Ruapae Falls, Medium
1 April 2017
It had long been an ambition of mine to get to the Ruapae Falls on the north branch of the Mangatainoka River. Once before we had reached what I now understand are a small set of falls downstream from the actual falls. I had put a trip on the fixture card hoping to do it on a dry February Saturday with low water flows in the river. It actually ended up on April 1, which, given the rain in February, was probably not a bad thing.
The actual location of the falls on the topo maps has been a bit of a moving feast. In the change from the older to the newer maps the indicated location had moved around a bend and at least 100m upstream.
The original intention was a medium trip over point 655 to the saddle on the north Mangatainoka River, after which I had intended to walk up the river and climb up or around the small falls before going upstream to the actual named falls.
Colin Cook emailed me with the suggestion that another option would be to drop down from above. It was that plan that we adopted, albeit not being exactly sure of where to drop to given the topographical uncertainty.
Six members set out on an overcast but calm April Fools Saturday morning to attempt this. The trip had been labelled Medium, but in reality the skills needed were Medium Fit. As we left the carpark we struck up conversation with a young bloke who had just turned up. He said he was also headed for the falls, so we invited him to join the group. His name was R, and he was fit and enthusiastic and had originally intended to go up river all the way from the second bridge.
We started along the track to Herepai Hut and five minutes after crossing the initial bridge we climbed up off the track to ascend to point 655, a climb of just under 300m. There is a good foot pad to begin with which is enhanced by ribbons further up. From 655 we headed northwest across one of the flattest areas of bush in the Tararuas that I know. There was a sufficient footpad and occasional ribbons to lead us to the low saddle where there is a 5m descent to the Mangatainoka River. Here we had a late but pleasant morning tea by the river.
Regaining the ridge, we climbed northward meeting the old Schormann track, then turned west to a long knob at an altitude of 750 m. At a point (E1813599, N549431), marked by a tiny pink ribbon, we located and headed down a spur that led just east of south to where the topo map suggested we would be just opposite the falls.
We descended the spur until we were about 20 m above the river. Here it just dropped straight to the river so further descent at that point was not an option. Sidling at this level upstream, we stopped for lunch while the keen R scouted a way down to the river. He reported that it was possible about 30 m up stream.
Continuing our sidle, we reached two steep stream beds. We could see the falls through the trees, and after a while contemplating our options, and spurred on by Rís example, some of the group cautiously climbed down a very steep mini spur before dropping into the river at the point where the unmarked stream joined the river.
The falls are very impressive from underneath (see photo) and we suspect that there may be some more just above. The location of them is E1813483, N5493963, which is upstream of where they are marked on the newest topo map. R left at this stage to return via the river route while we climbed directly up a spur which is to the west of the one we had descended. We then retraced our steps to be back at the car by 5 45pm.
- Party members
- Russell Cooke (leader and scribe), Jessica Mills, Anne Opie, Sieny Pollard, Janette Roberts, Tim Stone