Island Forks hut
2-3 July 2021
The forecast of a multi-day winter high pressure system, with its anticipated settled weather, made our last-minute decision to go adventuring an easy one. Neither of us had been to Waitewaewae Forks. Details of the Forks area can be found in Tararua Footprints [see: TararuaFootprints/WaitohuValley].
With the permission of landowner Dave Moore, we drove past the early morning industrial activity of the Waitohu Quarry and parked by the second bridge over the Waitohu Stream. The route upstream to the start of the Mick Track was alternatingly frosty, wet and boggy, so by the time we began our ascent our boots were significantly heavier than when we set off.
Near .698 we came across a few pieces of an aircraft*. Topping the ridgeline at .860, we headed south to Mick. Here the ridge splits, with the western arm leading to Tangata Maunga. We made a distinct turn to the east and followed the ridge top to the significant scrubby drachophyllum and leatherwood section. Here we lunched in a cut opening, appreciative of the windless blue dome, as we were soaked from the chilly moisture on the vegetation. We enjoyed vistas northeast to Bannister and Mitre, southeast to the Hector – Maungahuka main range, and northwest to Mt Taranaki.
About half a kilometre from the lunch spot we left the main ridge and began our descent to .872 and .620. At the time of the trip, there were three pink ties indicating the top of this spur. Travel down the crest of the spur was straight forward, confirmed by the occasional ribbon, permolat and bird survey triangle.
On the flat near .620 there were two significant animal wallows. At this point we headed down the final 250 metres of the day to the junction of the East and West Waitewaewae Rivers. The hut is a short distance upstream of the confluence on the true left of the East Waitewaewae River.
There is nothing like a thigh-deep river crossing in a sunless valley to end a seven-and-a-half-hour winter's day! Readers will appreciate the positive effects of the multiple warm drinks that were first priority when we reached the small two-bunk hut.
With the chill of the impending frost already evident, a warm meal was prepared and consumed in the fading light. With the only source of warmth being our sleeping bags, we were zipped in by six p.m.
We unzipped early Sunday morning to a hard frost. Warm drinks and hot food fortified us for the morning's challenges – after firstly putting on frigid socks and partially frozen boots. The second challenge of the morning was the return river crossing, and with it a unique sensation for both of us. The water was warmer than the footwear, creating the feeling of the feet being warmed during the crossing!
The morning's travel was a retracing of our route from Saturday, with dappled warming sun coming through the canopy. We lunched at the same open spot in the same idyllic conditions as on Saturday.
To give variety to the trip we continued north along the ridge over .860, .828 and .730. Travel along this section required observational diligence as the footpad was barely discernible and pink ties were often obscured by moss. At the ‘tadpole pond' we turned southwest onto the remnant logging road for the long plod down to the car. The sun had set by the time we reached the car and headlights were needed as we started along the farm track.
Farm etiquette requires that all gates are left as they are found. But the gate at the quarry was locked. Nuisance! A phone call to Dave resulted in him coming out on his quad bike to release us. Turned out he had heard a car drive past his house and presumed it was us, and had locked the quarry gates just as the sun set. (His thinking was he had heard an un-notified car that had been in for the day – a not uncommon occurrence, he said). We expressed our gratitude for his generosity and drove home in a comfortably warm vehicle.
* https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/65736(approve sites)
- Party members
- Tricia French, Bill Allcock (scribe)