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Trip Reports 2017-01-28-Ryan Creek-Wharepapa Hut

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 89, no 2, March 2017

More than one Lost Lake?, or, Quod erat demonstrandum

28th January, 2017

A lake, or pool, somewhere to the north of Papatahi was first seen, according to B.D.A. Greig in Tararua Story, in about 1930 by a TTC party (and it pleases me to find that I later knew two of those four trampers). The pool was seen again by a VUCTC party in 1933 and a TTC party in 1937. Greig then goes on: it was ‘undoubtedly the one only of the “Lost Lakes” used for years as a successful bait by syllabus committees to trap the unwary into the wet slips and misty moss-covered beech of the remote Orongorongo. A slimy pool surrounded by scraggy undergrowth about 200 feet below the crest of the ridge, the “Lost Lake” is little entitled to serious attention’.’

This disdainful dismissal might seem hard to refute. And yet the photos Bill Stephenson turned up of his tent beside a pool in the 1960s and again in the 1970s (see Tramper, February 2015) do seem to show a setting more attractive than the one Greig describes. And then I noticed something else.

Ryan Creek was the name given to the stream that drains the Main Range from .890 to a little north of .862 and flows into the Orongorongo River 250m above the weir. It is not named on recent maps. Greig, following his sources, clearly distinguished between south Ryan’s (as they called it) and north Ryan’s, and today’s map does indeed show that there are two branches of Ryan Creek divided by the spur from .862. Bill Stephenson’s pool, recently found again by Bob Stephen’s party, as described in last February’s Tramper, lies in a basin at the head of south Ryan’s. Greig’s 1930 party came across their pond as they ‘dashed down north Ryan’s Creek’. Could there be more than one “lake” after all?

When Colin Cook suggested we go and look at Bill’s lake, but do it from the Wharepapa side, I saw a chance to test my theory. And by staying the night at Wharepapa Hut we should have more time on the tops. So on 28th January, four of us set off up a spur upstream from the hut, over .372 and on to .862, and from there dropped north and west to what the contours suggested might be a basin at about the 730m contour. And sure enough, there, surrounded by scraggy undergrowth and boggy ground (it might have been bigger once), was a pool, if not one you’d want to camp next to, draining from its far edge into a steep gully. Feeling happily vindicated, we set off to the SE to see Bill’s pool, heading for the little saddle shown on the map. Surprises were not over: the slope we climbed turned out to be a small bump, at the far side of which was a stream (the one marked on the BQ32 map) into which drained a second pool, probably 100m from the first but distinct from it.

So the phrase “Lost Lakes” was not altogether inaccurate. I wonder if some of those who visited Ryan Creek in the 1930s knew there was more than one? Quite possible. Lack of mention in the record is easily explained. Our two pools, at least, are certainly ‘little entitled to serious attention’. But finding them was fun.

Party members
Colin Cook, John (leader and scribe), Dugal and Tommy Thomson

Page last modified on 2017 Apr 05 01:30

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