Block XVI Loop
31 January – 1 February 2021
On the last day of January 2021, Chris and I set off to visit Block XVI, a track I had not tramped since my VUWTC days. From the Kaitoke carpark we climbed up the alternative route towards the Puffer Saddle and took the old ridgeline route that joins Dobson Track. This route is reasonably clear now and a pleasure to travel. Along the way, Chris said, ‘why don’t we try and find Joe’s Track on our way out?’. Good idea we thought.
It was an uneventful tramp up onto and along the Marchant Ridge on a perfect day with just a hint of the residual southerly to provide some welcome air conditioning. We had an impressive view of the Tararua Peaks and of course back towards Wellington and over into the Wairarapa.
The Block XVI Track was a pleasure to travel down. Although a bit steep in places, it was easy travel with no windfall. At the bottom it comes to an abrupt end above a near vertical drop into the Tauherenikau River. It looked manageable but Chris went on a wild, uncontrolled, swift descent to the bottom. Ouch! Somewhat alarmed, I took a more cautious approach.
We decided to cross the river and camp on the other side at the base of the old bridge. We faced west and the sun warmed us for hours into the evening. As we were cooking a dubious meal of sausages and a Maggi Tuscon sauce with dehy spud, a tramper passed by on the track above and shouted that he could smell our meal from way back. He must have been hungry. We were going to sleep under the fly but it was such a beautiful evening that we slept out under the stars.
The next day we cruised down to the Smith Creek crossing place and agreed to try to find Joe’s Track. So, instead of taking the track up to the Puffer Saddle, we headed up Smith Creek. This was a route we used in our youth to avoid the unpleasant climb up a deeply rutted clay track overgrown by gorse. Then it was a pleasant amble upstream and a steep climb out up to the ridgeline. Not anymore. The stream has been gouged out by heavy rainfalls and filled in by boulders, log jams and other windfall. Part way up there was a murmur of ‘Why are we doing this?’ but we persevered and around the 380 m contour, the worst was over and the last 100 m of travel was more open.
At the forks, we had a somewhat perilous climb out up the toe on very unstable ground and then it was a 100 m climb up to the ridgeline. There is no track but there is also no undergrowth, and although steep it is easy travel. There is no sign that this route is used. We were going to place some tape at the exit point on the ridgeline but decided it was unwise to encourage anyone to go down the spur and into the wilderness of the stream.
Back at the car, we agreed that it had been a worthwhile exercise but not one to be done again. We will stick to the track!
[Ed: An article in the June 2020 Tramper, 'Kaitoke Tracks' by John Thomson, shows the approximate route of Joe's track (#9) on his topo map, but Peggy says, 'our Joe's track does not follow the same route'. Peggy and Chris went further upstream to the forks at around 400 m, then went up the spur from there. Is there anyone who can recall their transit of Joe’s Track to help resolve this question? It is also worth reading a trip report in the November 2010 Tramper, 'Marchant Stream - Joe's Track 22 August'. (Enter 'Joe's Track' using the TTC website 'search' function). It describes some rough going on Joe's Track, resulting in a helicopter rescue for one participant suffering a broken fibula and tibia].
- Party members
- Peggy (scribe) and Chris Munn