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Trip Reports 2020-06-00-Mathews South Ridge

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 92, no 5, June 2020

More on Mt Matthews - South Ridge

Sarah White’s trip report in the May issue of the Tramper (‘Mt Matthews – South Ridge’) ignited some memories.

I took my boys up Mt Matthews as each turned seven. When Roger and I reached the top in 1975, we found a family – father, mother and I think not one but two young children of about Roger’s age - preparing to head down the south spur to the Mukamuka. And I thought just getting to the top was the big deal! So I wondered if we too could go down a different way. To find out, we went a little way down the main ridge to the east and dropped into Matthews Stream. I remember long stretches of loose shingle, of the kind people have lately been enjoying ploughing down through, though they start from a point back on the main track. Our route went through trees still managing to hang on. They won’t be there now, I shouldn’t think. It was nearly 50 years ago.

My interest in the south spur was aroused, so it became a destination for Hamish and me. The only landmark going down was a small bump (now marked pt 704), not very far from the top, which may have provided a campsite for the Mt Matthews survey party in about 1870, if they went about their task like the people who camped on Kapakapanui (see ‘Kapakapanui 1873’ in Tararua 2017). An early map does indicate they went up that spur. And the only excitement came when Hamish, jumping on a ‘bouncy bush’, lost his balance and disappeared head first down the far side. He was unharmed. Otherwise good going till we hit scrub approaching the high flat terrace, where, as it was getting late, I thought we’d immediately drop off the edge on the Mukamuka side. That was steep, and not good going!

Sarah mentions Franz’s search for a memorial plaque. Peter Jagger told me he was once coming down the spur opposite – the one that goes over pt 385 – when he and his party came across a father and daughter sitting quietly as if at a grave, and learnt the headstone was a memorial to a dead hunter. Michael Bartlett has reminded me that he gave the details in a trip account (Tramper, June 1987) in which he identifies the people as Austrian. My memory is that Peter found them inside the bush edge on a flat terrace. Out in the open on grass, as Franz has it, sounds more likely. When I went up that spur in about 1990, I kept an eye out but, like Franz, saw nothing.

Party members
John Thomson (scribe).

Page last modified on 2021 Apr 05 22:31

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