Oriwa Ridge (M/F)
Labour Weekend 2011
The weather forecast for the weekend was for fine weather so some of the party of twelve made a late decision to fly camp rather than take tents. We were still confident of an improvement in the weather as we set off from the Waikawa road end into steady rain. Many of us made a deliberate effort to keep our feet dry at the crossing of the Panatewaewae river in the expectation that they would remain dry for the next two days; pointless as they were wet by the end of the first day. The ascent of Waitewaewae peak was on a well-cut track but was still very slippery in the wet. As a small mercy it was not actually raining as we had lunch on Waitewaewae peak in the cloud. The next five hours were a slow scramble through thick and sodden vegetation following occasional markers along the zig-zag ridges to Oriwa peak.
Pitching tents and flies in the wet is never fun. Flies were pitched low to keep out the weather and the space under them quickly grabbed by those destined to sleep under them. People with tents had to cook out in the rain and in the quagmire which soon developed. Drizzle persisted all night and breakfast next morning was a repeat of the night before. By the time that flies and tents had been struck, everything was wet.
The route south from Oriwa Peak is marked for the first kilometre, which is fortunate as it keeps changing direction and is a face in a couple of places. Having a gps was a big help but the prominent animal trail was not difficult to follow. We reached Notoriwa in an hour and a half, a half hour faster than we had allowed for.
South of Notoriwa the ridge is more straight and was a mix of open bush with short lengths of windfalls. Travel was still fairly fast and occasional pink and blue triangles showed where DoC survey lines came up prominent spurs. At some stage the drizzle stopped but we were still in saturated forest in the mist. Overall our verdict on Oriwa Ridge is that it is a lot easier travel than what we had experienced the day before on the ridges from Waitewaewae Peak.
Oriwa Ridge is gable-ended in the south and our intention was to follow the north-western gable rather than the more commonly used southwest gable (which heads to Waitewaewae Otaki Forks). Our spur was straight and offered very good travel on a good animal trail. At the bottom we kept to the right to keep away from a bluff at the actual forks and soon spotted the red roof of the two person bivvy just below us. Waitewaewae forks is a well appointed camp site with plenty of pitches for tents and flies and a picnic table. John claimed the right of primogeniture (or should that be seigneur?) and took one bunk in the hut, Sieny the other, and Bernard opted for the floor. The rest of us pitched wet tents and flies. To our utter surprise a clearance in the weather came just as the sun dipped below the ridge to the west and we were graced with an evening of modest drying conditions. Only three hardy souls sat up to listen to the RWC final on the radio. Poor reception forced them to sit out in the open rather than in the hut. A loud cheer at 10:45 told the rest of us who had won. A light drizzle returned in the night to keep tents, coats and bush nice and wet.
Our next leg was 2km of river travel in the West Waitewaewae river. This was fairly familiar travel to some of us but we had not allowed for the recent damage from the September snows. What was normally fairly easy river travel between canyon walls was complicated by numerous small trees which had collapsed from above into the river bed and often obstructed the only viable route. The confluence of Mick Stream, which used to be an open area, is now clogged with newly fallen trees.
We reached the foot of the spur which heads east from bump 828 on the Mick-Thompson ridge for a slightly late morning tea. This spur has a good trail which Wayne Griffen says used to carry horse traffic many years ago. Travel up the spur was in a mix of watery sun and mist. Lunch was taken at the start of the old logging road before commencing the brisk walk through mud past Thompson. The final descent on the DoC track back to the Waikawa road end should have been an easy wander but the big snow of 2011 held one more sting for us as we had to push through kilometres of collapsed gorse bushes. More important for us was the pleasant wind blowing up the valley which finally began to dry our clothing.
- Party members
- Devon Polaschek, Peggy Munn, Russell Cooke, Janette Roberts, Ken Fraser, Robin Chesterfield, Susan Guscott, David Castle, Bernard Molloy, Sieny Pollard, John Thomson, Neil Challands (leader and scribe).