This article was first published in The Tararua Tramper in June 1997
Ōtaki Forks - Waitewaewae - Park Forks - Carkeek Ridge - Nichols - Ōtaki River - Waitewaewae
25-28 October 1996
This trip was intended to include Tarn Ridge and Dorset Ridge but a combination of circumstances prevented the trip being completed as intended. However the trip which was completed was very interesting in that it contained a great deal of off track travel which was made possible by the experience and strength of the party.
After a meal stop at Waikanae our party of eight headed for Ōtaki Forks and started the long walk to Waitewaewae Hut at about 8.30pm. We made brisk progress for a start until we were forced to rely on torch light when our progress slowed. The progressive failure of several of our sources of light did little to hasten our journey. The trip to Waitewaewae Hut is one of the longer Friday night trips in the Tararuas and the quality of the track does little to speed up progress. We arrived at an empty hut closer to 1am than midnight.
After an early start on Saturday morning one member withdraw from the trip resulting in a lengthy delay of about two and a half hours. The climb to Shoulder Knob (1310m), Junction Knob (1375m), followed by the final ascent to Mt Crawford (1462m), was long and relentless but in good weather, as we experienced, the effort does not go unrewarded. From the summit of Crawford we had a good view of the Dundas Range, Arete, and Bannister to the north and north east, to the south the Southern Main Range and to the east Carkeek Ridge, Dorset Ridge, Tarn Ridge, Mitre and Girdlestone. We regrouped on the ridge above Nichols Hut and after considering our options we decided to camp at Park Forks. This proved a most enjoyable experience as the weather was very mild and the location very special. We had a camp fire which we used to cook part of Saturday night's culinary delight.
The weather conditions on Sunday were not as good as we had experienced on Saturday as there was a cool southerly and the sky was overcast. One member of our party who had been unwell on Saturday night, decided to remain at the camp on Sunday as he was still not feeling one hundred percent. The rest of the party set off up Carkeek Ridge reaching the Carkeek Hut after about an hour and a half. After a refreshment and photograph stop we climbed to bump (285m), from where we had good views of Carkeek (1435m) and Thompson (1448m), Lancaster (1504m) was covered in mist. It was our intention to follow a spur off bump 1285m to the upper Waiohine River and possibly then up to Dorset Ridge. We made good progress through the tussock and were soon in the bush where the ridge was rather difficult to follow but we slipped and sidled our way down the spur until we reached the river where we had lunch. After lunch we decided that we should return to the camp at Park Forks via the river, as we still had a climb to Nichols Hut later that afternoon. The upper Waiohine River has some deepish pools but no real obstacles and some great photo opportunities. On our return to the campsite we repacked our gear and prepared for the sharp little climb to Nichols Hut. By the time we reached Nichols (1242m), the southerly was starting to make its presence felt and a warm dry hut was very welcome.
We had a comfortable night punctuated only by a heavy shower of rain and some members of our party harmonising a symphonic rhapsody. Monday was a little cloudy buy rather mild and we were able to breakfast outside admiring the great view which Nichols Hut offers to its visitors. We had decided to return to Waitewaewae Hut via the Ōtaki River, and to do this we had to travel north along a ridge from bump 1345m, just north of Mt Crawford.
After climbing to the ridge above Nichols Hut we paused to photograph Kelliher and to admire the views of Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki. Once at bump 1345 it was our intention to follow the ridge north to bump 870, however some distance along the ridge our attention was drawn to the wreckage of a light plane crash. It would appear that most of the valuable equipment including the engine had been removed as only the fuselage remained. A short distance from the crash site we started our descent to the Ōtaki River. The spur provided us with good travel and we soon reached the fork of two small streams. We now realised that we had not reached bump 870 but this was of little consequence as we now followed the stream on the true left until we reached the Ōtaki River. We travelled for about an hour and then stopped for lunch. Some members of the party tried to follow the old track down the true left of the river with mixed success. At times the track was easy to follow while at times it was a better option to follow the river or cross to the true right bank. On our arrival at Waitewaewae Hut we were able to relax in warm sunny conditions and to enjoy the beauty of the hut site spoilt only by the dead trees which have been left by DoC when the hut site was cleared. Our trip out from Waitewaewae was rather fast but uneventful.
In hind sight this trip would be better tackled from the Holdsworth side so be on the look out for this trip reappearing on next year's fixture card in a revised form.
- The party members were
- Hugh Fyson, Robin Chesterfield, Tim Stone, Bill Allcock, Bruce Crothers, Greg Ross and Dave Reynolds (leader and scribe).