The Mangatainoka Herepai Dundas Cattle Ridge Roaring Stag Hut circuit tramp is a classic medium-fit two to three day trip that involves travel above the bush line. Some experience is required including navigation skills, appropriate equipment, and reasonable fitness. On recent maps, the ridge from Arete to West Peak is called Dundas Ridge.
Mangatainoka Valley road end to Herepai to Ruapae
Herepai Hut, 2¼ hours from the road-end, provides good access to the open tops of the Northern Tararuas.
Inwards: From the carpark proceed up-valley a few minutes, cross the swing-bridge to the TL and follow the gentle trail through bush for 40 minutes to cross a second swing-bridge. Thirty minutes steep climb through rather grand bush, with another 20 minutes of gentle climb, brings you to a track junction: L to Roaring Stag, R to Herepai.
The track to Herepai heads N, soon dropping gently to swing W through a small saddle before climbing again to the hut, 45 minutes from the track junction.
Herepai Hut sleeps 10 in comfort; water tank and toilet. E of the small saddle before the hut, the Bottles Track drops S to the Ruapae Stream, 20 minutes distant - see 2.11. The Bottles Track also drops down on the other side to the Mangatainoka River. The steeper climbs on each side of Herepai Hut are traces of the major fault system passing from the Ruamahanga to the upper Wairarapa.
The track beyond Herepai Hut, now OT grade, climbs through a fringe of bush and up the scrubby spur. Herepai is reached in 45 minutes, and 45 minutes further up the tussock spur is Ruapae. These two peaks represent the northern limit of the Main Range in the Tararuas.
North from here, the ridge drops through a series of scrubby saddles and knobs towards Ngapuketurua, the Mangahao Reservoir No. 1, and Burn Hut. Tracks here are currently overgrown but still usable. The ridge to the S swings through a saddle to reach East Peak. The turn-off from East Peak to Ruapae is difficult in fog and worth noting, as also is that from Ruapae to Herepai. (see notes towards end of 20.8)
Outwards: From Herepai Hut the trail drops down the ridge to a small saddle and climbs gently to the flattish ridge heading S to reach the Roaring Stag/Herepai Track junction: about 40 minutes. Turn L, and 45 minutes down from here is the first bridge crossing the Mangatainoka, with the second another 30 minutes on, 5 minutes from the road-end. About 2 hours from the hut. [revised March 2018]
Ruapae, East Peak, West Peak, Pukemorere, Dundas Hut
From Dundas, the route to Logan first bears 120° true and past a small tarn before swinging more NE to the Dundas-Logan saddle. Some of the rocky knob in this saddle is best sidled to the NW. (From Logan the ridge towards Dundas bears 240° true.) The ridge N from Logan bears 020° true and 25 minutes northwards is the summit of .1415. This minor summit carries several small tarns (and there is another tarn in the saddle beyond) and it marks the inconspicuous turn-off to Dundas Hut. The turn-off is however sign-posted, saying 10 minutes to Dundas Hut; allow at least 20 minutes. See section 2.8.
Further NE is Pukemoremore, its summit and sides rather rocky, and beyond is the top of Walker, 1¾ hours from .1415. From Walker, the ridge swings E for a little before resuming its NE trend. Because of the extended top on Walker, and the major east-trending spur that runs into Chamberlain Creek, be sure of your location before proceeding in poor visibility.
A good 45 minutes from Walker brings West Peak and the deep saddle that reaches down to scrubline, between it and East Peak. About 75 minutes between the peaks. The summit of East Peak is a little broad, but the eastern-most part can be considered the highest. In the reverse direction, from East Peak to West Peak, avoid heading along Haukura Ridge; the route to West Peak turns sharply W on a section of ridge which is not well defined and swings around somewhat on a tussock knob before reaching the saddle.
Heading to Ruapae from East Peak, the route follows 120° true for 5 minutes, where a cairn marks the quiet departure of the ridge towards Ruapae, down a small scree slide on 030° true. The ridge that continues on the 120° true bearing becomes the Haukura Ridge, which indeed offers rocky scrambling.
Ruapae is a definite summit, 45 minutes from East Peak, and the turn-off spur swings easily E and downwards to Herepai, reached in about 45 minutes. From Herepai the track descends through increasingly healthy scrub and enters the bush to reach Herepai Hut in a further 45 minutes.
From Ruapae, the watershed spine of the North Island actually swings eastwards down through Herepai and Kaiparoro to cross the main road.
Emergency exit. Between Dundas and West Peak, do not consider the country to the east apart from the spur to Dundas Hut. Good spurs lead to the Mangahao from Dundas, Pukemoremore and West Peak, but avoid the Mangahao headwaters.
Dundas Hut to Cattle Ridge Hut
Dundas and Pukemoremore exchanged names on the 1:100 000 map around 1960. The hut was then close to what was known as Dundas. About 4½ hours in either direction.
Westwards: Twenty minutes up Cattle Ridge from the Hut turn-off, two standards will be found at 300° true, 50 metres apart. The first of these has a disc on it. These standards point towards the Dundas Hut track. Cairns also mark this turn-off, particularly one by a large rock near the edge of the ridge. From here, a few cairns lead steeply down through tussock to a slip where the track is poorly marked. Below the slip the vegetation is very dense and the track difficult to follow. It becomes easier to follow in the bush, ultimately reaching the Ruamahanga River. This could take up to 2 hours from Cattle Ridge Hut.
Across the river, the track sidles high to avoid rough going, before following a sidestream, still high, to the stream forks: at least 45 minutes from the river crossing. A well-cut track leads up the spur between the forks to above the scrubline. About 75 minutes from the forks, Dundas Hut lies on the N face of the spur and about 75 metres below the spur-crest. The drop-off point is before the spur-crest becomes ill-defined, and is sign-posted.
Point 1415 (Topo50 BN34 080 898) on the Main Range can be reached in 20 to 30 minutes from the hut.
Eastwards: The minor summit of .1415 on the Main Range, carries several small tarns (with another one in the saddle northwards) and marks the inconspicuous turn-off to Dundas Hut. The turn-off is however sign-posted, saying 10 minutes to Dundas Hut; allow at least 20 minutes. From the northernmost tarn on the summit of .1415, turn SE and the face will soon develop into a blunt spur. Dundas Hut lies in a basin down the N face of this spur, 75 metres below the spur-crest and about 200 metres below .1415. The hut turn-off is sign-posted too.
From Dundas Hut, regain the spur crest which then drops about 550 metres through tussock and scrub to the stream forks, which can be reached in 80 minutes. The track is very steep in places, and at times not obvious through the vegetation. Cross the stream. The track then sidles first above the stream and then the main river, losing a further 120 metres, to reach the Ruamahanga crossing. This sidle track is very overgrown with not many discs, so can take up to an hour. Cross the river to gain the track uphill. Two hours of steep climbing (about 600 metres) through thick vegetation brings the open Cattle Ridge. Twenty minutes down-ridge are the cairn and standard marking the top of the eroded track to Cattle Ridge Hut, about 4½ hours from Dundas Hut. [revised March 2018]
Cattle Ridge Hut to Roaring Stag Hut
About 2 hours to Cattle Ridge Hut, and another 2 hours to Waingawa 1423.
Up: Cross the bridge from Roaring Stag and follow downstream for 2 minutes to a track forks, where the Cattle Ridge track swings away from the down-valley track. Turn right, cross the flats and a small stream, then climb the spur to Cattle Ridge Hut, about 2 hours from Roaring Stag. Standard hut – sleeps 5 – tank water.
Cattle Ridge proper is gained about 10 minutes above the hut where the turn-off is marked with an iron standard.
About 10 minutes up the ridge is another iron standard with a disc on it and 50 metres W from this is a third standard, which marks the top of the track that drops to cross the upper Ruamahanga towards Dundas Hut – see 2.8.
Following up the ridge, the quality tarn at Pukeroa 1318 is followed by a sharp saddle and then the broad top of Pukekino, about 75 minutes from the Hut. The reverse of this route, from Pukekino to the sharp saddle, is difficult in mist and opportunity should be taken to memorize the trail.
Beyond Pukekino the ridge is pretty flat and broadens beyond 1384. The turn-off to Cow Saddle at 1360 is not conspicuous but is marked by a cairn and slotted standard. (See 5.9) Just beyond this turn-off, the ridge narrows before the short climb to Waingawa itself: a little over 2 hours from Cattle Ridge Hut.
Down: Travelling down Cattle Ridge from Waingawa, the ridge broadens once past the Cow Saddle turn-off and the going is fairly flat until just beyond the broad featureless top of Pukekino. Where the ridge-top swings NW, a slotted standard will be found marking a swing of the route to 60° true; a line of stones on the ground confirms this. A hundred metres distant is a similar standard. About 5 minutes down-spur from the second standard are some cairns, and the spur drops sharply 75° true to the saddle. This face is steep and scrubby, and its western edge may be slightly better. A climb brings you to 1318 with the split ridge beyond. A tarn nestles between the ridge arms – follow down the western one.
Ten minutes down from here, you will be pass the twin standards at 300° true that mark the top of the Dundas Hut track. A further 10 minutes down-ridge from these, a standard and cairn mark the turn R to Cattle Ridge Hut. This hut, about 10 minutes down from the ridge, lies in the scrub – around 2 hours from Waingawa.
Below the hut, drop to the tarn then swing L up the small spur for 100 metres, where a stake marks the turn R for the spur to Roaring Stag. The early bush is pleasant totara and toatoa, though these die out further down. The well-markedtrack makes one or two wide sidles on the way down as it passes steep country above slips and false pads may mislead. Eventually it crosses a small stream and joins the main valley track 2 minutes down from the Roaring Stag Bridge: about 1½ hours from Cattle Ridge Hut.
For the route from Waingawa 1423 to Cow saddle, see 5.9.
Roaring Stag Lodge to Maingatainoka
Inwards: Proceed to the Herepai/Roaring Stag track junction 80 minutes from the Mangatainoka road-end as in 1.1. The ancient pack track formation then heads S along the ridge, sidling several small knobs and, at a large boulder on the ridge, drops down a gentle spur to the valley floor a little over an hour from the track junction. The local conglomerate rock on this spur is anomalously derived from granite highlands, some source distant from present-day New Zealand. Twenty minutes further, across bush terraces and a couple of small side-streams, is the delightfully situated Roaring Stag Lodge: 3 hours from the road-end. These side streams can be difficult after heavy rain. In high flow, the bigger northern stream is best crossed about 150m upstream of the track crossing, where it flattens out and flows across a flat terrace. [revised March 2018]
Roaring Stag HutRoaring Stag Hut is a Standard hut, located at -40.730649, 175.524563. It has 12 bunks with heating, mattresses, toilets - non-flush, water from tap - not treated, boil before use, and water supply. Bookings are not required, usage is first come, first served.
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