I was keen to avoid the grunt up past Field Hut to the main ridge having done it a few times before but Jonathon vetoed my alternative route of Plateau Stream and Pakihore ridge. He was right, it wasn't a weekend for bush-bashing. It was just down right beautiful and pleasant cruising up through the low forest then slowly gaining the sunny subalpine country, gazing at the views north and south. I spent my time wishing I knew about the different species of Olearia and looking for shortcuts to take in the next Tararua Mountain Race.
Penny chose a great lunch spot, the summit of Bridge Peak over looking the headwaters of Penn Creek and looking further north to the main range we were to Traverse, and in the distance the bulk of the Northern Tararuas, which will have to be a future weekend or two. A glider swooped us, much like last time we were tramping up here several years ago with Andrew Thompson.
Back then we stayed in the Maungahuka Hut and this was our destination this time as well. Although since 2001(ish) the hut has been replaced, to a nice new "boutique" hut, much to the dismay of the miserable Tararua hard core kill joys!;-). The traverse from Bridge Peak to Maungahuka was fun, even if a little sunny and sleepy. It felt at one stage as we sat on the summit of Maungahuka itself like we were in the sleepy fields of Wizard of Oz and were about to be set upon by a gaggle of munchkins.
The night was chilly, in fact freezing, and the new hut has a severe ventilation problem which seems to have led to a puddle of water on the top bunk. When we woke our side of the ridge, the leeward, was frozen over, though for some reason not the tarn. We left the hut quickly and it was up down, up down, traversing over a few steep little knobs on the ridge. A detour down to Aokaporangi Biv (great spot!) saw us climbing this great big rounded hill twice, but by now the temperature was starting to warm up, and the little hogs back that had formed on the ridge overnight had dispersed.
Entering the bush ridge leading up to Andersons Memorial Hut was such a pleasurable experience I had to do it twice, it was the sudden change from open tussock shrubland, around a corner and into a hallway of silver beech goblin forest, open underneath, twisted brunchs and clumps of moss hanging from the ceiling like the ancient banners of warring kings. It wasn't far along this ridge unfortunately and Andersons Memorial hut became our lunch spot.
Leaving the hut we heard a distant cooee, and were surprised when it wasn't Jonathon who had disappeared up front. We were even more surprised when after maybe an hour when we approached Junction Knob we found Ramash who had run in to meet us. His cooee had somehow travelled kilometres across the slopes of the range. Interestingly he had also been able to see my favourite high vis top from several kilometres away. Safety in the hills I'm telling you!
The descent to the Otaki took a while, 1300 metres or something straight down, and our stay in the rainforest in the vicinity of Waitawaewae hut was all too brief as we still had to get out and were running out of light. I was surprised how bad the track was from here, for a walk local to Otaki Forks, and as it got dark we were still ploughing down saddle creek. Torches out though and it was some keen, but sated trampers that arrived back in Otaki Forks after 12hours on the go. Great weekend, can't wait to get back in there!