Waitangi Weekend 2016
On a warm Saturday afternoon Paul McCredie and I headed over Cone from Walls Whare to Neill Forks Hut. We bumped into Anne Opie on Cone Saddle and heard kaka above the saddle. Light drizzle overnight had stopped by 7am on Sunday when we left for our day trip up the Hector River. We saw 2 large trout in a pool a short way above the hut. The river (with little recent rainfall) was often good travel but there were some rough bouldery sections higher up and it took us 4 hours to reach the head forks (about 5km from the hut).
Following the advice we had gleaned from Tararua Footprints (thanks Merv!) and a Tramper article that John Thomson had written about his trip up here with David Castle and Susan Guscott, we climbed up the spur between the 2 headwater branches. The spur end was sheer at the forks and the TL branch had a waterfall that we didn’t like the look of, so we went a short distance up the TR branch before climbing up what looked like the first break in the sheer wall. In retrospect I would have looked a little further up the valley as the climb got a bit steep about 10-15 metres up and there were fewer trees to hang onto than I thought there would be, but after this bit it turned into a more reasonable steep bushbashing ascent. As John noted in his article, it could be tricky to descend this – ie: avoiding the bluffs at the bottom.
When we reached the crest of the spur (about 100 metres up) there was a good hoof-pad to follow up the spur to bushline. We then carried on up the tussock spur to a shoulder at about 1240 metres from where we scouted our next step. We wanted to descend into the headwaters of the TL branch of the Hector and climb straight out again onto the Main Range south-west of Boyd-Wilson Knob. Luckily there were lines that avoided most of the leatherwood. We descended a mostly tussock spur and had a short break by the sparkling alpine stream that the Hector is at this point. We then climbed 100 metres up a narrow slip which took us to just below the crest of the Main Range about 400m southwest of Boyd-Wilson Knob. Having completed the off-track part of the day, we then turned for home.
This meant heading along the range past the Tararua Peaks – where we saw Brocken Spectres – to Maungahuka. From there we looked back to see cloud that had filled the Hector valley spilling over the range around the silhouetted Tararua Peaks. I had been getting tired on the uphills and we had had a number of rest stops which were very pleasant on a sunny afternoon on the tops. Time was marching on though, and we still had to get down over Concertina Knob to Neill Forks Hut. As it got darker on the descent it was surprising how long we could still see “just enough” and we only had to get torches out about 15 minutes before the hut, which we reached at 9.30pm. It had been a long but very satisfying day .
Next day we headed up the spur to Neill – mostly not difficult to follow (going up) with a footpad for quite a lot of it, some thicker sections in the upper half, and a few tape markers at the very top. After a brief visit to the misty open top of Neill we followed the track to Cone through delightful mossy forest, then back down to the road.
Three TTC members traversed the Hector River in 1961. Here is an excerpt from their report first published in the April 1961 Tramper: … we made our way to Fields Hut on Friday night. On Saturday morning the weather was fine. We made our leisurely way past Kime Hut and sidled off Hector-Fields saddle a little before 11am. We crossed the low level ridge off Mt. Hector and dropped directly into the east head creek of the Hector River. There was no leatherwood to battle with, and the sun shone and the water was fine for bathing; nobody told us it would be like this. The best waterfall is 50 feet high in two leaps, five minutes above the junction with the west head creek. From this junction down, the river is often similar to the Upper Tauherenikau with large boulders and short gorge sections, as well as open stretches of good boulder hopping. We reached Neill Forks at 3.30 and continued on, mostly by river, to arrive at Totara Flats Hut by 7.30pm. Of the wildlife, three deer we saw in the Hector were not at all gunshy, also the goats of Totara Flats, we found, have penetrated up the Hector River to within 15 minutes of Neill Forks. Those involved were Barry Dykesman, Bill Wheeler and John Millen. JM
- Party members
- Franz Hubmann (scribe), Paul McCredie