Easter Weekend Trip - Thursday 17 April 2014 to Tuesday 22 April 2014 (6 days)
(Must Do That Again in Good Weather)
With no bus available for the long trip to the Tararuas, it became 2 separate car trips - the fit trip as per this report, and a saner trip led by Sue Grant. The transport arrangements meant that the fit trip ended up limited to one vehicle and 4 people - Andrew Murdoch, Fay Zhong, Garry Williams and Tony Walton (leader).
The forecast was ... cyclone related ... indifferent, with hope of improvement through the weekend, but we agreed to continue nevertheless, leaving Auckland first thing on Thursday morning. That allowed us to reach the Putara Rd end, near Eketahuna around 4.30. Light drizzle as we set off into the bush - following a stream, then climbing up a rough track around 400m, by which time it was dark - took the shortest hut option to reach Herepai Hut after a couple of hours - great to be in a hut on the same day we had left Auckland ... listening to the rain on the roof.
Friday was just a little damp at times - back down part of the track we had traversed the evening before, and then on down to Roaring Stag hut on a superb spot beside the Ruamahanga River for morning tea, then across the river and up a trifling 700m to Cattle Ridge hut for lunch. Cloud prevented the long distance views but we had enough to appreciate our surrounds above the bush line. Everyone making sure that we were leaving ATC stickers in all the hut books to prove that Aucklander’s can tramp the Tararuas too!
Soon time to move up onto Cattle Ridge proper and make our way along over Pukeroa, fighting the steep, thick scrub to achieve Pukekino then on to point 1360 to find out what a slotted standard was ... yes, a metal stake with vertical slots in it. The Tararuas tops are mostly very minimalist in their markings, obviously on the assumption that if you don’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t be there anyway.
And from there a long and at times steep descent to Cow Creek and the Waingawa River ... not far now .... ^^^^!@## .... why do we have to climb up and around this hill when the hut must have been very close over the river ? A big old slip..... In all a 9.5 hr day to reach Cow Creek hut and settle in for the evening. We sent out a search party for Andrew when he had used up his time quota for a splash in the river, a short distance away - by now it was dark.
Saturday was to be a bush bash up a non-tracked spur onto Table Ridge turning off the Arete Forks track - in the event it was a well marked track that some wonderful people maintain. Sun tried to pop out for a bit .... but by the time we cleared the bush it was time for the storm gear - strong cold winds, rain, and reducing visibility necessitating regular confirmation of position and direction using GPS (Tony) and compass (Andrew). Ticking off the various high points. Very strong wind gusts providing an exciting new experience for Fay, with Garry especially ensuring that she wasn’t completely blown away by it all. Over Brockett with minimal visibility, bypassing Mitre 1 km away, on over Girdlestone and its following pinnacles on fortunately a well worn track and then gratefully down out of the "average Tararuas" weather into Tarn Ridge hut.
Sunday forecast was worse (85 kph winds and heavy rain - not safe for narrow ridge-top tramping), confirmed when we awoke, so we stayed in the hut for an extra day listening to the at times heavy rain and gale force winds playing around the ridge. A couple of times the sun did come out to give us a little sample of the superb views we were mostly missing, but they soon disappeared into the cloud again. Garry did a great job each evening getting a fire going - thanks to DOC for a supply of coal and kindling wood.
The battle of the weather forecasts continued, with Met service being the most accurate and mountainforecast.com getting the winds right, but otherwise far too optimistic for our rain and cloud conditions.
Monday dawned in mist, with a little less rain and wind, so off we set along Tarn Ridge, over the narrow Waiohine Pinnacles (S to N the easiest way - phew ! ) arriving at Arete Biv for an early lunch. It is a tiny little 2 bunk biv, so of course plenty of room for us 4 plus 2 Russian trampers already in residence - a chance to have a chat about how amazing that there was no one else about...... They obviously knew what they were up to, the day before having come across Mt Crawford (a bit windy...) when we had our hut day. Soon back on our way, climbing up onto the Dundas Ridge, over Mt Dundas and Logan to reach a real (rare) DOC sign pointing down to Dundas hut. Tony made the mistake of commenting on the fact that we arrived at a hut when it wasn’t raining, so soon after it started drizzling ... but at least there were views down the valley to the sunny Wairarapa.
Tuesday was now our "bonus" day - our original plan was to be home. As a special reward the morning was fine, with views of the tops, so a unanimous decision saw us forsake 600m down, 600m up (Cattle Ridge) 800m down, 300m up for a bouncing ridgetop stroll ticking off Pukemoremore, Walker, West Peak, East Peak, joining the cloud again at Ruapae and drizzle at Herepai, before dropping down into the bush for a later lunch at Herepai hut. And like all the days before, here was Fay again pulling treats out of her pack so that she didn’t have to carry them ... down the hill to
the road end. A final two hours saw us back at the ute, a rapid change and then the start of the drive back home.
A great round trip - next time just add some fine weather so that then people looking at all our photos will be envious rather than querying our sanity. But we did enjoy it - great company, very compatible pace for those big climbs and descents, and as always, learning a lot from each other for the next big tramp. This is absolutely superb tramping country, so even a few hours of fine weather on the tops makes it all worthwhile.
Some great photos thanks to Fay and Andrew
(1) On Cattle Ridge with Fay’s ghost like addition of herself (also taken close by) to one of her photos
(2) Tops travel with some great cloud effects
(3) From Pukemoremore looking back to Logan and Mt Dundas and beyond with a little red spec left of centre being the roof of Dundas Hut.