PAPATAHI and the LOST LAKE: F
Wednesday 7 December 2016.
On a trip to Papatahi in October 2014, leader John Thomson mentioned a ‘lost lake’ somewhere along the ridge from Bump 802 to the Papatahi Crossing track (see The Tramper December 2014 ). John gave quite a detailed and informative discussion and history about the lost lake. Bill Stephenson then entered the fray, stating that he had camped by the lake, some (half) century ago, with photos to show it (see The Tramper February 2015). He listed several possible sites for the lake. Franz Hubmann and Bruce Crothers searched for the lake in 2012, and thought that they had spotted a likely spot for the lake, finding “a flat gravelly basin with some grass and bush” – also placed on Bill’s 2015 map.
My curiosity had been raised – could we locate said lake, and get photographic evidence and GPS location. The 2015 Tramper had these words to say: ‘so here is a task for 2015: find incontrovertible evidence for the lake's location. If it still exists a photograph will suffice.’ It took until December 2016 for this challenge to be taken up, with a party of 7 intrepid trampers setting off from Catchpool at 8.00am.
About 2 hours 30 (including tea) to North Boulder Creek. We went up the spur between North Boulder Creek and the Orongorongo River, taking John’s sage advice to go up the creek before heading to the spur. There was a pink marker (trapper/hunter) indicating a route up to the spur, and that was very pleasant compared to the kiekie route of 2014. As John indicated it was an excellent tramp through mature forest, up to the plateau area around 460 metres, and then a steep climb up to Bump 769 for lunch. The weather was fine, with a usual Wellington breeze, and as we were making good progress, time for the search was feasible.
Rather than continuing on the ridge to 890, Franz investigated whether it was feasible to do a sidle around to his likely spot. He came back saying it looked fairly easy and not too far. Well, Lord Colin Cook of Sidle would have been really proud of Franz, especially as the topo map really did not indicate the large number of baby streams and spurs, moisture from goblin forest and the need for a deal of clambering up and down: good fun, except when Franz indicated that the best route was down, where we would have lost 100 metres vertical to gain 40 metres horizontal. Finally we arrived at a likely looking spot – flat, clear but the wrong vibe. A scramble then over another little spur, and there was a muddy pond, in quite an extensive cleared area, with a backdrop very similar to that Bill had photographed many moons ago. The Google Earth image shows that the stream must drop away very quickly down the slip: Bill has a clear memory of the lake emptying from its Japanese-garden setting straight into a steep narrow rocky defile. The pond seemed very deep: my pole went in almost a metre, right at the edge of said pond.
We congratulated ourselves with the words: Lost Lake Located. GPS traces somehow got eliminated from all our maps, but Warwick worked out the location to be: -41degrees 18 minutes and 30.17 seconds latitude and 175 degrees 3 minutes and 8.21 seconds longitude, pretty well where Franz had estimated, and some 350 metres due west of Bump 862.
But time was getting on, and the gates closed at 8.00pm. So it was a fairly quick scramble up to Bump 890, through horopito and young beech trees with the occasional lawyer vine to keep us honest. From there up to Papatahi through goblin forest. The wind had picked up, so it was straight down to the river, some of us being very circumspect on the very steep, stony and slippery slope towards the bottom. Then out. Peggy must have smelled Chris’s cooking, and was off, with the rest following. We got back quicker than our outward travel, reaching the car park at 7.30pm even though legs and bodies were very sore and tired.
11.30 hours – the longest day trip for most – distance and altitude not measured, but attitude right up there.
After our return, much email chatter eventuated, from congratulatory photos, some queries as to whether this was Bill’s lake, or another lake, and whether this was the start of Ryan Creek (no longer on maps), which has been stated as emerging from the (as John eloquently put it) ‘silvery little lake or slimy pond, depending on who’s looking’. There has been some talk of going further along the ridge, as other lakes maybe there as well. For that to happen, an overnight stay at Papatahi Hut would be necessary to save the long walk in and out.
- Party members
- Joan Basher, Franz Hubmann, Gerald Leather, Peggy Munn, Bob Stephens (nominal leader and scribe),
Lynne White, Warwick Wright.