Tauherenikau Circuit MF
Wednesday 29 March 2017
John Thomson’s enticing trip report in the Tararua Tramper (see 2010-11-03-Waiohine And Tauherenikau Peaks) inspired fifteen trampers to come on this mostly off-track trip. The forecast wasn’t terrific, but we’d checked the Tauherenikau River levels over the previous 24 hours and concluded that we had a safe window for fording at both ends of our day.
For many of us, it was the first time we’d been into this area: turn left in Featherston and head for the hills!
A bunch of young freedom campers in the DOC campsite at the end of Bucks Road were entertained when their peaceful breakfasts were interrupted by the arrival of carloads of crusty trampers, followed by the long toilet queue needed after our early morning start.
15 minutes later we were on our way under grey skies and drizzle. Our leader (novice to the area) headed off purposefully on the obvious track, only to discover 15 minutes later that it was the wrong one. Grrr. Back to the carpark where the correct track was quickly identified, with its big DOC sign ‘River Access’ sneakily hidden by low-hanging branches. Don’t make this mistake!
Undeterred, off we headed again, climbing a couple of hundred metres to avoid the twists and turns of the gorge before dropping steeply down to where the track ended at the Tauherenikau River. A small tributary cascaded into the main river directly opposite the end of the track; this would give us access to the spur we wanted. We forded the Tauherenikau with care and dry shorts, and scrambled straight up the tributary. We soon left the stream to its TR, just before a waterfall, and started our big climb in a north-westerly direction. It was easy enough to keep to the spur all the way, but it was WET. Drifting drizzle, sodden scrub and drenched dracophyllum made us totally waterlogged. At 700 metres we turned north towards .883, where we encountered the main ridge. For the next kilometre, the track became a little more obvious except when it was a matter of shoving on through the low dracophyllum. Finally, Tauherenikau (889m). It had been a steady, slow 3h 20 slog to climb our 770 metres. No views except swirling mist. The cairn on the summit was a welcome confirmation that we had arrived. We were a bit disappointed not to locate the broken china mug that John’s report had promised us. But it was one o’clock, and – hooray – lunch time! First a general removal of sopping clothes, then the delight of dry ones. Into our sammies at last. But why was David Ogilvie standing about looking puzzled as he turned over every item in his pack? No lunch to be found! He swore that only a couple of minutes before, he had taken it out of his pack, but the rest of us suspected that he had accidentally left it behind at morning tea. Never mind, plenty of spare tucker was offered to our bereft mate.
After lunch, we continued along the ridge to .885, where a couple of coloured ties indicated the turn to the SE for our descent to .750. Route-finding became trickier, but we managed a fine cooperative effort all the way, combining the tried-and-true techniques of compass, GPS, i-phones, maps, intuition and shouting. After .750, things got still trickier as the south-heading spur became even less distinct and then bifurcated. But apart from one brief aberration we maintained a true course, and reached the pine forest near the valley floor just before 5.00pm. Here we came across two old ovens – one concrete and one iron – and, even better, a track south then west through the pines dropping us off the bluff into the beautiful Tauherenikau just above the ox-bow. We forded a couple of times without trouble. Colin then located the track across the ‘ox-bow peninsula’ that he recalled from past trips, happily saving us from too many dips in the water. In fact, only one more easy crossing and we were onto the track that lead us back to the carpark.
And why were shrieks of laughter heard there as we struggled out of our drenched clothes and into dry gear? No, it wasn’t the sight of our aging bodies. Nor hysterical joy at having survived nine hours of wet tramping. Nope, not at all. It was the discovery of David’s bulging lunchbox, which an unnamed member of our party had inadvertently purloined at the top of Tauherenikau, stuffed into their pack and carried all the way the home!
- Party members
- Joan Basher (leader and scribe), Helen Beaglehole, Colin Cook, Tricia French, Paul McCredie, Peggy Munn, David Ogilvie, Anne Opie, Wayne Perkins, Sieny Pollard, Janette Roberts, Bob Stephens, Bill Wheeler, Lynne White, Warwick Wright