Papatahi - Mt Matthews
5-7 October 2001 (Map R27)
Our trip began at 9pm Friday night with a walk into Waerenga Hut. Saturday was fine. We left the hut at 7am, and took about three hours to reach the top of Papatahi, the start of the off-track. Our initial bearing was 220 degrees across a broad expanse of forest, aiming to hit the main ridge west of a false spur leading south. From here the direction was west then south, dropping about 200m to the first saddle, map ref 809852, at 700m.
The ridge swung round to about 210 degrees and the travel became much slower as we struggled through thick scrub, lawyer, the lot, onto an un-numbered Bump-about 770m-at 807850. Lunchtime, with Bump 819, the first major objective still some distance away.
Continuing after lunch, the going was unrelentingly tough as we dropped into a saddle, and over another un-numbered Bump at about 770m. Just east of the saddle preceding Bump 819 we noted a possible camp site, including signs of water-but too early for us.
We ascended Bump 819 via a small saddle at 808844. A better more direct route might be found to the west. There were tantalizing, unusual views of the North Ridge of Matthews, our objective for Sunday.
The ridge drops off Bump 819 on a bearing of about 250 degrees. On the next broad bump the party briefly split into two unequal groups before experiencing a joyous reunion. Our route continued southish, past a couple of lone DoC markers, one of which had been notched, indicating the start of a good descent to the river near Hut #64.
South then east and onto the bump 797837, the chosen camp site. Broad, with.a promising gulch winding through it and down to the east. Tents were pitched and two set off to fetch water, descending through the gulch onto a steep face bearing a large grove of Fuschia-and not a sign of water. Further down, a small trickle was heard, and found. Flow too slow, so further down, and the trickle went underground! Finally of course a supply was found, but descent, bottle filling and exhausting climb back took one and a half hours. (We decided about 3.5 litres per person is required for evening meal, breakfast and drinking water for the next day).
During the night rain or mist pattering on the tents, as well as other nocturnal noises, disturbed the sleep of some party members.
Sunday we had been lead to expect a clearance. It certainly had not arrived as we set off in cloud at 7.30am. More crawling ensued as we ascended Bump 830, which is identified by a purple tie embedded in the trunk of a large tree.
From here careful map and compass work through rather more open bush got us to the North Saddle. But now the weather was the problem; the 'clearance' had turned into a nasty southerly with steady driving rain. The flanks of Matthews and the notorious 'knife-edge' were now completely hidden from view. It was only 9.15am and Matthews was certainly within our grasp, but after some consultation we decided to descend into the North Matthews Stream. Certainly not the easy option. It took two and three-quarter hours of sustained thicket thumping to reach the track at the Forks.
We stopped at Waerenga Hut for lunch, a hot drink and a dry out before heading off to a rain-swept carpark.
Party members were Yvonne Ashworth, Colin Cook (leader/scribe), Ken Fraser, Tim Stone.