Bawbaw - An off-track adventure
29 February 2020
If it had not been for Colin Cook pointing out a random farm gate as we travelled back towards Featherston from an adventure further south in the Remutaka Range I may never have enjoyed the off-track pleasures of the unusually named ‘Bawbaw’. That gate, with the permission of Mr Charlie Matthews of Waiorongomai Station, gives access to Burlings Stream and the spurs that run up to Bawbaw.
We embarked on this trip, perhaps influenced by the words of members of earlier expeditions, to “admire an unusual view of the southern and central Remutakas: Papatahi, the Matthews massif” and “the elusive Mt Orongorongo” from the dual summits of Bawbaw.
There are two routes to Bawbaw: one heading up a spur that runs north between the north and south branches of Burlings Stream over pt. 206 and pt. 712 to the main range and south west along the ridge to Bawbaw. The other route is on a spur between two tributaries of the south branch of Burling Stream and heads progressively north, west and north again more directly to the summit. Combining the two routes makes a good circular trip, which Colin has previously completed in both clockwise and anticlockwise directions.
We went anticlockwise. We set out in overcast conditions from our cars parked on farmland about a kilometre from the gate. On the advice of earlier parties, we followed a farm track alongside the north branch of Burlings Stream, enabling us to avoid the difficult scrub on the initial low part of the spur over pt. 206. The farm track took us up onto the spur at about 200 metres’ elevation. The first 500 metres of the climb is steep and covered in low thick scrub with only limited animal footpads. As we neared the main range, low mist and drizzle, much of which was retained on the foliage we were pushing through, added to the challenge and had us donning rain gear. Despite the spur being quite narrow, the foliage was so thick there were few opportunities for views and when they did occur they were, regrettably, of Tararua grey.
Lunch was taken in a clearing below and to the north of the summit where a number of colourful plants are leading the regeneration. After lunch we plunged back into the thick foliage for the final push. The summit was difficult to locate in the bush but when achieved provided views of the phenomenon of a smooth sloping ‘roof’ of deep green foliage on the north west slopes. The ‘roof’, presumably shaped by the nor’-west wind, concealed very rough terrain underneath, which meant that within a metre or two we could go from having the top of the foliage brushing our knees to the foliage being well above our heads. We did not visit the second summit because we would not have been able to “admire an unusual view…” due to the fog.
The return to the cars via the southern spur, a rounded and indistinct spur with many bifurcations, was a navigating challenge, in spite of the presence of occasional markers. (This route was in the past apparently popular with Sunday walkers presumably in search of an unusual view). The early part of the descent was punctuated by rock outcrops, which enabled us to emerge from under the low scrub and be kings of several separate castles to get partial views of the cloud-shrouded mountains to the south and the parched Southern Wairarapa to the east. We emerged from the bush at an altitude of approximately 350 metres and descended to the river flats of the south branch of the Burlings Stream, where in contrast with the greenery on the summit the grass is bleached almost grey by the drought conditions.
We were back at the cars 7.25 hours after leaving them.
This is a very interesting and quite demanding off-track trip onto a well-clad (by comparison with its cousins in the Orongorongos) mountain, with the potential, not fulfilled by this party, for some ‘unusual views’. It is easily accessible (with the permission of the landowner) across pleasant farmland. And the name? It is suggested that there are Australian and perhaps aboriginal connections.
- Party members
- Bill Allcock, Tricia French, Gerald Leather (Leader and scribe), Jenny Mason, David McNabb, Janette Roberts