Waiorongomai Saddle - Ōrongorongo Ridge (Map 260-R27, R28 & Pt Q27)
26-28 January 2001
This ‘fit’ trip along the main divide, from Bawbaw to Waiorongomai Saddle, circumnavigated the northern and western watersheds of the Waiorongomai River - mostly new territory to all of us.
Friday night we camped on farmland beside Burling Stream, about one km from Western Lake Road. (Permission to cross farmland and to camp was kindly granted by Mr Raymond Matthews.)
902953 is the map reference of the foot of the spur we ascended to reach Bawbaw. A steep climb through grass and then along a marked route took us to the trig pipe on the east peak (810 m); from the west peak we had a good view of the saddle separating the headwaters of the Waiorongomai and Pakuratahi Rivers.
Across the saddle the ridge continues south-west briefly then swings west and drops about 100 m. Here we found the going slow; animal trails, present for much of the trip, were absent or missed and we struggled through a broad mess of windfall, scrub and irregular topography. Travel improved as the route swung south-west again across Bump 730, then south. We found a small but comfortable campsite in a dip just north of Mt Ōrongorongo. Wellington harbour and city were visible in the far distance. Water to supplement the six litres we had carried was found in the headwaters of a small side stream to the west.
Sunday morning we soon reached the trig pipe on Mount Ōrongorongo (816 m). Continuing south-west then south, the going was generally good, with only one episode of hands and knees crawling, in the vicinity of Bump 820. In this area we twice passed lone trees decorated with numerous rings of bright pink marker tape - one may have marked Bump 820, the other a side spur?
Bump 805 provided a surprise: a broad, 150 m long, open swath of astelia with a scattering of dracophyllum. We enjoyed excellent, unusual views of the southern Orongorongos, Puketaha, Matthews and Papatahi; and to the north-east Bawbaw, a days tramp away.
From Bump 805 the ridge to Waiorongomai Saddle leads south-east, and where it bifurcates it is necessary to continue in a generally south east direction. To our surprise this section of the route was also open and in fine weather presented no navigational problems.
From the saddle a marked route leading north-west above Oreore Stream soon develops and leads past a spectacular view of bluffs to Waiorongomai Hut.
Party members were Bill Allcock, Yvonne Ashworth, Colin Cook (leader/scribe).