Day trip in the Northern Tararuas
21 January, 2009
A day trip in the Herepai-Ruapai area could involve 5 to 6 hours driving, which only leaves about 8 or 9 hours of daylight, even mid-summer, so we decided to sleep at the road-end on Tuesday 21 January. This involved leaving Ngaio about 5.45 pm, eating at Carterton, and pitching tents in daylight at 9 pm at the end of Putara Rd in the Mangatainoka Valley. A pity the toilets shown on my 2002 map were non-existent!
After a dewy night, we breakfasted, decamped, and began walking up the river track at 7.15 am, reaching Herepai Hut at the bush edge (about 800 m asl) at 9.20. We heard parakeets and a long-tailed cuckoo on the way to the hut. The track then heads NW up a reasonably steep but straightforward spur to Herepai (1125 m), then swings west and becomes undulating to Ruapai (1279 m) where we joined the main north-south ridge at 11.20. The weather was fine and warm, with a pleasantly cooling, moderate wind in the open.
The main ridge heads SW to East Peak (1355 m). I last walked along that ridge on a club trip led by Barry Dykesman, Anniversary weekend 1963. I’m sure it was an easy, fairly barren, open-top walk. But now one often needs to push the tussock apart to see where to plant one’s feet. And some of the tussock tangles in the wind, which can foot-trip at least the person in front. The other alpine plants are flourishing too so I wouldn’t want to bring back the deer (of which there were very few signs). We saw fields of euphrasia, vegetable sheep in flower, edelweiss, orchids, gentians, whipcord hebes in flower, a little mountain heath with white flowers and red berries, flowering rock cushion, many buttercups and daisies, and of course many plants we were unfamiliar with.
Just before the top of East Peak (at noon) we headed east down a shingle slide on to the beginning of Haukura Ridge and sidled around the south side of a knob (about 1290 m) and then swung south to the prominent bump 1332 which I think deserves to be called Haukura. The downward route turns off before the summit; we lunched there from 12.30-1.00, enjoying panoramic views of most of where we had already been, and where we were heading. West of us we could see Pukemoremore and its Dome, with Dundas beyond. Bannister looked magnificent to the south across Chamberlain Creek – a forbidding looking valley. Earlier, from the main ridge, we saw Square Knob and Tawirikohukohu where three of us had been on the previous Wednesday trip.
Our next objective was to reach bump 1127 which looked simple enough while eating our lunch. However, it involved dropping about 300 m to a saddle at about 1020 m with increasingly dense leatherwood as we descended. (John Foden has since told me there had been a bivvy near the saddle and while it was there the leatherwood was more-or-less under control.) The scramble up on to the beginning of bump 1127 was less difficult, and we got there at 2.15. We had been mostly following a foot pad along Haukura Ridge, maybe the residue of a track, or the route pigs and smaller animals take.
The spur running off the northern end of 1127 heads east through patches of leatherwood and over rocky knobs until about 960 m asl where it splits to a long major spur leading SE to the Ruamahanga Forks and Roaring Stag Lodge, and a less well defined minor spur heading NE to the Ruapai Stream. We chose the latter, leaving the main spur where we saw the first bigger trees, reaching the stream (about 510 m) at 4 pm. The part of Ruapai Stream that we witnessed was very attractive and the valley appeared to be easy going. We crossed the stream and climbed NE up to the track at some wind-damaged trees (about 750 m) just south of the Herepai/Roadend track junction. We reached the car at 6.15 pm, making it an 11 hour day. We all thoroughly enjoyed the trip; where shall we go next year?
After coffee and ice creams at Carterton, we arrived back in Wellington around 9 pm.