Bottles up, Bottles down (M)
7, 8 December 2013
The aim had been to do a Neil Winchcombe crossing but the newly established Tararua weather forecast (thanks MetService) put a stop to that with predictions of strong gales on the tops. Alternatives were discussed that would be sheltered from winds, and plans for a mainly off-track tramp in the Herepai area were quickly concocted.
We left Wellington on a very windy damp Saturday morning arriving at the Putara roadend at 10.00 am. We crossed the first Mangatainoka swing bridge and then at the second slight stream on our right we left the track and climbed steeply. We quickly came across pink ribbons and followed them up to point 655. From here the ribbons (and compass and GPS) led us in a north-west direction and by 11.40 am we were at the low saddle where we could easily drop down to the north branch of the Mangatainoka.
Huddled under some branches we stopped here for a belated, damp morning tea before walking downstream for 400 m to the forks. From some earlier tramps we knew that when we climbed the slip at the junction we would soon find an old track that Neil Challands suspected is an old pack track. This was duly found and we easily followed it (with the aid of occasional pink ribbons) for forty minutes before we hit the main track to Herepai. This point is within 5 metres of the old Bottles sign and we assume that the two tracks were constructed together.
Given it was still gusty and wet we quickly ascended to Herepai Hut to have a dry warm lunch.
Nourished we descended again until we sighted the Bottles sign and the sight of a permolat marker† off to our right led us onto the old Bottles Track. The descent was fine for the first 20 minutes until we realised that the track stopped abruptly at a slip. We clambered back up a few metres and then descended on the left hand side of it. Fifty or so metres on we came to another permolat marker right on the edge. We dropped onto the vegetated edge of the slip and cautiously proceeded downwards. We needed to go once more into the bush before eventually coming back to the slip. From here we stayed on the slip, either in the little stream at the centre, or slightly above it on the left bank. We were concerned that as we descended we might run into a waterfall, but as it turned out we were able to continue all the way down until we met Ruapae Stream.
It had taken an hour to descend the 190 metres that once had been the Bottles Track and although we had been concerned about descending on a slip it had turned out fine.
The rain had stopped but a strong wind still blew as we followed Ruapae Stream down the 4.2 km to Roaring Stag Hut. The initial part of the stream had a slight level of difficulty but after that it was easy river tramping. We could not stay in the stream after the Ruamahanga junction due to the rocky bluffs on the true left so we climbed up onto the river terrace before ascending to an empty hut. We had an enjoyable sit in the sun for the late afternoon watching the clouds racing over Cattle Ridge before an overnight stop and walking out the next morning.
This medium off-track tramp was an interesting one to do when the winds were too strong to go higher; I would recommend it in situations such as that.
† NZ Forest Service used permolat markers for official tracks; orange triangles began with DOC in about 1987. Ed
- Party members
- Tricia French, Janette Roberts, Russell Cooke(scribe).