Original S-K Schormanns to Kaitoke
27-29 December 2015
Itís the ego tramp of the Tararuas - one end of the main range to the other in just 48 hours. The Schormann part of the title is legendary - In its heyday, a wonderfully graded pack track with a colourful history of disputes over access. The installation of a high voltage electric fence and the burning down of the Putara Hut finally brought about its demise in 1977 and hence the current route to the tops via Herepai.
Last year I accompanied Franz Hubmann on a bush bash down the remains of the old track. We were amazed how visible it was after all this time. Later, when Franz agreed to lead a day trip around the tops via the Schormann, I volunteered to help clear the worst of the regrowth.
It got me thinking - could a traditional Schormann to Kaitoke be achieved for the first time in 40 years? Hardly surprising, I couldnít find a single club member who shared my enthusiasm.
So it was a solitary, slightly apprehensive (and not as fit as he would have liked) tramper who set off from the Putara road end on a hot summer afternoon.
A fight with regenerating manuka and bush lawyer got me off the pasture and up to where the first traces of the track begin. The footpad was clearly evident and with Franzís track clearing I was easily able to follow the trail up into the leatherwood. Another short battle and I was onto the tussock top of Kareti in 2.5 hours.
A patchy trail then led over Hines onto Ruapae. With no Putara Hut to spend the night there was no option but to head south to Dundas Hut. Just on dark, the turn off sign appeared but rather than descend and face a 200m return climb in the morning I elected to bivvy out there. From near the top of Kareti looking towards Hines (Ruapae, East and West peaks beyond).
Away at first light, I was on Arete by 7am. It was a wonderful morning, no wind, no cloud and a labyrinth of ridges snaking endlessly to the south. I tried to keep my head down as it was difficult to believe there was any chance of reaching those tiny notches on the horizon later today. By Dracophyllum, the heat and lack of water caught up with me. It took an hour of valuable time to force down some food and rehydrate. Then back into the bush, over Kelliher and onto the tops just before Nichols. From there, it was a long, hot relentless climb up Crawford followed by the mellow descent to Andersons.
After another long break, during which I still couldnít eat enough, it was on to the grind over the twin lumps of Kahiwiroa and Aokaparangi. It may sound straight forward but the saddles are deceptively deep, steep and rocky. Thatís the morale sapping story of the whole main range.
I was tempted to call it a day at Maungahuka Hut but that would have left a daunting mission to make Kaitoke by 3.15pm the following day. There was nothing for it but to get over the Tararua Peaks before dark and push on to Kime.
The infamous ladder and chains were straight forward and a big relief to knock off as Iíd never traversed them (or the main range for that matter!). My pace slowed in the ensuing gloom and now each of McIntosh, Yeates, Vosseler and Boyd-Wilson took on epic proportions. It was hard not to take them personally.
Still, with a GPS, bivvy bag and the promise of a full moon there didnít seem any reason to worry. When it did appear, the moon was no help at all - serving only to highlight the enormity of the final push up Bridge Peak. I was dead man walking by the time I stumbled into an empty Kime at 1.30am.
Then away from the sun-drenched new hut at 6.30am and over to Alpha where there were no hinges on the door nor time to contemplate the dreaded Marchant Ridge. Countless bumps and several hours later, the realisation hit home - I had fallen well behind schedule. It was a sickening feeling to have got so close and failed but nevertheless I picked up the pace on the steep descent from Mt Marchant and was rewarded to reach Dobsons with just over an hour left.
Donít fit trampers get out from here in under 60 minutes? I pondered. Shuffling more furiously and recklessly down the Puffers clay ditch I breezed into the car park in the nick of time - a 47 hour 54 minute S-K.
Never again. Iím going to savour my tramping in future.
Paul supplied the following postscript from The Tararua Tramper April 15 1929: In the summer of 1929, three club members, G. B. Wilson, A. H. Hines and S. G. McIntosh, motored to Eketahuna before climbing ď....up a cleared spur to an excellent track, recently cut by an enterprising farmer [Schormann], to within half an hour of the top of the range [Kareti]". Journeying along and through practically the whole length of the Tararua Range they completed the first recorded Schormann to Kaitoke in 4 and a half days. All three now have peaks in the Tararuas named after them with Bert Hinesí summit appropriately standing at the beginning of this enduring epic. This trip was not a full S-K passing over Mitre, down the Barra Track, over to Mountain House then down the Tauherenikau to Kaitoke. The first tops S-K was accomplished by Wally Neill, Jim Nichols and Frank Thompson in 1930. See Chris Maclean, Tararua p. 154.
- Party members
- Paul McCredie (leader and scribe).