Whirinaki Trip that Ended in Pureora

Weekend Trip - Friday 15th to Sunday 17th August 2008

Winter tramping can often involve a bit of last-minute rethinking. Bruce had researched months ago that our proposed trips could get through and that previous windfalls that had blocked forestry roads and tracks had been cleared from our southern access points to Whirinaki. River crossings were our only other worry.
As we all know, this winter has been almost continually wet and as the weekend approached, this trend continued with the added complication of snow in the region. So, on Friday afternoon there was a bit of ringing around and thoughts of going elsewhere.
Nineteen were originally booked on the three trips planned and by the time we got to the garage that was down to 13. Then, over a period of about 45 minutes, several options were bandied about and lots of votes taken. In the end there were nine who decided to go and the destination agreed on was Pureora.

How did we pick Pureora? There was track access not far from a main road, no snow covered forestry roads, no rivers to cross, and it was still in a similar kind of area.
We arrived about midnight at a DOC campsite 10km from the Mt Pureora track and next morning in showery weather drove up to the track with light snow on the road. The track up was wet then pristine white with snow which we soon turned brown as we sloshed up The trees were like Christmas cards draped with snow. Within an hour we broke out of the trees to alpine scrub and total white.

We spent a few minutes at the trig with 50-metres visibility and a cool wind before slip-sliding our way back to the truck, and drove south in the sunshine then into a wall of heavy black cloud and rain. Lunch was in the truck at the Waihaha River bridge carpark then, as the rain eased, we headed for the Waihaha Hut less than three hours away.

The river was of course in flood, brown and right up to the track in parts. There were heaps of pumice in all the back-waters and the views looking down on the gorge area showed the power of the water. The well-used and well-stocked 10-bunk hut set amongst huge rimu was empty, so we soon spread ourselves all over it. We gathered wood and scavenged coal from the ground outside the huge but empty coal bins, and got the stove going. A couple of keen ones went exploring up the track while the rest read, ate and had hot drinks.

The full moon came out during the night, then it was back to overcast skies but no rain in the morning as we packed up and retraced our steps. The river was just as high and a 20-metre section of track away from the river was still thigh-deep and cold.
We passed a couple of mountain bikers and a hunter with several dogs - he said he had lost one further down the track. On our walk in the day before we passed a young hunter who also said he had lost his dog on the track. This brought back memories of a lost hunter’s dog that followed us out on this same track some 20 years ago and got a few of us wondering what this is doing for any kiwi that may be out there.

We were back at the truck for lunch, this time with no rain. We headed home for an early arrival just ahead of the CTC who had been to Ruapehu and couldn’t get above the Chateau all weekend.

We were: Athol Berry, Helen Anderson, Aaron Drysdale, Lee McKay, Graeme Pollock, Bruce Calvert, John Parsons, Antal Kalocsai and Keith Ayton (scribe).