Deception Spur : off track exploration
Saturday 31 January 2009
In 1900 tramping pioneers Lancaster and France attempted a crossing of the Tararuas from Levin to Masterton. They ascended a ridge they supposed to be on the flank of Mt. Dundas but, “surprised to find that the Mangahao Valley lay between them and the mountain, they named the route Deception Spur.” So writes Anthony Dreaver in his biography of Leslie Adkinš. It was not until 1909 that Lancaster and Adkin made the first successful Levin- Masterton crossing and Deception Spur remained a “principal track”˛ until the 1936 storm rendered it impassable. Today mention of Deception Spur is likely to evoke mutterings about kiekie and lawyer, slow travel, windthrow and steep grades…
Our intention this muggy Saturday (100 years after Lancaster and Adkin) was to ascend Deception Spur, travel north along the watershed ridge to a point about 150 m south-west of Bump 897 and there catch a major spur which extends down to the North Ohau river and terminates near North Ohau hut.
Two hours travel from Poads Road end saw us eyeing up the base of the legendary spur. We tackled it side-on, a few metres up the North Ohau branch from the forks, and immediately found a clear pad which faithfully led us almost without a break through the kiekie (abundant but not aggressively so for perhaps the first 250 vertical metres) to more open forest. Slow travel certainly, but not unpleasant, with a few fine views of Square Knob and Tawirikohukohu above the North Ohau catchment. There were some recent windfalls but the carnage from the 1936 storm had long been reabsorbed by the forest. We saw an ancient mossy cairn and wondered if it was Adkin’s handiwork.
Near Bump 651 Dave and Ken decided to take the direct route to North Ohau Hut, a long spur descending due north; difficult navigation and by no means an easy option. The three remaining true deceivers finally topped out almost three hours from Ohau Forks. East across the Mangahao Valley the main range was veiled in mist. A brief lunch stop then twenty five minutes along the watershed ridge to face what was expected to be the major test of the day – nearly 600 m descent of an untracked spur. We found the spur top marked by an arrow carved on a branch, and a line of orange plastic ties disappearing into the distance! Welcome to Al’s track, a copiously marked route all the way down to the hut. What might have been a three-hour long, fraught, navigational nightmare became instead a one-hour jaunt with the three reaching the hut well before Ken and Dave. The hut logbook informed we had been beneficiaries of Alan Day’s efforts to construct a route between North Ohau and Mangahao Flats huts.
Ken and Dave did finally show up and after some joshing, along the lines of true trampers versus spur pikers, we set off down the gorge and back to the car. A ten-hour day in truly atypical Tararua conditions: heat and high humidity.
šAnthony Dreaver, An Eye For Country The Life and Work of Leslie Adkin, p. 68, Victoria University Press, 1997. The spur does rise to the west-east divide but hereabouts the higher parts of the range lie entirely within eastern catchments.
˛Merv Rogers, Tararua Footprints, p. 145, Canterbury University Press, 1996