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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 89, no 4, May 2017

Exploring the Tauherenikau headwaters

Waitangi weekend 2017

Part one: Beyond Hells Gate … Waitangi weekend 2017

Despite heavy rain a few days before (the Tauherenikau river flow gauge in the lower gorge was running at about 125 cumecs on the Thursday night!) I was keen to have a look into the upper Tauherenikau gorge. We had already postponed the trip a few times and maybe the river would have dropped enough by Sunday. So Nina, Paul and I headed over from Walls Whare to Cone Hut on a fine Saturday evening.

In the morning we headed up over Bull Mound and down to Hells Gate. The bush basin and creek draining Hells Gate gave fairly good travel down to its confluence with the Tauherenikau but it took us about 2 ¾ hours. When we reached the main river it was unfortunately still running a bit high (about 6.3 cumecs it turned out), but was still a lovely place to be on a sunny afternoon. After lunch and a brief look about 10 minutes down the river we decided to bail out back over the tops as there was still about another 6-7 km of river including unfamiliar gorge sections below us.

So we went up the steep but open bush spur from the Hells Gate creek confluence to point 892m then south to Bull Mound. Mostly pleasant travel except for a scrubby section just before reaching Bull Mound. Back down to Cone Hut after an interesting 12-hour look into new country and home the next day.

Part two: Floyd’s Pond … 17-19 March 2017

Nina was busy elsewhere this time but Joe from Carterton joined Paul and I at Cone Hut on the Friday night, with his dog Floyd - a “scrub spoodle”. Joe had been into the upper gorge before and suggested we could go up the river from Cone Hut and see how far we could get – maybe even up to Alpha Hut. The river was much lower this time (3.8 cumecs) as we set off at 7.45am under an overcast sky. A few bush terraces initially but mostly lots of gravel and boulder-hopping with innumerable crossings. Floyd was a great tramper but not a keen swimmer and was carried on all the crossings.

2 ¼ hours later Joe showed us the site of the former Joe’s Biv (no relation). It is a small grassy clearing with an overgrown fireplace on a bush terrace on the true left bank, a couple of hundred metres downriver from the side-creek that drains Neill Saddle. The sun came out briefly.

Above here the river gradually became a bit rougher as we approached the gorgy section. There were only 2 swims, just below the creek draining Mt Hector. After donning wetsuits, we found the first one was only a few metres swimming across one side of a pool. The next one was a little trickier, 5 - 10 metres of swimming against a current.

It was more of a fiasco than it needed to be: “Throw the dog again!” First throw wasn’t quite far enough and he had swum back down. Then I slipped off a rock that I was trying to climb for some reason and frantically tried to swim longer than necessary, initially making little progress.

Having got past this obstacle, which would be much easier travelling downstream, some easier travel saw us at the confluence with the Hells Gate creek (2 ½ hours from the Joes Biv site). After lunch we decided to carry on up the main river rather than head up to Hells Gate. There was another slightly gorgy section in the next kilometre with one pool that we sidled rather than swam – due to feeling a bit cold. It had started raining. A few hundred metres before the creek draining between Atkinson and the Beehives we struck a surprise – a large slip that had completely blocked the river. It didn’t look particularly old and there was a 70-100 metre lakelet behind it, about 15 metres wide and 2-3 metres deep. This ended up in the media (Stuff website and Dominion Post, 21 March, p. 3) and Floyd apparently wants it named after him – fair enough too. We sidled this on the true right and continued on our merry way.

2 ½ hours after leaving Hells Gate creek we arrived at the foot of the 300 metre spur that we wanted to take up to the ridge a little below Alpha Hut. This was fairly good going, but tiring after all that rock-hopping. Once on the track another 10-15 minutes saw us reach Alpha Hut at 5.15pm. After a short break we headed back down the track to Cone Hut, arriving at 8.30pm feeling pleased with our efforts.

Cone Hut was a great base for both our day-trips exploring the headwaters of this beautiful river.

You can view a short video of these trips at www.vimeo.com/209698620 or look up Paul McCredie on Vimeo

Party members
Paul McCredie, Franz Hubmann (leader and scribe), Nina Sawicki (part one), Joe Nawalaniec and Floyd (part two).

Page last modified on 2017 May 14 02:01

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