Labour Weekend Trip - Friday 23 October 2015 to Monday 26 October 2015 (4 days)
Rain. It had doused Big Blue on the way down, pummelled the roof all night and was still at it in the morning. With a high Waipakihi River it called for a change of plan. We’d head along the poled route today and onto the tops Sunday, covering part of the planned trip more or less in reverse.
Fortunately it was starting to clear as we set off along the Kaimanawa Forest Park Walkway at 9 am. A walkway. Sounds like a doddle - something for amateurs, neophytes and heavyweights. Not so. An immediate sharp 100m climb set the standard. This would be very much a route, not a track, with often no clear ground trail and poles often few and far between and difficult to spot
The route took us along the boundary of the army training area (keep out!) over rolling tussock, bits of scrub and lovely pockets of beech forest, with wide views to mist covered hills.
At lunch we inherited Vesselina from the fast mob to make 12 in our group. Along a clear 4 wheel drive track, across a stream, some messy sidling, down into another stream and then a real grunt of a 200 m climb up Ngawhareangarua. A breather, off again and soon we were looking down on the wide valley opening up in front of us and weighing up the best spot to camp for the night. This we duly found down near the stream in a great spot with less lumpy tussock and dry ground underfoot.
Tents all set up and then along sauntered Andrew from the fast group. They too had decided on a change of plans, and had set up camp further up valley. And then an hour or so later, more incoming - Liz, Kaye and Sue from the Easy group (a misnomer that, if ever there was one). That made 15 of us, and a mere 14 tents. Anybody would think gold had been discovered in the Moawhango headwaters. A 7 hr day, 900 m of climbing.
Frost on the tents. For us single skinners, inside and out. A beautiful clear day.
Across the stream and finally into the Needles block, a dash of scrub bashing, then onto the 500m+ climb onto the tops.
A glimpse of Ruapehu , then the whole snow-covered massif coming into view. Beautiful.
Onwards and upwards and look, there on the ridge opposite, people. T’was the fast group.
Up to the ridge at point 1604, a sharp left turn and heading west along the ridge. A perfect day for tramping today - clear skies, grand vistas, brilliant tops, minimal wind. Cell phone reception - we won! Yeehah.
At lunch Terry and Lee headed off to scout a route down and across the Akeake Stream. They returned with a choice - either down into the unknown of the gorgy Akeake, or a long sweep around the tops to Patutu. With little apparent appetite for adventure, the group opted for the long way round.
A surreal moonscape next with a surprise water source, more rolling tops, and always those stunning views. Around the head of the Akeake and a view down into the gorge we might have tackled, then a well taken sidle and up onto Patutu for views down into the Waipakihi and our route for tomorrow.
East and NE now on a long descent down to our camp spot where the fast group had long been ensconced. 7 hours, and 900m climbing again today.
We will never know quite what Antal imbibed on Monday morning to propel him so energetically back up the hill to Patutu leaving all in his wake, but some surmised it couldn’t have been legal. The rest of us climbed steadily, more human like.
On up to point 1718 the 2nd highest peak in the Kaimanawas (and strangely unnamed), well layered up now as we were fully exposed and the wind was fresh. Photos on top, cell phone tinklings bringing news we’d be playing the Wallabies.
The next section was stunning - steep, rocky, challenging, great views, amazing contrast of colours. Tops tramping at its best. Over points 1564 and 1450 led by Lee, and into the bush. Some organisation needed here with 17 in the party and possibly prolonged bushbashing in store. Lee and Terry up front, Andrew as midfield general, and the tall bloke at the back. In the end there was a cut track of sorts, and it proved to be a pretty easy descent.
Lunch in the bush with Willy the butt of the jokes for some reason, then on down through the bush and eventually to the Little Waipakihi Stream. A few hundred meters down this (sadly, chock full of didymo) to join the Waipakihi proper. Several crossings and a bit over 3 ks later and we were at Big Blue.
To be met by ... birthday cake and juice! Thank you Liz (it had a 6 in it I believe).
This was a terrific trip; thanks particularly to Terry for his leadership and organisation, Lee for the route finding, the drivers, and the landowners for permission.
Scribe Dennis Brown with thanks to Terry Chubb for the photos.