One Day Neill - Winchcombe Crossing
28 October 2000
This trip involves a crossing of the Tararuas from Otaki Forks to Walls Whare. As such, it poses a transport problem which was overcome when I managed to find a driver on the staff at Rongotai College. We were all very grateful to Dinesh Bhindi for giving up some 6 hours of his Saturday to drive us to and from road ends.
After leaving Wellington at 6 am we were on the move by 7.20 and at Field Hut by 8.40. An overnight party was planning a Southern Crossing and we told them they would meet up with Bill Allcock and his TTC party at Alpha. Bill was planning to come up the Eastern Hutt River. The conditions were overcast but with little wind and very mild temperatures.
We left Field at about 9 o’clock and were soon in the mist which so frequently hides Kime by 10 past 10. We decided on an early lunch/morning tea stop and an opportunity to refill our water bottles before heading to Mt Hector. It was also time to put some more layers on as we were about to tackle the high point of the trip and a rather exposed ridge which would take us to Winchcombe Peak.
The visibility between Kime and Hector was very limited and after 30 minutes we were standing by the cross before heading down the Winchcombe ridge. The top of the ridge is narrow and well defined and drops steeply into the head waters of the Tauherenikau and Hector Rivers. The shifting mist allowed some good but brief views of the headwaters of both rivers. We experienced some strong wind for a brief time in the saddle before Winchcombe Peak. Once on Winchcombe Peak it was map and compass time to locate the ridge to Neill.
From Winchcombe Peak we followed a bearing of 130 degrees and were soon on our way to the old bivvy site and lunch as by now it was 12.40. We had a very sheltered lunch spot which we all agreed would make a rather special camp site.
After lunch we regained the ridge and were soon on our descent down the dark hole in the bush rather like the entrance to a sub-terrestrial world. The ridge between Winchcombe and Neill is for the most part in bush with the occasional little rock and root scramble. From bump 1050 m there is a good spur into the Hector River and another spur, Tarahanga spur which is a good route to Maungahuka.
Once on Neill it was time to phone Dinesh with an ETA - about 5.30 to 6 pm was thought to be realistic as the trip from the lunch stop had taken about 1 hour. A further hour and 10 minutes saw us on Cone where Mike and I refilled our water bottles. To realise our deadline we had to make a fast trip down to the car park, which we managed, arriving at the car at about 5.55pm. A soft drink and an ice cream at Featherston’s Kia Ora dairy was most welcome after a good crossing of the range.
Party members: Colin Cook, Mike Thompson and Dave Reynolds (Leader and scribe).