Monday, September 28, 2009

The Wild Rimutakas.

My mate Caspar has done a great blog on last Sundays mission, read it here.

Caspar, Ramash and I went looking for bush and creeks. We started by climbing the brutal 4WD track up Climie from Tunnel Gully that we reccied a couple of months ago. This time however we dropped straight off the back of the Hutt Valleys ventoux into Climie Creek. Once we remembered that wet bushbashing was best done with raincoats on it was a blast (its just that it had been a while).

The subsidiary ridge dropped us in the creek pretty quickly but there were no obstacles that weren't easily skirted or scrambled. Ramash comes into his own on rough terrain and Caspar does a good monkey imitation so were made pretty good time with my gimpy ankle holding up.

It was great to meet the Pakuratahi River. Pouring down with a touch of tannin from the centre of the Rimutakas. The forest is powerful here, Rimu's and red beech lord it over the lesser shrubs, and we just pass briefly. The journey down river to the old railway corridor was fun bush travel practice, but little of a serious nature with these water levels.

This could be a wilderness river anywhere in New Zealand, what a spot! Out onto the incline and it was great times, running and occasioanlly sprinting between interpretation panels. Learning the storys of the people and steam engines that had passed this way before. A real highlight for me was running lightless through the long tunnel, with only the distant shield of light to guide you. After a while it feels like the shape of light is hovering in your vision, moving backwars and forwards, levitating, and it becomes quite a surreal experience until the brush the rough concrete with the back of you swinging hand.

Emerging on the far side to the wasted foothills where forest and eight species of Moa once lived, you wonder of what mistakes we are making now that are the equivalent of these mistakes they made in the past. I was surprised to learn that the fires in this area were often started by sparks from the great steam engines that rumbled up these steep inclines. Great mission, thanks heaps guys.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A day in the hills with Greg.

A week or so ago on a Saturday night I realised that Sunday was looking good for a walk. My call found Greg Thurlow in a spa with a few drinks under his belt, but he was easy to convince. 7.30.

The pick-up went smoothly, though the parcel was looking a little ragged around the edges. Up over the Rimutakas again and the discussion was inevitably on the weather. The ragged Tararua veteran thought it looked windy. The hopeful Tararua newbie thought it would ease off. We were out of the Holdsworth Road end speedily, jogging to get to the tops as quickly as possible. Runners get to Powell Hut in under 60 minutes in the annual Holdsworth Jumbo mountain run and while we weren't quite on that pace with a bit of gear and food on our backs it was solid.

Greg emerging on the Holdsworth Tops - Totara Flats of the Waiohine beyond.

We zoomed in and out of Powell, the tops were too enticing. Holdsworth summit passed, and the pleasant ridge to Jumbo. After this it was new territory for me. Angle Knob, then dropping down until a bizarre cluster of rocks on the ridge signalled the turn-off to McGregor Bivvy. Its not too far down to McGregor and it is a wicked spot. High on a ridge it is in the ampitheatre of the Tararuas. From the left the main range comes rolling up with the massif (excuse me for using a aountaineers term while bush-walking) of Crawford and the Carkeek and Dorset ridges lapping down off the northern Tararuas. The best perspective though is the southern face (there goes that mountaineers language again) of Girdlestone.

And a few more photos of the vicinity:

Back up onto the ridge from the Biv, and over McGregor proper. One of the 15 or so Tararua peaks to top 1500metres. The most difficult part of our little expedition was to come though, the infamous Broken Axe Pinnacles.

Much to my mother-in-laws delight we chose the sidle route, which was still slippery enough. She was only delighted because she had taken the high route a couple of years ago. Made of sterner stuff those old timers! After this point the travel became easier again, if not a little up and down through the Kings. Mitre was showing off its western flank and the nice little waterfalls of the South Mitre stream and the slowly rising ridge of Girdlestone is very elegant

It wasn't long before Girdlestone, then Brockett and Mitre succumbedthis time to our increasingly weary feet. It was a pleasant time to be up there in the early evening as the wind died away (and the Tararua newb won the weather forecasting debate;-)). The view back along the range shows some nice country covered.

All that remained was a jog down to Mitre Flats hut then a wander back over, into and down the Atiwhakatu. A great day out in the Tararuas!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cattle Ridge

Gale force nor-westers generally aren't the ideal forecast for the Tararuas but a few weeks ago we headed in regardless. The team was Caspar Harmer, Greg Thurlow and us, and what a couple of companions. Muppets, but in the best of ways. Back seat from the rear vision mirror they reminded me ofStatler and Waldorf ;-)

The trip started auspiciously. We stopped for fuel at the BP heading off to the Hutt. Penny checked oil and water, and I went in to pay. It was only ten minutes down the road we realised we hadn't pumped any gas! In good humour though we then had the Rimutakas to debate exactly what our plan was. The debate was hot with the clouds cranking across the Wairarapa and backing up heavily on the main ranges. We decided to head in there though and explore some of the eastern aspects starting from the Putara Road end.

The headwaters of the Mangatainoka headwaters are swift and clear before they hit the plains and their brand and quality are used by the famous Tui brewery. The emphasis being on "used".

Early on in the trip Caspar had a date with mortality when he realised that we were reincarnated as trees.

We proceeded onwards through a gorgeous forest and down to Roaring Stag lodge, over now in the Ruamahunga catchment. The forest in the upper part of this valley is big and open, almost park like, but with good lower-level regeneration. Robin Hood country with big rimu logs providing bridges over the slower moving tributary. Roaring Stag lodge is a great spot. A newish hut, which has maintained a cosy feel, and I'm sure the pot belly would keep it roasty at night.

Our destination for the evening though, given our heinous mission hadn't started till around 1.30! was Cattle Ridge hut. A solid bushline above us. The forest though wasn't going to let us go easily. This giant twisted heavily limbed rimu had somehow won the battle for survival amongst his peers...

The bushline was won and we were rewarded with a well trodden path through the scrub belt. In the photos below, some of those tightly knitted scrub species (clockwise from top left: Celery Pine, Totara, Olearia and um maybe another Olearia) and the view back down the ridge to the Roaring Stag vicinity.

Cattle Ridge hut doesn't have the best reputation, and to be fair it is damp, but it was a cosy shelter nevertheless aided by fine food and green ginger wine. The dregs of which I found in my drink bottle some time later when I really needed it (the bottle that is!).

And I will stop the narrative for a piece of hut art by Penelope Jean Kane, aka Kenny Pain.

The next morning and the clouds were still cranking over the ridge the hut is tucked into the lieu of. It was predictably rugged topside. Penny hurried us off to a straegically located dracophyllum hollow for a pow-wow and brow beating. As you can see Greg and I were thinking hard.

We flung around a few ideas in our respite and settled on a plan of traversing Cattle Ridge and dropping down to Cow saddle which links the Ruamahanga to the Waingawa catchment. Bannister and co would have to wait for another day! From Cow Saddle one of us would run back to the Putara Road end while the others tramped out to the Kiriwhakapapa road end over the Blue Range. Cattle Ridge was a blast. A free wind tunnel experience which comprehensively tested the aerodynamics of various packs, parkas and body shapes.

At one stage Caspar and I were nearly blown away, but somehow all 65 kilos of Greg seems to be having no problem...

The descent to Cow Saddle was straight forward and Greg departed, honourably volunteering his considerable run-out ability to aid our hut bagging for the day. Greg had already visited both Cow Flat and Blue Range Huts which were on our route out. Cow Flat was pleasant and now includes a massive swing bridge, but the Blue Range isn't to be underestimated. It is a fair hike up and around to the hut. The hut itself is surprisingly interesting though. Appropriately blue painted it also features a hospital theme....

All that remained then was another big descent to a large grove of redwoods and the roadend, oh and to end like we started Caspar also spilt his guts...

A great little trip in the Tararuas with a great fun little team. Thanks guys!


Sometimes with blogs you have to stick with the moment. Make the most of, or at least write about, today. You know, today is the greatest....

Ahh why not, while I'm at it another of the defining songs of my generation...

Pearl Jam's "Alive". Today has been great. A solid pre-breakfast session on the guitar, wailing like a horny cat. A great beach-clean-up, which thankfully 50 odd of my fellow Wellingtonians showed up for on a southerly day at Evans Bay (thanks people for making it!), a tranquil 90 minute run around the bird sanctuary - incl a lovely little encounter with a friendly robin when we sat down for a moment in the sun, I love the way they grip sideways onto the stems of seedlings when on the prowl - then served up stir-fry and chocolate pudding at the elder Kane house. Excellent. Now to the stored up stories