OTE 4 February 2006 (Map S25)
A small island in a river or lake may be called an ait or eyot. There are many so named in the river Thames in England. Some in the Tararuas or Rimutakas are ait or not depending on river level: one in the Tauherenikau upstream from Tutuwai Hut, another, tiny, in a tributary of the Western Hutt, a third, half sculpted by the March 2005 floods, is under construction in Turere Stream.
Merv Rodgers in Tararua Footprints referred to our objective for this trip as
of Prout Stream and the West Waitewaewae. The label is misplaced on the Edition 1 map: the Island Forks label gradually slipped down over several generations of Tararua maps, but is correct on the NZMS 274 map.”
Neville Lockett’s TTC indexes record two previous visits to the forks by club trips, one lead by Peter Jagger in 1977 and one, leader unstated, in 1986. Both of these parties were out for two nights, and of course covered considerably more territory than we did. Our route to the forks was via the Waikawa and West Waitewaewae rivers, our return via the ridge between Prout Stream and the East Waitewaewae snaking north over several 1000 m plus bumps to Waitewaewae 969. A ridge that has long beckoned.
A good four-wheel-drive track, suitable for some cars, extends about two km beyond the North Manukau roadend, ending some 350 m short of the Panatewaewae-Waikawa confluence. From there a good route (easily followed thanks to the efforts of Wayne Griffen) passes up the Waikawa to just west of the Waikawa-West Waitewaewae saddle, and from the saddle down 40 m in altitude to the river itself. The West Waitewaewae was low and we made good time, noting more of Wayne’s signs at the northern and southern toes of the spur running east off bump 828.
Again, if there had been a proper ait at the forks we would not have got there – at least not by the river route. The penultimate few metres of the spur dividing Prout Stream and the West Waitewaewae have been eroded away and what was once the spur tip now forms the island. But it would be surrounded by water and so truly an eyot only when the rivers are running quite high making river travel impossible. It stands perhaps three metres tall on a cylindrical rocky base and carries trees, shrubs and a very thick layer of soft yielding moss; well worth a visit.
After lunch we went about 50 metres up Prout Stream then climbed out steeply on the eastern side. The side spur joined the main ridge at about 600 m and from there navigation was almost straightforward – a slight hiccup on bump 964 – all the way to Waitewaewae 969. A glorious exhilarating traverse with good views of Oriwa Ridge, of Shoulder Knob, Nichols and Kelleher above the Otaki, and of Waiopehu and Twin Peak to the north. (The ranges further east and also Crawford were in cloud; had that cloud moved onto our ridge, navigation might have been more difficult.)
From Waitewaewae 969 a track leads to Waitewaewae 939 and from there a well-marked track back to the Panatewaewae-Waikawa confluence.
Technology note. The trip was assessed by the computer program memorymap to be about 19.5 km in distance, to involve a total ascent of 1580 m and to take about 11 hours (the program being roughly calibrated to my rate of plod). Not bad since my Suunto E203 altimeter aggregated climb or upometer reading was 1680 m and our gotowo time was 12 hours (including lunch break and a detour at the south toe of the spur off 828 to visit an old camp site that Wayne had described).
- Neil Challands, Colin Cook (leader/scribe), Barry Durrant, Bernard Molloy, Sieny Pollard, Tim Stone.