January 3–6, 2011
Map: NZTopo50-BP33 Featherston
There is a significant amount of untracked country between the Southern Main Range track and Pakihore Ridge that is rarely visited. The aim of this trip was to explore two major spurs that lead off Aokaparangi and Kahiwiroa in a westerly direction into that part of the Tararuas.
We left the very crowded Mt Holdsworth campground / road end after consuming lunch and by late afternoon we had arrived at a wind-buffeted Powell Hut. While stopped for a drink at the Mountain House shelter on the way up, we had what turned out to be a very insightful conversation with a person who introduced himself as Don Jeffereys, the son of a former TTC club president – Ray Jeffereys. That conversation led us to discovering a plaque commemorating Ray – see The Tararua Tramper, Vol. 83 No. 1 for details.
Day two dawned clear but windy – a repetition of day one but not so intimidating a wind. After brief stops on Mt Holdsworth and Isabelle to appreciate the full views, we arrived at Mid Waiohine Hut for an early lunch. That afternoon set the pattern for each remaining afternoon of the trip – a 1000 metre plus ascent. The wind on Aokaparangi was very warm and drying and by the time Aokaparangi Biv was reached tongues were dry. The new biv is spacious, with two bunks, a porch and a substantial water tank. The route down to the biv has been cut through the tussock and the biv is visible on the bush edge from well above. We had the biv to ourselves that night.
The third day was cloudy and breezy. We were about half way up to Aokap top from the biv, carrying only the essentials for a day trip, when a helicopter landed near the biv and materials were off-loaded. It was acknowledged we would have company that night. When we got to the top of Aokaparangi, containers of fuel had been offloaded by the helicopter. It was obvious that track work was to happen.
We left Aokaparangi heading down the spur that leads off west then northwest . The tussock section has minimal leatherwood and small ‘nergly’ bits that add a bit of character to the travel down to the bush edge. No sooner were we a few metres in the bush than we sighted a piece of permalat – a remnant from Forest Service days perhaps. That sighting reinforced the acknowledgment that no matter where we venture off-track in the Tararuas, someone (tramper or shooter) has probably travelled there previously.
Occasional permalat markers continued down to about 900 m where it seemed in olden days (Forest Service days?) a vegetation survey line had been maintained. Lower down we used Bump 738 on the adjoining spur south to confirm our position, and, following a last minute course correction, emerged spot-on at Aokaparangi Creek major forks. Attractive forest was experienced at all levels and travel was very enjoyable, not least due to that enhanced form of sociability called teamwork which characterises off-track travel.
Two snow-white goats stopped by to watch us take early lunch. We then followed Aokaparangi Creek, dropping steeply through a jumble of large boulders to its confluence with Whatiuru Creek. Now the “reading for the day”: Kahiwiroa west spur. One minute into the kiekie-strewn spur toe and we found a pink tie! These persisted to near 750m where the spur swings east. That far uninspiring travel; a great deal of massive ancient windfall on the flattish section of the ridge between 600 and 700m and otherwise scrappy scrubby bush. Things didn’t improve higher up: a long climb from the saddle at about 830m to the top of Bump 1185 through bedraggled forest seemingly ravaged by hordes of pigs and sporting lusty throws of bush lawyer. A brief rest in the clearing on top (clearly visible from the south), then we needed to find the saddle through to the main range. With such a big target it is surprising how difficult we made this but did finally stagger through stunted bush and leatherwood to the bushline – where we found more leatherwood and no animal tracks. A 200m climb to the top of Kahiwiroa, passage through the 200m deep saddle between Kahiwiroa and Aokaparangi and we finally arrived back at the Hut – to find it had been taken over by two track cutters!
Steve and Andy were seasoned bush workers who had a contract to clear the track along the southern main range. Andy’s experience went back to Forest Service days as a deer culler and his local knowledge set us up for our next adventurous bit of travel on day four.
“Aw mate! Don’t go back up to Aokap on the way out; go down to the old biv site, drop a couple of hundred metres, pick up a deer track and sidle across to the Aokap track. Piece of piss,” to quote Andy!
Yeah, right! Only twenty years since he’d done it!
Actually, it was not all that difficult, given our reliance on the modern altimeter. We went down a reasonably well defined spur ‘a short two hundred metres’ and then began the sidle to the north. There were two incised stream courses that required a bit of care but otherwise the travel was comfortable through mainly mature bush. We came out on the Aokap track at about 1000 metres – the top of the gentle section between 900 and 1000 metres. Then it was down to Mid Waiohine Hut for another early lunch.
As the track rose to Isabelle, so did the wind – to such an extent that getting out of the Isabelle saddle to Mt Holdsworth required three points of contact on the rocky exposed north-west face. At Powell Hut we had a cuppa before setting out for the car park. It was a short but adventurous trip into one of the more remote areas of the central Tararuas.
- Party members
- Bill Allcock, Colin Cook