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Trip Reports 2024-03-13-Mathews South Saddle

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South Saddle Photo: Janette Roberts

This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 96, no 3, April 2024

Matthews South Saddle S/F

Wednesday 13 March 2024

I was really looking forward to a tramp this Wednesday. My sister’s funeral had been the Saturday before. The hills help to heal. The slow/fit leader had to pull out because of Covid concerns. So I put my hand up for a trip to South Saddle on the Remutaka Range.

The MOA trapping group over recent years have established quite a few well-marked trapping lines on various spurs and the range top of Remutaka. Fortuitously, club members have access to maps which show these trapping lines and even the location of traps. So for this trip I chose a spur I had not ascended before. Each one has a different character. The one I chose left the Ōrongorongo River a little south of Haurangi hut but on the other side of the Ōrongorongo Valley.

We left Catchpool a little before 8 a.m. Interesting conversation allowed the walk into the river via the Five Mile to pass easily. The river was very very low and, in spite of several crossings, feet remained dry. A forecast southerly change came up the valley with some light showers and most atmospheric low cloud in the valley and around the hills.

Morning tea was celebrated sitting outside a hut that was at the toe of our spur, 15 metres above the river and in excellent condition. At about 10 a.m. we wondered – ‘what is the succession plan for these huts these days?’

Another few minutes’ walk on a well-developed track took us to a second hut, a little higher up the spur, seemingly of recent construction and with perhaps a high- pressure water system installed. It sported the intriguing name … ‘Tijuana’.

The next few minutes were spent scrambling around behind the hut searching for our trap line. Once found, we were away, ascending robustly. I had a laminated map showing the trap line at a magnification I can manage. I had forgotten to download my topo maps for the area onto my phone – and there was no phone coverage, really, all day. Thankfully Janette did have her handy new iPhone to help us keep on route. It also showed the number of traps we would pass on the ascent. Trap numbers 11 to 19 on the first part (nine traps). Then when the spur converged with another we would pass trap numbers 110 to 115 (six traps) to gain the high point of the ridge at 701 metres.

The forest on this ascent was generally pretty open and in excellent condition. A delight to climb through and admire, with its many gracious giants. The route was mostly easy to follow and the trap numbers gave us a good indication of our progress. And bird song was abundant; as Janette noted – a result of the extensive trapping programme carried out over past years. We saw one dead rat under a trap. I was told that as trip leader I was expected to take it home and store it in the freezer.

Rather than ascend all the way to the top of the trap line at 701m then descend along the range top down to South Saddle at 545m, it was suggested we take an established sidle route at about the 560m contour. The turnoff at trap 112 or 113 was obvious and the route easy to follow. Until it wasn’t. Markers and route suddenly stopped 500 metres from the saddle. With some push and shove we worked our way up onto the range top, where we found the range top route, somewhat overgrown. But it led easily enough down to the saddle. There was a keen southerly wind blowing but the hills were clear. We dropped down a little on the northwest side, where it was almost too warm out of the wind. I love this saddle. It is a wild place and can be a place of wild and windy weather. So a great spot for lunch at 12.30 p.m. approx.

The route home was more regular. A small climb up towards Matthews, a traverse track around to the main Matthews track. A VERY steep descent down the track to Matthews stream and then along the stream bed to the main river for an afternoon tea stop.

The two-hour walk out down the river and back out to Catchpool was softened with interesting conversation. We finished at 5 p.m. A day that I really enjoyed.

Party members
Mike Wespel-Rose (leader and scribe), Janette Roberts, Tim Stone, Lynne White.

Page last modified on 2024 May 07 23:17

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