Walls Whare - Neill - Winchcombe - Alpha - Walls Whare
9-10 March 2002
This trip has potential as a long day trip, as we managed to reach Alpha Hut on Saturday night without pushing the comfort zone too much. The trip has more interesting tramping than a one day Southern which is a regular on the club’s fixture card. After an early start from Wellington we decided to leave the car at e road end, since I had been unable to contact the farmer where I usually leave my car. In spite of the rather bad reputation of the Walls Whare roadend there was no difficulty this time.
The climb from the Waiohine River is steep to start but once the two large marker beech trees are passed the gradient is rather gentle and once past the Cone Hut track there is a short decent to Cone Saddle. At Cone Saddle we exchanged pleasantries with John Rippon and the members of a medium party who had quite an experience getting to Cone Hut. With a major train hold up on the Hutt Valley line on Friday night, they reached the hut some time around midnight.
After leaving Cone Saddle there is a steady climb to about the point where the Block XIX track leaves the main track and follows a spur to Cone Hut. The rest of the climb to Cone is what one might call a friendly gradient, and once out onto the tussock we made our way along Cone Ridge to get some water since our next chance on the ridge would be the tarn on Mt. Hector. The water supply at the site of the former Winchcombe bivvy site is not always that reliable these days.
The next section of the trip traverses the Neill - Winchcombe Ridge to Mt. Hector and fittingly bears the name of the two pioneers of this route, both highly respected TTC members. The conditions on our trip were vastly different from those encountered by Wally Neill and Alex Winchcombe, but doubtless they also would have wondered if the saddle between Cone and Neill would ever end, scrambled up the little rocky pitches onto Neill and been impressed at the final spectacular exit from the bush before climbing Winchcombe Peak.
Once out of the bush the ridge is sharp and well defined rising at times steeply to Mt. Hector, a very photogenic ridge which is often enhanced by mist and.shafts of sunlight. During our traverse the weather had improved and the mist on Hector was only light and clearing as we headed south to Alpha Hut and the first blue sky of the day. The foot route over the Southern Crossing was slippery and muddy having taken a pounding from the Tararua Mountain Race held earlier in the day. There were several groups at Alpha Hut; two were heading down the enata Ridge off Aston in the morning while the third group were from the Regional Council and were assessing the rate of revegetation in the area around Renata Forks by resampling plots established some ten to twenty years ago.
The last section of the trip was straightforward, taking us over Bull Mound in bright sunshine and down to the Tauherenikau River for morning tea still in bright sunny conditions. On passing Cone Hut we couldn’t help but note the good condition of the hut and the great stack of fire wood left by a track clearing party. The weather had by now changed for the worse with lowering cloud but no rain yet so it was a good time to be heading home after an interesting trip in the Southern Tararuas.
Trip members: Sieny Pollard, Tim Stone and Dave Reynolds.