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!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Jamie,
Great trip and photos and mate. Love those windy crossings eh! I particularly like the photo of the hut window with the fantastic light playing on it. Very rustic very cool. I love that aspect of the back country huts. Happy International Rock Flipping Day!

Jamie said...

Hey Robb

Rock flipping aye, whaddya know. Are they edible rocks?