Cattle Ridge and Cow Creek (M)
February 18 to 21, 2011
A trip to Arete Forks Hut and an exploration of Pinnacle Spur evolved to introduce new territory to one of us and to revisit an interesting area for others: Blue Range Hut, Cow Saddle, Waingawa then to Arete Forks by way of a spur just west of Waingawa. Return to Kiriwhakapapa by way of Pinnacle Spur, Tarn Ridge, Table Ridge, Cow Creek and Blue Range Huts. Well that was the intention but the reality, as the title suggests, was a little different.
Leaving Wellington around lunch time, we set off for Blue Range Hut Blue Range Hut, about a 2 hour climb from Kiriwhakapapa on a well maintained track. The Masterton Tramping Club along with DoC maintain the hut, which is generally very clean and tidy. The four bunks are a little wider than usual and the ceiling is decorated with some old inch to the mile topo maps. Assorted signs in and around the hut have a hospital theme. We were the first to the hut and were followed about 2 hours later by a father and son. After a comfortable night and a rather interesting discussion with the father, we set off for Cow Saddle, on the way pausing on a rocky outcrop to photograph the range to the west: Bannister, Waingawa, Cattle Ridge, Pinnacle Spur and Tarn Ridge.
Rejoining the main track, we negotiated the rooty sidle track around Te Mara to reach the junction near .960. There we branched off the main track and followed the route to Cow Saddle over the twin bumps 830 and 810. This route is a real treat, a non-rooty dry foot pad with few wind falls, making for faster travel than expected. At Cow Saddle we inspected potential camp sites and filled our water bottles before the climb to Waingawa Peak. After a gentle introduction, the track steepens most of the way through the bush. A recent wind fall has exposed a rather sharp little rock scramble which replaces the track at this point. Alas, on reaching the potential water source just inside the bush line, none was found, but if desperate a short back track until running water was audible could be made.
Above the bushline the gradient is kinder but it's still quite a long way to Waingawa Peak. On reaching the top of the spur 1360 m we still had a 60 m climb to Waingawa Peak 1423m. Getting to here had taken longer than expected, so now what to do next? Sitting in the warm conditions and just looking was reward enough. The spur to Arete Forks looked straight forward enough but Ken and I were aware of its hidden charm! The return day from Arete Forks grew longer with every glance, Pinnacle Spur, Tarn Ridge, Table Ridge to Cow Creek. Cloud had seemingly appeared from nowhere and our visibility was now restricted and some moisture started to make an unwelcome entry. Colin suggested Cattle Ridge Hut and we all rapidly agreed it was the sensible option. From here on it was a map and compass navigating our way to Cattle Ridge Hut. The saddle between Pukekino and Pukeroa is not a lot of fun in the mist and rain. The “foot pad” on the Pukekino side was buried in wet tussock and spaniard as you would expect on a north facing slope. This section of Ridge was a first for Colin but a memory of mist and wet could be anywhere in the Tararuas.
We had the hut to ourselves and after a good meal got around to discussing options for the next day. If the weather was similar we would go to Cow Creek via the Ruamahunga Valley and Cleft Creek or to Blue Range via Paddys Stream. The day dawned misty but not without promise. Over a rather drawn out breakfast some blue appeared in the sky. It was decided to give Colin a second chance to see Cattle Ridge. The visibility was a little better, not map and compass, and not wet but cool enough for gloves and parkas. For Colin, Cattle Ridge remains a misty memory. Once we were about two thirds of the way down the spur to the bush we were out of the mist and it was quite warm. Colin and Ken crossed the river opposite Cow Creek while I opted to keep dry feet and an 80m climb for my trouble. We spent a relaxing late afternoon around Cow Creek Hut. The weather remained overcast. Next morning we set off back to the road end in sunny weather trying, with not complete success to avoid wasps, and setting ourselves botanical quizzes. A relaxing and informative walk out. Pinnacle Spur will have to wait for another trip. DR
- Party members
- Colin Cook, Ken Fraser, Dave Reynolds(scribe).