Day Trip - Saturday 24 March 2018

On the Saturday of the weekend of our hand over of Memorial Hut to the Central Plateau Schools, a small group of us did one of our classic tramps from the hut - overland towards Tama Lakes and return via the round-the-mountain track.

Meads Wall plunging down into the Whakapapanui Valley

The day was overcast with the sun breaking through at intervals and there were many moody views across the landscape. From the hut, we crossed the Bruce Road to pass alongside the water reservoir that supplies water to the snow guns in winter. Then it was straight up and over the low point of Te Herenga Ridge which gives expansive views back to Ruapehu and the mountain huts and in the other direction views down into the huge expanse of the Whakapapanui Valley and River; Meads Wall looming over the upper end.

Discussing the best way down – Graham, Teresa, Rob, Ian, Chris

We slowly picked our way down into the valley, crossed the stream (dry boots!) , and then picked our way up the other side, emerging to experience expansive views towards the explosion craters that contain the Tama Lakes.

Tony surrounded by the volcanic fields of Ruapehu

At this stage, Graham decided that too much sea time had spoiled his fitness for gaining altitude comfortably, so decided to abandon the cross-country lark and head down the ridgeline to pick up the Ridge track that would take him to the base of the mountain just above Park HQ; Tony decided to accompany him. The remaining five of us pressed on across the ash fields until high above the Wairere Valley and Stream. More picking our way down; steeper slopes this time as we were much higher up the river valley than normal.

The Wairere Stream and Valley

The Wairere stream forms the Taranaki Falls; the track to the falls crosses the Wairere just above the falls and there is a good though unmarked track on the true right of the stream. Using this, it is possible to continue up the valley for a long distance and makes a good easy day trip on its own. It can also be combined with cross country trips by climbing out of the stream into the adjacent valley on the true right of the stream then working your way down this valley until reaching the round-the-mountain track and out to Park HQ. Alternatively, you can climb out of the valley on the true left side and work your way down the ridge line to meet the Ridge track then down this to Park HQ.

Whio in the upper reaches of the Wairere

Reaching the stream, we had the great pleasure of seeing a whio (blue duck) in one of the many pools. It was quite unperturbed by our presence and continued feeding and swimming while we took photos. Ian reported the sighting at Park HQ on our return and they were equally pleased about it.

Once we had traversed the Wairere Valley we began to pick our way down the ridge heading for the Tama Craters - easy going with a scattering of rock cairns acting as a guide. Lunch was enjoyed in a sheltered spot, then we continued down to reach the main track. This is now in excellent condition as a result of recent upgrades so the pace lifted dramatically and we reached the Taranaki Falls quickly. Teresa and Chris elected to return via the lower track, while Rob, Ian and I headed home along the upper track.

The almost obligatory afternoon tea at the Pihanga T Bar ensued , then we whistled up Big Blue (thank you Jim, the walk up the Bruce Road is never the best way to end a day’s tramp !) and returned to the hut for an excellent Saturday evening with good friends in our wonderful old Memorial Hut.

Anna and Ian Roberts, Rob de Jong, Teresa Janssen, Chris Burnett, Tony Walton, Graham Macgregor