Mitre off-track F
Three of us signed up for Dave Grainger’s ‘Mitre, off-track’ trip, which I took to mean climbing Mitre using at least some tracks along the way. But Dave saw it as a possibility that the four of us could do the whole thing off-track, which I initially thought would be almost impossible to achieve over the weekend. This is an account of how I was proved wrong!
Friday night we slept in tents at the Kiriwhakapapa Road end. We woke to a very light drizzle and set off promptly after breakfast. We headed southwest up a spur to reach spot height 510 before sidling for 500m to reach the Mikimiki Stream. We headed northwest straight up a spur and onto the ridge leading up to Te Mara (1104m). Some clever navigation saw us manoeuvre around Te Mara without actually reaching the summit, in order to access the narrow spur running directly west down to the Waingawa River.
The Indian Summer had reduced the mighty Waingawa to a mere trickle, and we were able to rock-hop across it and avoid getting our feet wet! After lunch we wandered up the river a short way before joining the spur that runs to point 1390, just north of the North Mitre Stream. It was a stinking hot day and it was a challenge to tramp in the humid conditions. But we finally broke out of the bushline and were met with another obstacle – leatherwood. It took us over half an hour to progress maybe 30 metres through the stuff – and to add injury to insult Spaniard was scattered amongst the leatherwood like landmines scattered on a battlefield!
Up Table Ridge to Girdlestone, and then down to Tarn Ridge Hut were our next objectives. It was a gradual climb to Girdlestone and then a steep descent to the hut. A few minutes before we got to the hut, the sun started to set, and an eerie red glow was cast between the valleys below and the layer of wispy cloud that was just above us. The valleys looked like they were on fire – after 12 hours of fairly intense walking, it was nice to pause and take in this magical sight.
The hut looked splendid in its brand new coat of paint. Dulux had painted it a few weeks earlier and has since used before and after photographs in TV advertisements in support of their ‘protecting our place’ marketing campaign. Liz Martin and Alan Graham were in the hut and it was great catching up with them
On Sunday we headed back up Tarn Ridge, up and over Girdlestone and Brockett, to Mitre. We posed for an obligatory summit photo and then descended to the Waingawa River using a spur next to Peggy Stream. We returned to Kiriwhakapapa road end by heading up to Te Mara via the spur just north of Donald Stream and then joining the track a few minutes later.
I was absolutely knackered by the time we got back to the car. But it was very satisfying to turn Dave’s bold and seemingly unachievable objective into an achievable one – by tackling individual challenges one by one and supporting each other throughout. It was a very rewarding weekend!
- Party members
- Fiona Girdwood, Dave Grainger (leader), Andy Jones, Daniel Rogerson (scribe).