This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 95, no 1, February [[!(Tramper)2023]
Cone - Tutuwai – Reeves M
12-13 November 2022
A clap of thunder, and brief downpour greeted the TTC van’s arrival in Upper Hutt when a group of 11 trampers were heading over the Remutaka hill to the Waiohine Gorge Road end. The weekend loop to Tutuwai Hut and return via Mount Reeves provided two different options. One group of five enjoyed a more direct route to Tutuwai hut via Cone Saddle, while a group of six stretched their legs a little further with a side trip up Cone Peak.
Tim successfully navigated the first challenge for the ‘direct group’ (Tim, Susan, Jane, Christine, Sarah) overcoming one person's fear of heights by leading them eyes closed, across the swingbridge. With more time at their disposal, the group stopped often to appreciate and discuss the botanical delights of the bush, flora and fauna and photographic opportunities.
After stopping for a leisurely lunch on the ridge, they made a careful descent to Cone Hut on the wet and slippery track. Cone Hut was new for some, who were fascinated by its rustic construction, whereas others had memories of staying on previous trips and appreciated the improvements made after vandals wrought considerable damage.
A gentle walk down the river then brought them to Tutuwai Hut where a Land SAR team on an exercise were waiting for instructions from their team leader.
The ‘Peak’ group (Anna, Alan, Mark, Tersha, Mike and Theresa) set off on the steady climb up to the saddle where they stopped for lunch. Raincoats were taken off and put back on as the trampers experimented with the best fit for the muggy, sometimes inclement weather, coupled with some steep climbs. The colours of the wet bush were vibrant, the conversation animated as the diversity of fern types, crown and ladder, led to differences of opinion over their identification. The grey warblers were uncontested, their songs crystal clear, melodic and frequent, and beetles also much in evidence, a trademark of this track.
After downsizing to day-packs and hiding their main packs in the undergrowth, the group set off for Cone Peak. A special moment followed when a ruru flew across the path, settling on a branch just above the track, offering a close-up encounter and plentiful photographic opportunities. We reached the Peak in drizzle and with limited views, then headed back down to retrieve our packs and continue along the trail to firstly Cone Hut and then on to Tutuwai. There we were reunited with the direct party, who had arrived to find they had the whole hut to themselves but for a Land SAR team at the hut’s table practising their people find-and-retrieve skills. They didn’t stay long however so fortunately tents were not required after all. A splash in the river followed for a few of us, a wonderful refresh after the hot, muggy walk. Then we bagged our bunks and cracked into our pre-dinner nibbles. Contributions for the communal dinner were gathered, a huge pile of vegetables cooked, and in no time at all a delicious vegetable curry dinner was served up and consumed with little left-over, and just enough room for a dessert of ginger kisses and delicious dark chocolate. A flurry of excitement when the Land SAR teams re-convened at the hut on an exercise, awaiting their next instruction. It was getting late as they set up camp in bivvies down by the river, and one decamped to the hut during a heavy downpour late in the evening. After swapping stories of the day, we headed for bed.
Sunday started with the promise of a drier day, and after an unhurried breakfast we departed as a group to climb the steep first ascent up the Mount Reeves track. The forest was beautiful, and we stopped regularly to take in the beautiful surroundings. The distinctive calls of long-tailed cuckoos rang out with alarm as we approached. Tim sang us a song. We gathered for a team photo at the plaque marking the centre of the extended continental shelf of New Zealand, before continuing along the ridge to find a perfect place for lunch back in the forest.
We started our descent to the river. Everyone made it safely down the final steep slippery descent to cross the creek, and we returned triumphantly back over the bridge to the van. An afternoon tea stop in Greytown was the icing-on-the-cake celebration of a very enjoyable and successful trip.
- Party members
- Anna Davison (scribe).