This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in October 1998
Upper Tauherenikau - Queen's Birthday Weekend
29 May - 1 June 1998
As sometimes happens with tramping trips this trip has left some unfinished business to be completed at some future date. The intended route was to go to Cone Hut on Friday night and on Saturday to travel over Bull Mound to Hells Gate and then down into the upper Tauherenikau River. After camping there for the night, travel up a prominent spur on to the Beehives and then down the Neill Winchcombe to Neill Forks or to Cone Hut. The final day would be spent walking back to the Walls Whare road end. The actual route included some of the above and some which we made up as the weekend unfolded.
Our four strong party left Wellington at about 6pm and after a meal at Featherston, made our way to the Walls Whare road end where we left our car on a friendly farmer's property. On our trip into an unoccupied Cone Hut we noted the efforts of a recent work party on the track to Cone Hut off the Cone Saddle track.
Saturday dawned rather grey and windy and travelling across Bull Mound we were blasted by a strong and rather cool nor'wester. We had decided to proceed off Hells Gate by way of a small stream later to be given the unofficial name of bidi bidi stream. Travel down the stream was good as there were no difficult obstacles and the footing secure as the rocks were not covered with slime. The vegetation adjacent to the stream was however festooned with large bidi bids which at times blanketed our clothing. On reaching the upper Tauherenikau the weather was now looking more threatening and although it was just after three o'clock, we decided to set up our camp on a site which Michael and Peter Jagger had used some time before. The site was located on a small terrace about 20 metres above the true left of the Tauherenikau River. We had only just finished erecting the ten t when light rain started to fall and we decided to use the primus to cook our evening meal which Ken prepared with great expertise. Our sleep during the night was interrupted by gale force gusts of wind and in the early morning by some heavy showers of rain.
The gale force winds on the tops meant that trying to complete the trip as planned would not have been a smart option, so we came up with an interesting plan B. After packing up the tent and fly we descended to the river and made our way to the foot of a spur which would take us to Hells Gate peak [1187m]. After some initial bush mountaineering travel up the spur was very good and between about 1000 and 1100m we were treated to some views of spurs which we had intended climbing to the Beehives. By now the wind had dropped, alas, too late for us, so we made our way over Bull Mound and back to Cone Hut. On our way across Bull Mound we briefly investigated a spur which leads down to the Tauherenikau River opposite the rather broad base of the spur to the Beehives. We had discussed this route earlier and had decided that it probably posed some interesting navigation in the mist so we had opted for the Hells Gate route being the more straightforward.
After a most comfortable night in Cone Hut we decided to go out via Mt Reeves and the Coal Stream Track. The plan was to go down stream from Cone Hut to 073214 and make our way up the spur which joins the ridge from bump 682 to Mt Reeves. Once on the ridge the travel was easy and straight forward and we were soon lunching on the sunny slopes of Mt Reeves while admiring the views of the Southern Crossing, the Neill Winchcombe, and the Tauherenikau valley. After lunch we made our way to bump 745 where the Coal Stream Track intersects the Rocky Knob Track. The Coal Stream Track is a bit overgrown and needs care in a few parts and the three wire "bridge" has been removed.
Given the fickle weather over Queen's Birthday we were satisfied that we had made good use of our time in the hills and look forward to being able to complete the trip as planned in the future.
The party members were: Michael Bartlett, Ken Fraser, Tim Stone and Dave Reynolds (scribe).