Ohau - Gable End - Mayo Knob - Waiopehu Track
28 August 2000
It was heartening to have 15 trampers turn out on what was an unattractive day - drizzly, dreary and decidedly wet after overnight rain. I was quite depressed at the weather, having done a reccie some weeks earlier during Wellington's famous long dry spell. My plan was to take the party on a side trip beyond Mayo Knob to a rocky knob where we could take in glorious views over lunch.
However, it had to be Plan B. We set out in dull conditions and I was hopeful we had seen the worst of the rain. We began walking about 8.30 and gathered ranks again at the old Ohau shelter site for a short break just before 10.
The climb up Gable End Ridge to Mayo Knob is no great ascent but it is steep at the lower end. The party spread out somewhat, with the understanding we would meet again at Mayo Knob at 666m.
I was hopeful that the sky might be clearing by the time we got to Mayo Knob so we might still have a chance at a lunch spot with views. However, new spots of rain were a worry, so we decided to start our descent immediately, and lunch somewhere up the other side of Blackwater Stream.
The spur down from Mayo Knob is well-defined for the most part, but about three-quarters of the way down it narrows and becomes impenetrable with supplejack. On the reccie I had named it Resolution Spur, because it was only firm resolution that kept us going to the bottom. We were in fact forced to go off the spur to the right and into the adjoining gully on the reccie, something I am wary of in case the gully stream becomes precipitous. In this case, it did not, but it was not a pleasant route down, with plenty of loose rock and moss and things to slide on. The terrain was a lot wetter on the actual trip and I was at times concerned someone might slip on the slushy ground, or on the last section, which requires careful footing and a steady hand grip. However, Bill did a wonderful job looking after the rear of the party and everyone made it to the bottom in one piece.
One side drama that was going on during our descent was that Bernard realised half-way down that he had left his stick at the top and went back with Sieny to retrieve it, but then could not find our exact point of descent. While we were waiting for them to return, we heard voices about 50 metres to our right and established, through Masaki's amazing Hiawatha calls, that it was them and that they had taken a different route down. We were separated by a gully that would have taken some crossing, so Chris boomed to them that we would meet at the bottom and they were happy with that. I was not alarmed, as I know the two well and was confident they could look after themselves, but it is a warning to trip leaders that things can go wrong when the party is split.
The group was clearly ready for lunch when they reached the stream. There is not a lot of sitting space there, but we managed. Mike volunteered to go downstream to meet up with Sieny and Bernard, while I checked the base of the spur we were going to climb for the best route up. He did not actually find them, but they turned up within twenty minutes, with Sieny claiming to have committed feats worthy of Tarzan's Jane during their descent.
The lower part of the spur up onto Waiopehu track is fairly steep, but not dangerous. The rest of the spur is fairly easy going, although we were not thrilled when the rain came down in earnest only a short way up.
It was still fairly damp when we reached the track at 600m but it was not cold. We had a quick nibble, then began the long trip back to the cars. It was surprising how muddy it had become since the reccie, especially so across the farm fields at the bottom of the track. We reached the cars at 4.15, still chirpy after an 'interesting' trip.
Those in the party were: Members: Michael Bartlett, Sieny Pollard, Bernard Molloy, Bill Allcock, Mike Arnold, Colin Cook, Chris Butt, Paul Bruce, Peter Jagger, Masaki Kojima, Bev Daniel, Rhonda Billington, Tim Stone and Margaret Conal (leader and scribe) and non-members: Maria Coveny.