Easter Weekend Trip - Thursday 18 April 2019 to Monday 22 April 2019 (5 days)
Easter 2019, Medium Fit Group
Mark Abela's Photos
I had warned everyone that the Ruahines is either up or down, and nothing in between. Our designated route was obviously intended to prove that one way or another.
With a number of renegade usual suspects off on the Ruahines extended trip, it was great to see an enthusiastic turnout for the Easter only trip - 19 people in all, and a few weeks before with half keen to join the Medium Fit group. As it turned out, age, fitness, health issues, heavy packs and the first punishing climb from Sentry Box Hut up to the ridge leading to Parks Peak Hut took the group down to five - and from there we all hung in there together, tailing so often behind the speedy duo of VJ and Chris, as we conquered one climb after another.
For good measure, after the Thursday afternoon and evening drive, I had decided we would walk the 20 minutes in from the road to Sentry Box Hut in the dark - so bunks for a few, and a number of tents hastily erected, all ready for our scheduled 7.30am departure the next morning - we needed to make the most of our available daylight hours, with more at the start than the end of the day.
It really was a grunty 700m climb to the ridge, sporting some great views back to the Hawkes Bay hinterland behind us, and then on to Parks Peak Hut for morning tea, and a chance for VJ to almost lose his cellphone. A great spot, but we could already see our day’s destination on the Main Range - just a 500m descent followed by another 700m ascent to reach the promised tarns and good camping just to the S of pt 1503. A warm afternoon, not much wind, so time to explore our special spot. Great sunset, and then immediately behind us, a spectacular moon rise. A 7 hour day plus exploring.
Next morning, after a few short sunrise views, cloud set in and a cool wind chased us off the tops and down the track towards Potae Ridge - down 400m, up 130m on a scruffy sidle, and then down the highway Potae Ridge Track to Ruahine Corner hut for elevenses and a chance for a chat to the hunter with his cute little helicopter parked outside the hut.
The next section required careful navigation, as we needed to pick up a pest control line that would take us via a rusty poled route around the side of the prominent Te Rakaunuiakura and after that provide some rough navigation scrubby challenges as it follows the Waiokotore Stream for a while, before heading off towards a good climb up onto Ohutu Ridge. All turned out as expected, although I think there is even less pink tape in the rough section from when I was last there around 6 years ago - but fortunately I could remember a key, unmarked, stream crossing that took us away from the stream and onto the pest control track again - that was then not too hard to follow.
Mid afternoon a steep 300m climb up onto the end of Ohutu Ridge, providing superb views back from where we had come, and over to the Main Range. The pest control line followed the ridge for a while, then delivered us onto the marked track from Iron Bark hut down to Waiokotore Camp, with the promise of a ladder along the way. The track was steep and fern covered most of the way, so some of us were on edge for the duration because it had been a long day already, and we were very keen to stay on our feet. The ladder was a non event, the steep track sections and rock faces were spectacular as we eventually reached the narrow valley, and sided downstream to the Waiokotore Camp (no Biv there any more). A 9 hour day, pleased to all arrive in one piece with some daylight to spare.
Another 9 hour day ahead as we climbed up first onto the Potae Ridge again and walked through the amazing wind worn rock formations, then down and up onto the Main Range again, for lunch beside a tarn just north of Point 1503.
Choosing time - have a walk out involving a 700m descent and 500m ascent back to Parks Peak, or stay on the tops and head around the head of the valley to the Aranga Hut site ? - you got it - we stayed on the tops, as the weather continued to be kind and provide us with fine weather and not much wind. Only two tiring ascents to high points through dense tussock, otherwise fairly easy going. The bush track marked on the topo map linking towards pt 1406 did not start as per the map, but some superb scouting by VJ soon found that we had to follow the bush edge further down the hill first.
So what was in store for us with "Aranga Hut (private)" ? Hmmm ... - a sad uncared for old NZFS hut with no mattresses and a perilous longdrop. Mark was brave and slept inside (only one mouse), and the rest of us found good camping spots nearby - all geared up for pouring rain the next morning. In the event it was occasional light drizzle only, and a good fast track along the tops for a break at the junction down to Sentry Box Hut - and a chance for Don’s party to catch us there on their way out. So then just a steep 700m descent to the bus.
Ups and downs verdict ? Mostly yes, and if you want the best of them, as per our route, don’t stroll at leisure for days along the Ruahine ridges - go cross ways up and down across 4 of them and back in the space of 3.5 days. Our final team were Chris Burnett (Speedy 1), Vjeko (VJ) Jukic (Speedy 2), Lynda Langridge, Mark Abela and Tony Walton (leader / follower). Thanks Chris and Mark for your photos. And ... I did lose my cellphone in the rough stuff, and resulting knee ligament issues from those long downhills have grounded me for a few weeks .... but it was all worth it !