Orongorongo Range: Peak Crossing
29-30 April 2000
Four of us set off from Catchpool carpark at 8.30 on Saturday morning. We were on the South Saddle by 11 am via Goat Spur. A strong NW wind blew us into the upper reaches of the Mukamuka Stream and we enjoyed good going all the way down the Mukamuka, stopping for lunch under a sheltered bluff. At the mouth of the river the wind was tearing strips off huge breakers and the spray was shooting out to sea. We followed the coast road to the mouth of the Mukamukaiti then up that stream to an excellent campsite on the left about 0.5km from the sea and opposite a major tributary stream. It was only 3pm so we dropped packs and set off on a recce.
The plan for Sunday was to climb the Peak (858m) via the unnamed stream which joins the Mukamukaiti at its mouth. I also wanted to check out the spur lying just to the south of this stream. This spur was covered in thick manuka and gave heavy going but we struggled up to the 220m contour from where we looked down a cliff to Fishermans Rock. We then dropped down steeply on a northerly bearing into the stream. A plastic tie showed that it wasn't virgin territory. The stream provided good travel so after a brief look upstream, we returned to our campsite down the stream.
During the night great gusts of wind swept down the valley but we were fortunately in a very sheltered position. The morning was fine but still windy. We left camp expecting an interesting climb up our stream but were thwarted only a few metres above our high point of the previous day. Three waterfalls barred the way, forcing us out onto the true left bank. A steep climb and a line of bluffs forced us onto a minor spur, which joined the main spur on the northern side of our stream. We enjoyed good travel all the way up this spur arriving at the Peak (858m) at noon. There was a big sigh of relief all around since we had just crossed unknown territory and naively expected an easy cruise home. The plan was to follow the main divide west for 0.5km, then down a long wide spur on the southern side of Peak Stream. It was very heavy going along the divide. We looked around in vain for some feature that might tell us where we were. At a clearing I thought I could see a spur running NW so we followed that for several hundred metres until it suddenly got steeper. The view to our left confirmed that we were on the wrong spur, which ended in a series of bluffs further down. We could see the correct spur about 400 metres away on our left. We headed for it directly sidling on a downhill slant, the going being much easier than expected. It still proved difficult to follow the main spur down due to its broad nature and occasional false spurs, but by keeping well to the right we stayed on course.
From Pt 360 we followed a small spur on a true north bearing, gradually becoming steeper so that we were forced into the bed of a small stream on our right. Fortunately the stream reached the road only a few metres further down. We decided to return by the Baker - Butcher route because of its shorter distance despite the 400m climb. Darkness was descending as we reached the car park at 6pm. In retrospect it is hard to see how we could have navigated successfully from the Peak down the spur. Dead reckoning is problematic in such rough country. It would have been easier to travel north from the Peak to Pt 743 and down the well-defined spur running to the west. Apart from carrying a GPS (unethical!), the only solution seems to be route markers (DoC please note!).
Party members were Bill Alcock, Colin Cook, Tim Stone, Ken Fraser (leader and scribe)