Ruahines

Auckland Anniversary Weekend 2006

The trip started with an email from Marianne asking for the details of my Ruahine trip at Auckland Anniversary Weekend. A quick think returned the germ of what looked on the map to be a nice short 2 day trip with a couple of hours at each end to allow for the long drive down to Mangaweka and back. After the experience in 2005, it was clear that trips needed to be kept from being too ambitious. A tops trip in the Ruahines needs to allow for about 4 hours continuous climbing just to get up there. This trip was to do it twice in 2 days. The weather is always a factor in the Ruahines as well. Then came discussions with Russell about how fit his 70 year old friend was. No worries there, as it turned out.

Eventually we got away at 7:15 on the Friday bound for Mangaweka and the Kawhatau Road. I had contacted the farmer but when we arrived he was not home and so we ferried the packs down a farm road to the beginning of the track across the paddocks and returned the cars to Bayfield ready for the return on Monday morning. The track up the Pourangaki River (pronounced poor-an-gaa-kee, or so the locals tell me) was typical Ruahine. Narrow benched, well above the river, with slips, washouts and the odd exposed section almost slipped away. A steep drop to the river and a cramped entry to a standard 4 wire bridge followed by a chain across a steep rock ledge led onto the hut track. Even that had a 3 metre step to negotiate before we were allowed entry to the hut. The hut was an old Forest Service Design which had been retrofitted with a side door, porch, interior lining and a skylight. Retaining the original character and adding enormously to the convenience.

Next day we climbed the steep track up to the Whanahuia Range. The track up was mostly through Red Beech until near the scrub line when it became altitude stunted Kaikawaka. The Ruahines have some unusually different and transitional vegetation. The southern half has a vigorous leatherwood belt which fades out roughly where we were. On the tops we took a very long lunch and pondered the steep ridge to the tops on the other side of the valley, tomorrow's project. Then we descending yet another steep track to Pourangaki Hut. Same design and Kelly Knight. The hut is above the river on a shelf beside a long ridge that forces the river to do a complete U turn around it. Naturally the butt end of the ridge dropped steeply to the river. Guess where the track went.

The route next day was back to the protruding ridge and out to the end before a steep descent with the usual obstacles, just get to the bridge. Then a false start before finding the beginning of the next steep track to the tops. The bottom section is hand over hand in places and comes out along a narrow section with a huge slip on one side. The track delights in tottering along the very apex, just to raise the adrenalin. After 4 hours of climbing we reached the ridge top to a tremendous view. Lunch was needed to recover for the next instalment of slips and obstacles. This time a section of ridge with a slip on both sides, one large the other small, fortunately. Some careful sidling lower down got us past the last obstacle after which it was just another 2 hour grind up over tops and through saddles to Iron Peg, with the view improving to absolutely amazing. Steep ridges, slips and angry looking cloud spilling over from the east everywhere.

Some of the party even had enough gas left in the tank for a 3km return trip to Mangaweka, highest point in the Ruahines. Then it was down to Wooden Peg and the long ridge to Purity Shelter, and water. The memory of the day was hot sun, fabulous scenery and a real sense of achievement. The hut is rustic to say the least but it did have a wooden floor, retrofitted according to DOC. Very welcome it was too, because it provided good water and the only place to put up a tent, just inside the top of the bushline. During the night the cloud had gathered and it rained.

Next morning dawned warm and humid with misty rain. The track down was rough at the top but enjoyable and all too soon came out high on the farm land. Nothing left but to graft to out to the cars. Even the tedious drive back to Auckland could not diminish the feeling of real achievement and enjoyment at such a good trip, even if I do say so myself. This was not an easy trip and it is a credit to the members of the party that everyone coped well, most better than I did. Another dose of open tops on the menu for the next weekend, Yum yum.

One the trip were: Clive Bolt (leader & scribe), Helen Bolt, Viv Milne, Brenda (Willi) Williams, Russell Broughton and Ian Ellis.

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