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Tramping Summary - New Zealand, June 1996 to January 1997

Northern Crossing of the Tararuas Northern Crossing of the Tararuas, 1 - 5 February 1997.

A harder than expected trip over the northern part of the Tararua Range. The first two days were purposely easy - up the Ohau River to South Ohau Hut on the first day and then the short steep climb up to Te Matawai Hut on the next day in brilliant and hot weather. The next day turned out to be a 10 hour trek (mostly due to lack of fitness) 605 metres up to Arete (1505m) in clouds then to Lancaster (1504m, great views), over the Waiohine Pinnacles and over Tarn Ridge to the new Tarn Ridge Hut (good hut). The next day was also tough (almost 11 hours). I thought I would make good time since I got to Girdlestone (1547m) in the posted time (1hr) but I slowed right down in getting over the Three Kings. I was fairly knackered and the weather was closing in, so I dropped down over Baldy and down to the Atiwhakatu Hut - the last hour in rain and thunder. The final day was an extremely slow stroll to the Holdsworth road end - stretching the normal 2 hours into 3.5 hours.

Mt Arthur Mt Arthur (1795m), Tablelands and the Cobb Valley (Kahurangi National Park) 27-31 December 1996.

A wonderful 5 days in New Zealand's newest National Park - created on 3 May 1996. A nice big mountain to climb (Mt Arthur at 1795m); strange limestone landscapes to travel through; a high tussock plateau from which to look down into green valleys and across to distant high mountains; a chilly mountain lake to swim (briefly!) in and the scenic Cobb Valley.

Kiriwhakapapa to Holdsworth Road-endKiriwhakapapa to Holdsworth Road-end (Tararuas) 14-16 December 1996.

This was a nice 3 (2.5 really) day stroll around some bits of the Tararua Forest Park. It started with a train ride out to Masterton and a taxi out to the Kiriwhakapapa road-end (along a lot of dirt road). I started off about 12:30 and walked up to the Blue Range Hut (about 2.5hrs to climb the 650m to the turn off to the hut and another half hour to the hut) where I stayed the night.

The next day was quite long in time (about 10 hours) made worse by deciding to start late at 10am. The first section was a quick trot back along the ridge to join the main track and then a long traverse under the summit of Te Mara to the ridge heading towards Cow Saddle. I took the steep, sharp drop down directly down to the Waingawa River and then up-river to the cableway to Cow Creek Hut (arriving about 2pm). The rest of the day was a straight slog down the Waingawa for 7.5km to Mitre Flats Hut.

My last day started with a nice zigzagging track to gain height and then a traverse across to Pinnacle Saddle with an interesting (and tiring) 170m pull up to the saddle from a stream. The 100m descent down from the saddle was steeper than it looked on the map but got me quickly down to the Atiwhakatu Stream. Another straight forward stroll down the river for 8km and I reached the road-end at Holdsworth.

Harris Creek Hut and Back Harris Creek Hut and Back (Tararuas) trip 30 November & 1 December 1996.

My First Trip With the Wellington Tramping & Mountaineering Club:

Easy Trip with: Hazel Roberts (leader), Ray, Ian Fisk, Christiane, Christine, Megan and Sarah?

The trip started with a 3hr ride in the WTMC truck ("Duchess"), first up to Levin for a meal break and then entering the Tararuas via Shannon. About an hour and a quarter was sent on the windy, narrow dirt road up to the Upper Mangahao Dam - scary on a dark night with several hairpin bends needing 3-point turns. Some corners are being undercut by erosion which we found out the hard way by a wheel crashing over the side (no damage luckily). Everyone was feeling queasy - one vomit stop needed by yours truly. The road finally came to the dam where we parked right under the dam wall. The Easy (us!) trip bagged the truck for the night while the rest set up under fly-sheets.

The next morning was overcast but with no rain. We had a leisurely wake-up and breakfast, waving bye to the other two groups, having a wander around looking at the dam and spill-way and finally setting off about 9am. A dirt track took us the few metres to the top of the dam and a little further the track branched off along the side of the lake. The lake looked to be about half full with big expanses of mudflats and the dark trunks of once-submerged trees poking up everywhere. The track generally contoured well above the lake shore coming to a footbridge over an unnamed sidestream.

After the bridge the track contoured some more and then dropped to cross Roaring Creek (just over ankle deep) with a easy, muddy crossing of the flats beyond. More ups and downs along the slopes got us to the footbridge across the Mangahao River. Over the river the track became less easy with a few tiny climbs. The hardest and most interesting part of the track came on the climb over the Mangahao Gorge. This started with the track clinging to a rock ledge beside a waterfall as it zigzaged up about 40m. Once on top of the gorge there was a long, narrow traverse on steep slopes - not level since there were lots of little ridges and gullies to cross.

Past the gorge there was much easier walking to Dick Creek and then to the hut which we arrived at a little after 12. The hut is fairly shabby with 2 sleeping platforms (6 or 7 battered foam mattresses), a stove and a nice verandah. With a good amount of tree cover, it needs the transparent panels in the roof for any chance of evening light. There is a good view down to the river.

We dropped our packs, claimed our sleeping space and tucked into lunch. After some time to digest lunch we went for an afternoon stroll further up the river, eventually reaching Barra Creek over some extremely muddy ground. We decided to sit and enjoy the sunlight that had finally driven the clouds away. Soon the Medium group emerged from downstream - for some strange reason they had decided not to camp at the hut. They chatted and then moved on and then we returned to the hut to find that Santa's Elves had visited - causing our packs to commit mass suicide against the inside of the door and our sleeping bags to turn inside-out. We straightened up and got stuck into dinner: pork in peaches on a rice bed with fruit salad desert. There was a period of heavy rain that night - perhaps heavenly retribution on Santa's Elves.

We woke up late the next morning - those who stayed in bed got tea served by Ray. The weather was worse than yesterday with very low clouds and threatening rain. Everyone took their time with breakfast and packing up since we did not have to leave until 12. In the event we were mostly packed by 11 when the Medium group turned up. After a chat, we moved off and they stayed for lunch.

The trip back was the same as the trip in with more slippery tree logs and slightly wetter mud. Luckily the rain held off until just before the dam when it just poured down.

Aborted Ohau to Otaki Aborted Ohau to Otaki (Tararuas) trip 14 & 15 October 1996.

This was supposed to be a 4-5 day trip up the Ohau River, up to Te Matawai Hut, along the ridges to Nicols Hut and then down to the Otaki River and out. Unfortunately I did not research the route enough. The only guides I used were a map and a description of the route up the Ohau River in a book.

The first day started with a train ride up to Levin and a taxi out to the road end over the very narrow pipe bridge. I signed the intentions book at the park sign and crossed over the farmland (muddy in places and plenty of cow shit) for 10 minutes to the bush edge and the Ohau River Track. After an hour and a bit up this good track, I reached the Ohau Shelter - this is the partially dismantled remains of the Ohau Hut. There is a nice sunny spot overlooking the river where I had lunch.

After a bit of a snooze in the sun - after all the South Ohau Hut was only a couple of hours away - I continued along the track that leads to the Ohau River and the route along it. However I came across Ozzies Track (not on the map) which sidles above the river to the confluence of the north and south branches of the river. I decided to follow this since it looked pretty good. This was probably a mistake since if I had gone down to the river I would have seen how high it was (not in flood but not a summer trickle either) and might have decided on an alternative route to Te Matawai Hut.

Ozzies Track started off well-constructed but soon became a narrow route easily blocked by a couple of fallen trees (one needing a detour from the track). It crossed a couple of old slips where there were good views down into the river. There was one nasty bit near the end where I had to climb a couple of metres down an overhanging crag. A steep zigzag then lead down to the side of the South Ohau River just where it joined the North Ohau River. A knee-deep crossing of the icy river to a gravel bank on the other side did not promise an easy trip.

However I continued up the river. I must have crossed it about 15 times in depths ranging from knee-deep to thigh-deep with one memorable, foolish waist-deep crossing. If the water was slightly lower and a lot warmer, this would have been a wonderful walk. The river passes though some scenic and rugged terrain with a couple of waterfalls and a cute little mountain cataract flowing in just before the first short gorge. The second gorge had impressive walls and I was making good progress up it until an obstacle near its end brought me to a halt. This was a lovely blue pool contained in vertical walls with a small waterfall on the other side. But the blue colour was because the pool was very deep - to test it I dropped my pack and waded in until the water got to my chest. I couldn't find any way around the pool and so I turned back.

A lot of river crossings later I got back to Ozzies Track and followed it back to the shelter (arriving about 6:30 for a total of 8 hours walking that day - including the lunchtime snooze). I made myself fairly comfortable on the one sleeping platform left in the shelter and had a bit of a sleep-in the next day before walking back out. The day finished in a boring 8 km walk along the road and into Levin to the railway station.

Two day trip into the Rimutakas Two day trip into the Rimutakas 18/19 August 1996.

A pleasant walk in fine weather along the Whakanui Track into the Orongorongo River valley. There were a couple of windfalls on the track on the ridge (easy to walk around) and another just above the zigzags down to the river (needed to push my pack through the branches and then clamber through myself). Unluckily I had sprained my foot so I was hobbling badly on the way down the river to a campsite. A couple of thigh-deep fords of the icy-cold river helped to keep any swelling down.
The next day I put an extra sock on the affected foot, did the boot laces up tight and walked slowly and carefully out to the ranger station at Catchpool.
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