Neill Forks Circuit SF
4-5 October 2023
Our first planned trip to Neill Forks was postponed because of a forecast of gale force winds for Neill Ridge. That may have been a blessing in disguise as we subsequently went during a perfect weather window on 4-5 October. Typical Tararua weather – dry and sunny with no wind.
Deciding to vary the route from going via Cone Saddle and Cone in both directions, we left Waiohine Gorge road end and headed along the Waiohine River before following, or rather, attempting to follow, the spur up beside Makaka Creek. It’s a broad spur at the bottom and windfall made it hard to get onto the ridgeline and then more windfall made it hard to stay on it.
We were fortified by lunch just below Cone Ridge but still a little worse for wear. All that lay ahead was a short walk through the lush cloud forest along the ridgeline and a descent to the hut. Yes, we knew it would be steep but steep and yet more windfall?? The recent gales have certainly wreaked some havoc in the Tararua forests.
Unsurprisingly, there was no-one-else hut set in a beautiful, if somewhat steep-sided valley. We spread out and quickly boiled a billy or two of water for tea followed by a billy or two for soup, by which time we were ready for dinner and bed. John kindly volunteered to sleep on the floor and was readily supplied with spare mattresses. Next time, I’ll volunteer for the floor which must surely be more comfortable than a wire frame that sags in the middle!
Predicting a long day ahead, we rose early on Thursday and were ready to leave by seven o’clock. After a chilly foot bath in Neill Creek, we followed a reasonable footpad up towards Neill Ridge. Jenny, John and Diana had done this circuit four years ago and ensured that we stayed on track through, yes, yet more windfall. We became pretty good at body-weaving through the tangles of branches and woody debris.
Throughout our trip so far, we were impressed by the number of very large, old rimu and beech trees and also the abundance of saplings. Hopefully, there will still be a forest for trampers in another hundred years, in spite of the gales.
After a couple of morning teas we reached Neill Ridge. Some decided to rest on their laurels whilst others felt compelled to reach Neill or at least take advantage of some great photo opportunities on the way.
And then on to Neill Saddle and Cone where we sought shade (really!) to eat our lunch whilst marvelling at the stunning views of the Tararua Range. And then on again to Cone Saddle and, finally after ten-and-a-half hours, the car park. Oh, the illicit joys of the motor car! A strenuous but satisfying trip.
- Party members
- Lynne White (leader and scribe), Karen Baker, John Dement, Susan Guscott, Jenny Mason, Diana Munster, Janette Roberts