Marchant Ridge - Eastern Hutt River
1 August 1999
This Sunday trip ran as part of the TTC's Eightieth Social/Lodge Weekend. It was an opportunity to visit the recently opened water supply area of the Eastern Hutt, that had been officially closed to trampers from the 1930s to 1996.
Six of us from the 80th weekend were joined by four day-trippers from Wellington, getting away from Kiwi Ranch at 8.20am. It was a pleasant if cool start in clearing mist, with the sun slanting down through the beech trees, and patches of snow, on the track to Dobsons.
At the demolished hut site, we stopped briefly. Michael, Alan and I scattered life member Alec Galletly's ashes, as he had requested, on a sunny north facing slope with views up the Tauherenikau Valley. Alec died early in July of cancer aged almost ninety. He was a most distinguished member of the TTC, being Chief Guide in 1931-3, President in 1953-5, and Secretary/Treasurer of Federated Mountain Clubs from 1938-45. He was also Deputy Director-General of Health when he retired from the Public Service. A life well lived! Rest easy Alec.
The patches of snow on the ground increased as we ascended to the Marchant Ridge, and the melting snow in the trees rained down on us. The Burn on the Marchant Ridge was a foot deep in snow. We admired the view. Then headed west, off track from bump 1016 metres, to take the quickest route into the Eastern Hutt, given the snow, and the distance we still had to go. Michael Bartlett led through the deep snow and slippery fallen trunks. Things were extremely cold for a time.
We worked our way down the north west facing ridge into the bush. This provided interesting steep but easy going, with little undergrowth. This is presumably a sign of the high deer numbers that have been a characteristic of Wellington water supply management for many years. It is a 600 metre descent to the Eastern Hutt River.
We stopped near the bottom, in an impressive grove of massive rimu and red beech trees for a quick lunch about 1pm. These large mature trees (we also saw big miro and rata trees lower down) exist because the Hutt watersheds have never been milled. These magnificent rimu trees were a feature of the trip, from here all the way through to Hutt Forks. It was good to see plenty of rimu and miro seedlings in the valley. Lots of miro berries on the ground under the trees showed the lack of wood pigeons in the valley. They would normally eat and spread these seeds.
The Eastern Hutt Valley is easy going, though shaded from the low winter sun. Regrettably we did not have time to go upstream to the hut, another hour away. But the deer pressure is obvious. Little grass remains and palatable species have disappeared. There is little undergrowth. There were deer droppings on some flats. We soon crossed to the western side where there was an unmarked track.
As we approached the gorge the terrain got rougher. The track up to the saddle that cuts off the gorge was newly disked and a highway. It's a real puffer climbing straight up for 160 metres. The track up the Quoin Ridge takes off from the top of it.
We descended to the new footbridge near Hut Forks, and enjoyed the pleasant river flats there for a few minutes.
As the shadows lengthened, we plodded up the 300 metre climb on the 4WD road and down the other side to the Kaitoke Regional Park. Paul, who works for the Wellington Regional Council, told us the Park, which includes the Eastern Hutt watershed, had an 80% approval rating with users. Our trip members agreed, voting this medium-fit one-day trip a most enjoyable and varied one.
Trip members: Michael Taylor, Derek Bilby, Sarah Grey, Michael Bartlett, Alan Wright, Margaret Conal, Mike Arnold, Paul Denton, Daniel Quartermain, Hugh Barr (Leader and Scribe).