Cone Hut - Upper Tauherenikau - Alpha - Quoin
29-31 October 1999
Map: 260-S26 Carterton, 1:50000
The fixture card committee had decided this was to be the fit trip for the last weekend of October. However, the weather gods decided otherwise.
During the 10 days prior to the trip there had been substantial rainfall in the Tararua Ranges. Tim made the decision prior to departure to attempt the trip in reverse direction, in the hope that the extra day getting to the Tauherenikau River would be to our crossing advantage, with lowered water levels allowing for more of an opportunity to succeed with the intended trip.
By 7.45am on Saturday morning we had left a car at Kiwi Ranch and were on our way from the Kaitoke Regional Park ranger's residence into the Eastern Hutt River valley up the steep access road. Just upstream from the confluence of the Eastern Hutt and Phillips Stream we crossed the relatively new swing bridge that allows access to the true right of the Eastern Hutt River. We followed the disced track that takes park users over the sidle past the lower gorge of the river, and allows access to the upper Eastern Hutt River.
At the top of the sidle we picked up the faint trail off to the left that leads up a spur on to Quoin Ridge, meeting the ridge at about 680m. At this point there are two trees with blazed arrows indicating the turn-off point for trampers coming down the ridge.
From this point on, Quoin Ridge is a gently rising landscape which makes for very pleasant tramping. Prior to reaching the broad open top of Quoin there are several open patches of regenerating bush and tussock that the Regional Council has signposted as being areas of fragile plants.
On this particular day there was nothing fragile about the environment. Every time we left the protection of the bush we were buffeted by very strong winds and the mist of the bush coalesced into driven rain. Once out on the open tops of Quoin, and particularly once we headed east off Quoin top, the winds seemed to intensify and as we moved up and down along the ridge tops our left sides were continually wind and rain blasted.
When we reached the last small tussock plateau before the final rise to Alpha we went from being buffeted to being battered by the wind and rain - what one member described as "the Alpha experience", because it seems this peak is one of the persistently windiest places in the southern Tararuas. The track down off Alpha was awash and the gale winds stayed with us to the relative shelter of the bush track. Even at the hut the rain and wind were swirling forcefully, making their presence felt as we sipped on a very welcome warm brew, and settled in for the night.
Sunday morning saw no appreciable change in the weather conditions. The upper Tauherenikau would have to wait for a drier time. With the constant rain, and its potential effects on the sidestreams of the Tauherenikau valley, we decided the most realistic option for returning home, with some semblance of shelter from the wind, was the Marchant Ridge. By the time we stopped for lunch at the Dobson's site the wind had abated and we were in mostly sunny conditions that stayed with us to the carpark at Kiwi Ranch.
Trip participants were: Bill Allcock; Colin Cook; Dave Reynolds; Tim Stone (leader).