This article was first published in The Tararua Tramper in April 1997
Blue Range - Waingawa - Arete Forks
27-29 August 1996
Our party of three left the Wellington Railway Station about 6.20pm and after a fish and chip stop at Featherston we drove to the Kiriwhakapapa road end. I had arranged to leave my car at a farm about 20 minutes walk from the road end. The farmer indicated that he was happy for trampers to leave cars at his place and that he was prepared to transport the drivers to the road end.
The easy-medium party were at the road end when we arrived and intended to spend the night at the shelter. Shortly after nine we stared our climb to Blue Range Hut. The conditions were mild but there was a misty light rain which accompanied us as we followed our little circles of light up the ridge. As we gained altitude the mist gradually became more substantial. The track is in good condition and easy to follow on the ground but there are not many tree markers. After reaching a height of 978m the track branches, the track to Blue Range Hut following the Blue Range to the north east.
After a comfortable night at Blue Range Hut we headed for Cow Saddle by sidling around Te Mara 1104m and regaining the ridge which headed in a north to north westerly direction. Through windows in the mist to the west we were able to see Table Ridge, Mitre and Pinnacle spur. After arriving at Cow Saddle 665m we travelled a short distance towards the Ruamahanga River before starting our climb to Waingawa peak 1423m.
The track from Cow Saddle to Waingawa followed the ridge and was well marked and easy to follow. Just before starting to climb through the leatherwood there is a small stream which would be most welcome on a hot day, but probably not be relied on in summer. DoC had cut a wide track through the leatherwood which hastened our progress and we were soon out on the tussock tops. As we gained altitude we noted a marked increase in the wind velocity and a drop in temperature. We climbed onto Cattle Ridge and turned sharply to the south west to follow the ridge onto Waingawa Peak where we were exposed to a strong cold wind. We sheltered out of the wind to put on more clothes including warm gloves.
There were two tracks from Waingawa to Arete Forks - the first follows a prominent ridge just past Waingawa Peak and is a very direct route to Arete Forks, while the second follows a stream from the Waingawa-Bannister saddle and was about 30-40 minutes from our current position. The latter track is marked on the 1995 Levin map but not on the 1985 map; the former route is not marked on either map. Given the cold conditions we opted for the direct route which was marked on the ridge by a small cairn. As we moved down through the tussock there was evidence that this route was still being used, probably by hunters, as we saw trampled vegetation, some cut vegetation and some small cairns; we added a few more. Prior to this trip I had spoken to Peter Jagger about the area and he had given some very helpful details relating to the trip, and he had also spoken of a thick leatherwood belt, which we were now entering. There is a water course which passes through the thickest part of the belt and there is a partly cut route which follows it. Once through the leatherwood the ridge becomes rather gentle and we found a large number of orange track markers which we followed to the bush edge. The track through the bush is not that well marked but the ridge is easy to follow and we made our way to Arete Stream without any difficulty. We located Arete Forks Hut about 200m on the true right. By now it had started to rain, which continued for most of the night. Over a meal we considered our options for Sunday and it was unanimous that we go to Cow Creek via Table Ridge. Over night the wind changed to the south with a sharp drop in temperature; snow had fallen on Bannister and Waingawa. The sidle track which was our second option became a reality. We tramped through the rain, hail and very light snow on our trip to Cow Creek Hut. At the hut we had hot soup for lunch before crossing the Waingawa River by the cable-way as by this time the river was up. We had an uneventful trip over the Blue Range and back to Kiriwhakapapa.
Party members: Anthony McNamara, John Thomson and Dave Reynolds (leader and scribe).