Valley of the Waterfalls
Saturday 3rd March.
Six of us went up the Waiorongomai looking for the waterfalls in the TL branch of Oreore Stream. This branch drains the basin south of Orongorongo (816m).
You can see a high waterfall from the Waiorongomai River, about 5 minutes up from the hut , if you climb onto a logjam. It looks like it’s nearly on the skyline at the near edge of the long plateau which contains Waiorongomai Saddle, at about 400m altitude.
The map shows a single 38m waterfall around here as well but they are different falls. In fact there are a series of waterfalls up there - several about 35-45 metres high - that have been descended by intrepid canyoners, first in 2013, and named Eager Beaver Canyon.
Paul and I had followed up the creek with increasing difficulty last August, and reached the first decent waterfall (about 10 metres) but that turns out to only be a tiddler. While climbing steeply out on the TR from below this fall we glimpsed a much bigger one further up.
For this trip we climbed the spur between the branches of Oreore Stream that has a footpad, once you get above the supplejack and kiekie infested lower bit, and is the usual route to Waiorongomai Saddle. The intention was to try and drop into the creek above the bigger fall and see how much further up we could get.
From about 300m altitude we dropped steeply down to a bit below a stand of wilding pines to get glimpses of the bigger one - an attractive twin-fall. Paul and I managed to get further down to about 3 metres above the stream bed below this one, glimpsing a bit of climbing rope in the water. After a short level section it dropped again over another similar-height fall just beneath us -these are both about 40 metre drops.
We then regrouped back up on the spur and, after Paul got some drone-footage of the area, attempted to drop in to the top of the twin-fall from slightly higher up but were unsuccessful - it just got too steep.
None of these falls so far looked like the one visible from the river, so we then sidled up and managed to drop into the side-creek draining the plateau, just above where it joins the TL Oreore Stream.
A few minutes clambering up this side-creek brought us to the bottom of the fall you can see from the river. It’s probably over 30 metres as well.
Returning to the spur again we climbed a short distance to the edge of the plateau and then dropped a few minutes though easy bush to the gentle creek draining the plateau and followed it to where it abruptly tumbles over the fall we had just been at the bottom of. Russell remarked that you couldn’t hear this fall even when standing near its edge. From the escarpment next to this fall we could see out to Lake Wairarapa.
Looking down this stream, over steep country and bluffs aplenty, we were only about a kilometre from Waiorongomai Hut. Tim suggested calling it “Valley of the Waterfalls”. A pterodactyl flying past would have completed the picture, maybe Paul’s drone fit that bill. Apart from the top of this fall, none of the other big falls are easy to reach, or even see, unless you’re a canyoner. We headed back down the spur and home after an interesting day.
Paul’s video of the trip may be viewed at https://vimeo.com/258915121(approve sites)
- Party members
- Russell Cooke, Franz Hubmann (leader and scribe), Paul McCredie, David McNabb, Martin Workman, Tim Workman.