Southern Main Range of the Tararuas
Easter 2007, 6th to 9th April.
The Southern Main Range of the Tararua’s referred to in this report is the section of tops from Bridge Peak North to Junction Knob which can be accessed from Otaki Forks. The trip is a Tararua classic and is featured in Shaun Barnett and Rob Brown’s book ‘Classic Tramping in New Zealand’ in the chapter titled ‘The Tararua Peaks’. The round trip is 46 kilometres and is a comfortable 4 day medium trip. Over the past two years DoC have completed track cutting from Bridge Peak to Anderson Memorial Hut. An uncut section does remain through gentle tussock which accesses the climb to Junction Knob. The descent through tussock and scrub to the bush line from Shoulder Knob has been cut and is clearly marked.
Our party of eight left Otaki Forks on Good Friday morning in calm and clear conditions which remained the same for the entire trip. After a relaxed stop at Field Hut we continued on to Kime. After lunch and a cuppa, a leisurely stroll to Mt Hector was suggested and finally acted upon late in the afternoon. On Field Peak the mist rolled in and covered our destination. As we watched and waited, the local mist obscured other points of interest such as the saddle between Bridge Peak and Boyd Wilson Knob and the spur running north east from the Hector / Field Peak saddle. After a long wait we decided to return to Kime as it was starting to cool down and Hector was still mist covered. As we descended from Field Peak the mist, of course, lifted.
The evening had been crisp and clear and there were small patches of frost on the ground as we left early, 0730 hrs, for Maungahuka Hut. As we descended 300 meters into the first saddle, we could see the complete Main Range - a fantastic sight but it did look a long way. The recently cut scrub around Boyd Wilson Knob, Vossler and Yeates made for very enjoyable travel and no longer a leatherwood massage through the Vossler / Yeates saddle. The cutting has, together with the fine weather, helped many of the mud holes to dry out. From Yeates to McIntosh there is a minor saddle with a few ups and downs. Past McIntosh, the steep country of the Tararua Peaks starts with a rather awkward little rock scramble and once past this point, the steep country starts in earnest. A climb up onto the first of the Tararua Peaks, Tunui, is followed by a rocky descent to the ladder which descends some 25 meters down a near vertical rock face. After the ladder there is a steepish sidle around the headwaters of Whatiuru Stream. The steep terrain continues to the top of the spur to Concertina Knob and from here it is an easy descent to the new Maungahuka Hut. Recent work on the hut appears to have eliminated the water problems which had been reported since the huts opening about a year ago. A new loo is located very close to the hut with what appears to be a septic tank. All the party arrived safely and incident free at the hut.
Being a party of eight, staying at Anderson Memorial Hut was not a very sensible or considerate option so that meant a longish Sunday through to Waitewaewae Hut. We were able to spend the afternoon looking at the route for the next day, photographing the Tararua Peaks and generally chatting about the local geography before the late afternoon mist descended.
A long day meant an early start so we were on the way by 0700 hrs and all on the summit of Aokaparangi by 0930 hrs. After the Tararua Peaks, the rock scrambles around Simpson, Wright and Aokaparangi, while still needing care, were all taken in our stride. The section of bush between Kahiwiroa and Anderson Memorial Hut seemed far shorter than usual but still the hut was a welcome sight. After lunch we splashed our way through the muddy tussock and on to Junction Knob which was a bit misty, as was the distant Mt Crawford. As we descended into the saddle between Junction Knob and Shoulder Knob we were once again in clear conditions. After regrouping above the bush line, we started the long descent to the Otaki River and we all arrived at Waitewaewae Hut just in time to get a bunk before a party of 8 or 9 arrived from Otaki Forks.
On leaving the hut on Monday morning there was some valley mist which soon burnt off and another clear calm day resulted. The Waitewaewae track is in good condition apart from a sidle around the top of a slip above Waitatapia Stream at S26 994350 which needs care. We found a way around this which goes above the slip and after descending a short distance through scrub, rejoins the track below the top of the slip. Once back on the track we were soon at the car park, ending a great trip in the best weather that the Tararuas could have provided.
- Party members
- Paul Bruce, Russell Cook, Chris Everet, Ken Fraser,
Don McMaster, Stan Makowhia, Tim Stone and Dave Reynolds (scribe)