Middle Spur and Hector Forks
23-25 Feb 2018
Up to Powell on Friday night, where Paul and I were surprised to see a rope and some harnesses hanging up outside. We chatted to their owners, a three-strong VUWTC party who were investigating canyoning options in the head of Isabelle Creek. They mentioned “siege” tactics - leaving fixed ropes down several waterfalls to enable a retreat. In the morning Ivan said, “If you can get across the river, carry a rock up to Wright for me.” “OK, sure.”
We went down High Ridge past Flaxy Knob and 814 before turning NW to reach the large slip in the Waiohine just downstream from Muir Creek. Paul had found a trip report describing this route in reverse (Manawatu Tramping and Skiing Club 2012).
Wasn’t too bad and we followed the bush down the southern edge of the slip. The river was still up a bit (about 13 cumecs we later found) 2 days after the last peak flow, and we waded across with a little difficulty. The downstream end of the large bluffed pool just above Muir Creek would have been easier but we weren’t sure if we could have reached it up the TL bank. Descending the northern edge of the slip looked steep and scrubby but would have led to the easier crossing.
During a long lunch break on the good flat on the Waiohine’s TR bank we went down to the next bluff in the river, which barred progress to Maungahuka Stream just around the corner, and had a look at the spectacular little waterfall in the bottom of Muir Creek.
Then it was straight up Middle Spur from the Muir Creek confluence. The first 300metres was steep, but the bush was fairly open all the way up to a bit of leatherwood just before the bushline. A tussock spur then led to the top of Wright. We left a couple of small stones for Ivan on the top.
Middle Spur was named by Big Mac (S G McIntosh) a prominent early TTC member and builder of the original Macs Hut in the Orongorongos. His 1934 party were trying to reach Hector Forks (then known as Waiohine Forks) from Aokaparangi, as their map showed a spur running directly between the two. From Aokaparangi they realised that there was one spur between theirs and the one leading to the Forks. They descended and crossed this “Middle Spur” to the Maungahuka Stream mouth before heading up over “A Concertina Ridge”. P.M. Muir (Muir Creek) was also in this party.
Along to Maungahuka Hut before the clag set in for the night. On the way we noticed that Simpson seems to have been mistakenly moved south to a smaller bump on the current map. Paul subsequently exercised his mountain-moving skills again (he has previous form!) and LINZ have agreed to correct this at the next map revision. The wind became strong overnight; the forecast said “gales rising to severe gales” for Sunday but no rain till the evening. So we thought the river below Hector Forks was worth a look. We had previously been in the upper Waiohine below Dorset Creek at 10 cumecs which had been OK.
Before we left on Sunday morning we advised two other trampers in the hut, who were planning to head north to Andersons, to not do so in that wind but to head down to Neill Forks instead.
The NW wind was very strong on the range crest but once we were over Maungahuka we were more sheltered while descending to Concertina Knob. From here we descended the old route to Hector Forks. The bush was OK and there were sporadic markers but we definitely needed the GPS to correct our course on a couple of occasions lower down. We hit the Hector River just upstream from the low saddle with the Waiohine, and crossed it to the huge pool where the Waiohine emerges from its gorge. We were now more exposed to the wind - which was whipping spray off the surface of the river and even raising a few ‘whirlpools’ of spray..
In retrospect we should have bailed out over the north end of Cone Ridge but we thought we could manage the river - it was at nearly 11 cumecs. I wouldn’t do this section again unless it was considerably lower. Donning wetsuits, we swam across the lower end of the pool and headed down the bouldery beach. There were about half a dozen swims before Totara Flats (at low flow there are meant to be somewhere between one and three) and a number of waist-deep crossings. A couple of the swims were not wise - having to get across a pool to the other side of the river before the pool ran out into the next rough bit. It was exciting, and at times definitely scary.
Some sidles were possible, and we saw the tent site in the bush on the TR bank at ‘Palm Flat’ (the wider straight bit in the middle of the gorge that you can boulder hop on either side). It’s marked by a large red boulder perched on a grey one. The sun came out lower down the river, though the wind was still fierce and wind-blown spray still obscured the water surface at times. We were pleased to reach Totara Flats Hut (took us 4 hours from Hector Forks) and then, lessons learned, head back out to Holdsworth. FH
Found by Paul in an old Tramper: “Half the fun of tramping is planning it, the other half is talking about it afterwards”.
Paul’s video of the trip may be viewed at https://vimeo.com/259450977(approve sites)
- Party members
- Franz Hubmann (leader and scribe), Paul McCredie (photos)