Tapokopoko at Last, (MF)
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Every previous attempt was thwarted by the weather. For years we had been looking from Wellington along the skyline range going south to Tapokopoko and wondering. The leader, worried about the saddles and turns with possibly no visibility, came equipped with a rude hand-drawn mini-map, complete with compass bearings. Colin thought there might be a track of sorts up the spur on the true left of Browns Stream from the top hut above Waerenga, to access the range. What a relief – there it was! No battle with the dreaded kiekie and supplejack this time. Though very vague in places, it led us steeply up to Point 797. The unfolding of the mystery commenced.
We plunged into a ghastly wall of matted vegetation. Surely it would take days to reach our mountain, 2 km away. Colin climbed a tree to survey the scene. Then some friendly forest arrived. Thereafter it was a typical wild Rimutaka succession of thicket, bush lawyer and some nettle (largely avoided), open area and forest, repeated at random. Occasionally we followed an animal track. At one point we skirted the top of an enormous slip going down towards the Orongorongo valley. The views across Palliser Bay, out to Wellington and both ways along the Rimutakas at various places along the way were stunning. Sometimes we passed fairly squat trees of enormous girth (mainly beech). One provided a sculptured seat for John at our idyllic lunch spot. Despite nursing a remnant cold, he performed route-finding wonders along most of the range. The leader’s rude map was unnecessary. Two hours of travel was all it took from point 797 to Tapokopoko. Elation all round.
The summit is in enchanting cloud-forest, trees heavily moss-clothed. It is flat and nearly as big as a football field. Most of the others had been there before via Paua Ridge and other routes. “Which way leader?” someone asked, probably knowing the answer. The rude map came to the rescue. Warwick led most of the way down to the Orongorongo River. Near the bottom we passed some lovely hard beech forest and later a stand of unusually tall and straight trees. From the trunks they looked like kamahi.
Opposite lay the start of Brown’s track, a short-cut to the Catchpool – an alluring idea that suddenly emerged from the ranks. The only drawback was the 200 m climb over Cattle Ridge for our over-wrought frames. Knowing that the pace would be sedate, it was determined that the leader should go in front.
And so ended our wonderful voyage of discovery, of just over 9 hours and about 1,400 m of climb.
- Party members
- Peter Reimann (leader and scribe), Colin Cook, Tricia French, David Ogilvie, Bob Stephens, John Thomson,