A Ruahine ripper
Labour weekend 21-24 October 2022
After losing much time in a major traffic jam at Ōtaki and a stop for dinner in Levin, we set off from the Renfrew Road end in the dark, enjoying a brisk walk up to Rangiwahia Hut on a clear starlit evening. We had planned to camp, because the hut was fully booked, but were delighted to find only two other people at the hut. The roaring fire was welcome as it was a cold night. After taking in the starry night sky and lights of towns below, we settled for the night.
Saturday morning rewarded us with clear views of Ruapehu and Ngāuruhoe. The path up to the main range was lined with beautiful icicles and frozen puddles, crisp beneath our boots. We hid the tents under some leatherwood on Mangahuia peak for retrieval on our way back as we were not keen on carrying the extra weight on relatively full days. Our route took us past a couple of pretty tarns and on over rough, tussocky, unmarked terrain to Maungamahu and the striking ridge leading to Te Hekenga, an imposing peak surrounded by slips, bluffs and scars. Initially it looked impassable, but a traverse to the southwest and a challenging scramble down revealed a goat track that skirted the scree slopes and bluffs to get us back on the ridge. The first aid kit came out to repair a grazed wrist after an unplanned skid down the scree slope.
The downhills that day were challenging, especially from Tiraha toward Howletts, as the track was wet and very slippery from the mostly thawed snow. The long grass and hidden deep muddy holes left no-one out of a slip and gentle slide, with bruised butts, wrists, elbows and egos as well as more grazes. The first aid kit made another appearance. However, the upsides were far more plentiful than the downsides: the glorious weather, far-reaching views, a mother deer and fawn crossing our tracks, laughter and varied terrain to name just a few.
Howlett’s Hut was a welcome sight but the reception less convivial. The hut was full and some of the occupants were not eager to share or give up their double stacked mattresses. Our negotiator did a marvellous job working with the more reasonable and accommodating group to work out sleeping arrangements using the limited available floorspace. One of us opted to sleep outside on the small deck - a good option as the thunderous snoring was more of a soothing distant rumble from there.
Sunday was shorter and easier, although the breeze was a bit boisterous and at the cooler end of the spectrum. Our stunning views continued as we proceeded along the Daphne ridge to Otumore, our passage taking us on through colourful, vibrant, diverse sections of scrub. Mid-afternoon and a steep descent through mossy forest saw us reach Iron Gate Hut, a gorgeous hut with tents pitched around it on the terrace above the river. A quick dip in the icy river (no squealing) helped wash off the sweat and some excess sunscreen of the previous couple of days.
Monday we followed the river for a few hundred metres, searching for the uphill track on the true right. Some opted to take off boots to keep them dry - but then needed careful foot placement and acrobatics to remain dry when we had to cross two more side streams. After a climb about halfway between Iron Gate and Triangle huts, we found the trapline, indistinct in places, heading up a prominent spur.
The forest changed character and displayed different forms of beauty as we climbed from mossy podocarps to goblin forest and then leatherwood scrub. In parts of the steep climb, pushing through the leatherwood was a real tussle. The colours of the alpine vegetation were so vibrant it almost looked photoshopped. Back on top of Mangahuia we retrieved the tents and followed Deadman’s Track through pretty woodland back to the car.
We had a really chill, supportive group who enjoyed (almost) every moment and shared lots of laughter and banter. The landscapes of tussock peaks and layers of jagged crags were continuously changing and dramatic and the vistas spectacular, with bright blue skies and views forever. We highly recommend this circuit with its sweeping views of Hawke’s Bay on the one side and Rangitikei and Ruapehu on the other.
- Party members
- Mark Andrews, Kobus Boshoff (scribe), Tersha Coppell, Anna Davison (leader).