On a Knife Edge to Matthews
2 April 2014
The so-called 'Knife Edge' is a highly eroded roughly thirty metre-long section of the Orongorongo main ridge at about 700 m altitude. It lies at the head of a branch of Matthews Stream and is some 650 metres north east of Matthews summit (941 m). The intervening ridge, sometimes steep, sometimes narrow, is well vegetated with beech, leatherwood, even the occasional touch of stinging nettle and includes the obligatory saddle, filled with thick high grasses, lawyer and that ubiquitous spiky divaricating shrub (coprosma propinqua?). A worthy way to scale this Wellington icon - and first time on top for three of our party!
A couple of weeks earlier we had found Greens and Browns Streams choked with buddleia. Our original plan for climbing Matthews off-track was therefore to travel up Matthews Stream until anticipated bank-to-bank buddleia thickets forced us out of the stream bed and on to whichever of the spurs rising south-ish to the Matthews ridge line was to hand†.
However below the middle†† forks we found the buddleia fairly manageable and suddenly, above the forks, the stream was quite free of it. Travel then became easy and fast, while accessing the spurs on our right did not look at all inviting so we continued in the stream bed.
The bed is steep and heavily eroded at the top under the Knife Edge and an early-ish TL exit is probably advisable. (Warwick stayed in the bed the whole way and got to within about 1 m of the ridge line - quite possibly a first!)
Once on the ridge we wrestled and battered our way along to Matthews summit, briefly savoured the top, then took the track to South Saddle and descended Goat Stream Spur to the river bed. Eight hours of always enjoyable, at times engrossing tramping in mixed terrain, sandwiched between the unavoidable trundle back and forth along the Orongorongo Track.
†Things may have changed for the better in all three streams following the Orongorongo floods in April. ††Middle as defined by the three main tributaries entering on the TL
- Party members
- Joan Basher, Colin Cook (leader and scribe), David Ogilvie, Lynne White and Warwick Wright