of Ages

17 October 2010

Coordinates 44°24.674′ S, 168°47.686′ E

Rock of Ages. Photo D Hegg

A classic rock bivvy located in beech forest near the top end of Aspiring Flats, on the true right of the Kitchener River, a tributary of the Matukituki River East Branch. The gigantic rock sleeps 10 or more, and offers plenty of room to stand and walk around. Being open to the north however, it is not a good shelter in a north-westerly storm, and only has enough dry space for 2 to 4 people. A smaller rock 10m lower down in the bush is a better all-weather shelter for 3 or 4 people. Water is always available from the Kitchener River, and there’s a large fire place under the overhang, with plenty of firewood to be found in the surrounding forest.


The rock bivvy was discovered by P. Powell, N. Wales, L. Brown and K. Skinner during a “deluge of nor’west rain” in January 1958, on one of Paul Powell’s many attempts on the east ridge of Mount Avalanche. Paul Powell describes the event in his book Men Aspiring: “Just past the Rainbow-Aspiring junction we happened on a good bivvy rock concealed about 100 feet up in the bush. The rock wasn’t one of those clautrophobic holes that you crawl into in soggy indigence, to share darkness with spiders and long-legged cave wetas. High-roofed, well lighted, and dry, it had a pleasant vista of the upper Rainbow Valley and Fastness. Giant beeches, where keas nested among the roots, or called at dawn and nightfall from the branches, screened it from rain and wind. I called this refuge Rock of Ages [1]. Elsewhere, Powell wrote “Found during storm. We sang hymn, Rock of Ages” [2]. The popular christian hymn was written by reverend Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763 and was first published in 1775; it is usually sung to the hymn tune Toplady by Thomas Hastings (1830). Click on the link below to listen to the hymn.


From Junction Flat (see the Matukituki River East Branch notes), a good track climbs through beech forest on the true right of the Kitchener River until the beautiful Aspiring Flats are reached. Follow faint trails around swamps at the edge of the flats, keeping close under the hill, until where the river closes in against the bush edge again. Depending on river flow, it might be easier to cross a braid of the Kitchener and stay in the middle of the river flats (beware of quick-sands), or sidle through the bush at the toe of the hill. A cairn marks the start of the track to the bivvy, on the true right of the Kitchener River, about 200m west of the Rainbow Stream junction. Follow the track 20m up the hill and past a small but dry rock bivvy (sleeps 3 to 4) to reach the roomy Rock of Ages. Allow 1 hour from Junction Flat to the bivvy. 

The fireplace. Photo D Hegg


[1] p123-124 in Powell, P. (1967) Men Aspiring. AH & AW Reed, Wellington, 183 pages

[2] Powell, P. in OSONZAC newsletter, November 1968

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth permalink
    18 September 2012 9:12 pm

    Robert, perfect, last time we arrived too late to get that far up the river but it is where I expected it to be. I understand that you will have the coordinates in your GPS.

    • 18 September 2012 9:20 pm

      My name is not Robert, and no, I don’t have coordinates in a GPS – that’s because I never, ever carry a GPS into the hills!

      Happy Tramping,


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