Labour Weekend Trip 2014
The weather window looked promising with clear sunny skies forecast for Saturday and Sunday with showers coming Monday afternoon.
It was around midnight as Big Blue wound her way up Kiko Road to the track head. A few tents were hurriedly pitched and we settled in for a chilly night. The next morning we were woken at daylight by three hunters and a light frost.
The fit party were "chaffing at the bit" and got a quick start, obviously to ensure they got the best camping spots at Ignimbrite Saddle! Our party of seven got underway around 8.15am for the 700 meter climb to the bush line - it was a glorious day with Russell leading the charge, a position and pace he would regret the next day. The leader took up the rear to keep an eye on his flock.
Once at the bush-line, it was a short, hop, skip and a jump to the Ngapuketurua/Cascade Hut junction and about 40 minutes to Ngapuketurua for lunch. The views were fabulous and as we made our way along the ridge to Ignimbrite Saddle our vista was framed with Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, still with a nice blanket of snow.
Having reached Ngapuketurua around noon the troops decided it was lunchtime and a leisurely 30 minutes was spent in the lee of the hill dining with a view.
A couple of sections of bush were entered as we made our way to the saddle. An ATC survey party of Margaret, Kathy and Terry had scoped out this route a few weeks prior and did a great job track clearing and supplying helpful track notes - thanks guys!
Anticipating a crowded campsite, we tried to find water and a suitable site along the ridge thinking there was water along the tops. Although we did not give this a thorough checkout, it was decided to press on to the saddle for the night. We arrived at Ignimbrite Saddle after a casual 8 hours tramp. The "fit" party had opted for sites just before the saddle. Dave and Sally joined them whilst the balance of us camped on the saddle.
Well actually, Sally shared a tent with Tony. Turns out, on pitching her tent, she discovered she had left her poles at home. It’s amazing the stunts some members pull to stay in the tent of a handsome bloke!
The morning dawned with a coating of ice on our tents. As we prepared breakfast the "fit" party were already up and going. It was a big day for them over Junction Tops and Thunderbolt. Our party headed off to Waipakihi Hut about 4 plus hours away.
Sunday morning started with a grunt towards Junction Tops. Just below the tops we split off West towards Waipakihi Hut. Russell was struggling. His burst of speed the day before, combined with pack weight were having a toll. A quick swap of packs made lighter going for him and we reached the hut around lunchtime for a cruisy afternoon exploring. Well that was the intention, but once the comforts of the hut veranda on a sunny avo settled in, thoughts of exploration vanished. At around 5ish two parties of two arrived at the hut, one couple opting to camp.
The Monday rain kicked in sooner than forecast so we decided to get an early start and not go over Urchin but head out straight along Umakarikari ridge. As we climbed to the ridge, the weather got worse and by the time we were on the ridge we experienced a couple of hours of horizontal sleet. Russell got his wind back and after jettisoning some pack load travelled well.
It’s incredible what miserable weather will do for tramping pace. The DOC advertised time to the road end from the hut was 5 - 7 hours. We ripped it out, non-stop in 4 and half. Once out, we decided to do a road bash to the bus instead of waiting - after wandering around road ways for an hour we decided to return to the track head to wait for Big Blue and just as we returned the bus also arrived - great timing.
This was a very enjoyable weekend (putting aside the Monday weather) with a great bunch of people traversing interesting county.
The party: Rob McKay (Leader and scribe), Sally Johannesson, Simon Rainger, David Holl, Vicki King, Russell Allen and Catherine Doyle