Bump 769 - Bump 890 - Papatahi (Map 260-R27, R28 and Pt Q27)
1 September 2001
We aimed to circumnavigate North Boulder Creek, travelling south to north across Papatahi on the main ridge.
An attempted early start was somewhat foiled by our inability to operate the key (left by arrangement in a letterbox at Rimutaka park headquarters) to release the padlock and let us through the locked gate. After a good 10-15 minutes struggling with it we gave up in disgust and walked the road to the car park.
As we reached the Orongorongo River, the blue skies seemed to vanish and the day darkened. We saw Papatahi and indeed the entire main ridge obscured down to about 500 m by thick motionless cloud.
We walked up-river to North Boulder Creek, and left the track at about map ref. 798858 (R27). The route was generally east, the terrain steep but easily travelled. (Some party members, seeking the true Orongorongo experience, managed to find nettles, others managed to avoid them.) After a while the slope eased, the vegetation became larger and more open and we emerged briefly at an altitude of about 460 m on the edge of the massive slip which dominates the lower southern watershed of North Boulder Creek.
There followed a slight saddle and then another face to climb, with a second slip, fringed with thickets of pepper trees, looming on the right. At about 800 m we peered through cloud trying to identify the main ridge which turns sharply south in this area - but no firm conclusions could be drawn. A fairly gentle climb through larger forest bearing quite a bit of windfall, and a trudge across the flat tops of Papatahi brought us to the track a few metres east of the summit. The ascent had taken about two and a half hours.
There was not much wind but it was very cold. The cloud was thick. We were all drenched and there was little opposition to plan B: leave Bump 890 and Bump 769, the northern, certainly more testing and longer section of the circumnavigation for another day. Instead, descend by track to Shramrock Hut for a late but dry lunch.
In summary, the route taken provides a feasible alternative to the track up Papatahi. A further interesting variation might be to travel up Boulder Creek itself, taking the true right branch at the lower forks and continuing perhaps as high as 400 m if possible before joining the spur.
Party members were: Yvonne Ashworth, Colin Cook (leader, scribe), Dave Reynolds, Isabella Schnider, Tim Stone.