The Spenser Mountains are at the southern end of Nelson Lakes National Park, north of Lewis Pass. Several peaks are named after characters in Edmund Spenser’s allegorical poem, The Faerie Queene. Many of the early explorers were evidently literate men. For example, Frederick Weld (a surveyor) named Lake Tennyson; William Travers (a solicitor) named the Spensers and Faerie Queene; Julius Haast named Mt Una.
From Downies Hut a track follows the Matakitaki River to its major fork in about 4 hours. There are huts in both the East Branch (East Matakitaki Hut, 6 bunks, standard) and the West Branch (Bobs Hut, 8 bunks, standard), about two hours further upstream. The Spenser peaks can also be reached from Lake Tennyson and from the Lewis Pass.
Maruia and Waiau Rivers
These valleys provide ‘back door’ access to Nelson Lakes National Park. To access the southern Spenser Mountains walk along the St James Walkway from Lewis Pass. It is two hours to Cannibal Gorge Hut (16 bunks, serviced), or three hours to Ada Pass Hut (14 bunks, serviced). The Maruia valley is part of an old Maori route to the West Coast to find the prized Greenstone (Pounamu), and Cannibal Gorge is so named because there one Maori party ambushed another, killing and feasting on their victims.