Ohau - Mangahao F
20-22 Jan 2018
The Mangahao headwaters/Triangle Knob area had beckoned me for some years, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it. The old track up Triangle Spur was presumably overgrown and scrubby at the top, but what about trying to go up the river itself and climbing out to Triangle Saddle?
Noticing that the 1936 map of the Tararuas says ‘Alpine Garden’ at the headwater forks with Brockett and Staircase Creeks encouraged this idea. Wanting to avoid carrying full packs up through an unknown amount of scrub, I decided to do this as a day trip based at Te Matawai Hut.
Leaving the car at Poads Rd, we went up the Ohau, enjoying the river travel. After lunch at South Ohau Hut we headed up to Girdlestone Saddle as I wanted to visit Dowling Falls. It’s not difficult to approach from the downstream end but a large log draped down the waterfall spoils the view. The dense windfalls blocking a short section of the sidle track around the falls seemed similar to when I was last there 4 years previously.
We were surprised to find Te Matawai empty. Maybe the forecast rain had put people off - luckily it hadn’t arrived.
Next morning we returned down to Girdlestone Saddle and dropped into the Mangahao. Where the track crosses the river we turned right and headed upriver.
Pleasant boulder-hopping with multiple crossings continued up to the headwater forks.
Paul had done some historical sleuthing and uncovered the account of an early recorded trip up here by Adkin and Butcher in 1928. Adkin, rightly, waxed lyrical about the scenic beauties of the area. We never found the ‘5 Sisters’, but did find a large rock with multiple ‘potholes’ (photo p. 10) worn into its surface, by the Hart Creek confluence. The ‘Alpine Garden’ required some imagination - it was a mossy, grassy toetoe flat. Maybe they just had a more poetic outlook in 1928.
The 40-foot series of waterfalls just above this in the main headwater branch was quite pretty and unanimously voted to be nicer than Dowling Falls.
Adkin and Butcher had ascended Staircase Creek to the ‘alpine meadows’ and continued up to the first ascent of Mt Dora (now known as Pukematawai), but we turned left into Brockett Creek.
I remember David Castle once mentioning how he had “ended up in Brockett Creek”! but didn’t recall the rest of the story so wasn’t sure if it was actually a viable route. It turned out to be no particular problem, with lots of interesting boulder scrambling (would be harder work with full packs).
We managed to avoid nearly all the scrub, following a steep, loose, rocky gully/slip that led to the ridge east of Triangle Saddle and about 40 metres above it.
After sauntering over to Triangle Knob for a look, we returned and climbed up to Dundas. There is a dramatic spur north-west of Dundas over 1378 that Adkins’ map labels ‘Cathedral Spur’.
In front of this a smaller spur has a tussock/rock prow that looks like a good setting for a movie sword-fight. Adkin called this ‘Dundas Pinnacle’.
We then enjoyed wide-ranging views of the northern Tararuas on the way south to Arete and back down to Te Matawai. It was great to be up on the tops on a sunny afternoon with only daypacks, but the day was still quite long at 13.5 hours - including a number of rest stops.
On the Monday we descended the Yeates Track and the Ohau river. Light rain made the rocks a bit slippery and we called into the old tent camp (about halfway between the Ohau forks and the Blackwater) to get out of the rain for lunch. The photos on p. 10 are by Paul, those on p. 11 are by Franz. Paul also made a video which may be found at https://vimeo.com/253399452(approve sites)
- Party members
- Franz Hubmann (leader and scribe), Gerald Leather, Paul McCredie (historical details), Tim and Martin Workman