Add Renata to your Tararua Crossing Routes
5-8 February 2021
Grant Timlin’s hard work to renew Renata Hut had me thinking about another way to cross the Tararua Range. We left the Waitangi weekend campers at the Waiohine road end as light rain faded, climbing up to Cone ridge – always lovely trees to walk among – then clattering down the rooty track to Cone hut, where we lunched and chatted with day trippers and some overnighters. Water bottles were filled again at the Tauherenikau crossing for the climb up to Bull Mound. It was as steep at the start as I remembered from coming down it on a Southern Crossing led by Bob White – easier going up I thought, with pacing.
Boggy Bull Mound gave us moody vistas of the Neill ridge and the main range beyond, as well as the range we had come from. It gave us white daisies, colourful alpine shrubs – and an aerial poking out to the northwest. The final leg of a long day for a medium trip took us down to Hell’s Gate, up the other side, and along through golden-lit goblin forest, with the dress circle peaks a running commentary between the trees.
Alpha hut had an amiable 24 occupants that night: a group of Venture scouts, and two friends on the Marchant-Field southern crossing, four from the Parawai club who had a long day coming up over Quoin ridge, and four young men who breezed up on the Bull Mound route close to dusk. But the water tank ran out in the morning. A cautionary note for future trips there at popular times to check that sufficient rain has fallen beforehand. There are tarns on Alpha, and they were used the next morning as people headed over the tops.
Were we lucky! Blue skies – some wisps of cloud to the north that did thicken a bit by evening – no wind – and wide exhilarating views all around. So we took our time walking over to Aston. Then it was down to the Renata ridge, meeting two hunters and their dogs en route, moving out of the open into forest, and winding our way to Elder hut for lunch.
There the DoC sign posed a puzzle: how could it take 4½ hours to cover seven kilometres to get to Renata hut? Well, we soon found out: the track from Elder to around bump 925 is very rooty and twisty. The track gets better after that, with some boggy patches. Lovely bush, moss, and lichen all the way through from Elder. Renata peak had great views, including back to the dress circle as well as out to Kapiti Island and the Tasman sea. Closer to hand, two spikes of a beautiful blue sun orchid grew on a rocky rise.
We were ready for Renata Hut somewhat earlier than we reached it after another long day. And it’s a treat! Heard ruru, riroriro, kākāriki, pīwakawaka. After a contented evening and good sleep, we climbed gently to Maymorn saddle.
The sometimes deeply-rutted four-wheel drive track out to Akatarawa saddle is harder on the feet than the eyes – there are some great views, avenues of trees to walk between, and cuckoos calling to each other in several sections. Also on this holiday Monday, about eight 4-wheel drive vehicles, not all in the same convoy, and a motorbike. Rather them than us. We were out on the tarseal at 12.30, and happily scoffed down the delicious cheese puffs and freshly picked plums that Jenny greeted us with.
You could get to Renata Hut via Kapakapanui or up from Otaki forks; you could also take more time over this route, stopping in Cone and Elder huts or camping along the way. A good family trip could be to walk into Renata Hut, dump packs, go to Renata peak for the views, then back for a cozy comfortable evening.
[Ed: Cathy asks, ‘Does anyone know how Renata Ridge got its name?’]
- Party members
- Rachel Fry, Peter Morten, Peter Tunnicliff, Helena Weller-Chew, Tom White, Cathy Wylie (leader and scribe), and thanks to our drivers, Stephen Lungley and Jenny Neligan