The Pines-Mitre Flats-North King Spur-Mitre
15 – 17 April, 2012
A three day weather window provided an opportunity to investigate North King Spur, the subject of some speculation on a previous trip in the area. We contacted Chris Tait, who farms the land at the road end, to obtain secure car parking. Chris has had a dreadful run of misfortune this year, breaking a leg in February and later a fire destroyed his home. Fortunately none of the family were injured. Chris was very positive about rebuilding on his idyllic site. Chris told us about an aircraft site on the bush edge but north of the route on the spur. He also said that North King Spur was one of the steeper in the range. I realize that the Barra Track is not everyone's most favoured Tararua track, but on a warm afternoon it has plenty of appeal, interest and some good podocarps.
We were not alone at the hut - a family group of four had arrived some time before us and were just setting out on a walk up river when we arrived. Expecting a chilly night, we set about lighting the fire and getting a brew. After dinner we enjoyed a good night’s sleep with no late arrivals.
We left the hut by 7 in the morning and made our way up the true right of South Mitre Stream. On our way, Colin found an old forest service sign to Baldy from close to South Mitre Stream. Once past Baldy Creek we were both in new territory. We tried to stay close to South Mitre Stream, which involved only one steep little grovel-come-sidle. After locating the un-named stream before the spur, we made our way a short distance up stream to access the spur, avoiding some steep bluffs at the South Mitre confluence. After an initial steep scramble we were on a gentle terrace, but not for long, and from about 540 metres the spur was steep until about 800 metres where there was a little bump followed by some more gentle travel to 860 metres. From 860 metres on, the spur was steep and very steep in parts until the bush edge where, as Chris had told us, we located some aircraft parts . The main wreckage is located some 10 minutes north through some steep country.
After our investigations we made our way back to where we had left our packs and continued our climb through the scrub which, for a not often used spur, was not too bad. We still had a substantial 300-plus metre climb ahead of us through the long tussock, Chionochloa flavescens; hard work! Once on the summit of North King it was all worthwhile and we rewarded ourselves with a well earned rest. From North King to Girdlestone is an interesting but quite long section of ridge, which thankfully has no serious climbs until reaching Girdlestone. Passing mist veiled part or most of the ridge ahead, creating rather atmospheric conditions and several Brocken Spectre were visible and photographed by Colin. The phenomenon is also known as Brocken Bow or Mountain Spectre and is named after Brocken, a peak in the Harz mountains of Germany where it was first described in 1780 by Johann Silberschlag.
A rather distant Dorset Ridge Hut was sometimes visible through the passing mist. The Girdlestone tarn provided me with some much needed water. By the time we reached the summit of Mitre we knew we would not reach the hut in daylight but that mattered little as the track was good and we were prepared with head lights. We ended up using our head lights for about an hour, most of which was flat travel. After a 12-hour day we had a very well earned brew and meal. A planned off track investigation of the ridge around Blake would have to wait for another day as we made our way back to The Pines along the Barra Track. From the large slip on the track we had a good view of the North King Spur and a rather unusual view of Jumbo. As we drove back to Wellington, the three day weather window was starting to be reduced to about two and a half days as the rain clouds were rolling in on the tops.
- Party members
- Colin Cook and Dave Reynolds