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Te rōpū hikoi o te pae maunga o Tararua   -   Celebrating 100 years of tramping

Trip Reports 2024-03-15-Southern Crossing

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Approaching Hector, Catherine Close (L)
Susanna Kent (R) Photo: Paul McCredie

This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 94, no 4, May 2024

Chief Guide’s Southern Crossing M

15-17 March 2024

What if I told you the Chief Guide had never done a Southern Crossing? It’s enough to have Fred Vosseler tossing in his celestial sleeping bag. I mean, I’ve done it in bits but never put the whole thing together - it just seemed so, well … passé.

With this guilty secret, I discreetly put my hand up to lead the most sacred pilgrimage in our playbook. But did the masses flock to sign up? Not really, and it was only with a fair amount of prodding and poking that I finally had four enthusiastic punters heading north after work.

The first bit of excitement was the shuttle driver overshooting the Ōtaki turn off and casually reversing back down the expressway as we shrieked in horror - yes really!

He must have known there was no time to lose since a southerly front was expected through by 9 p.m. We were quickly across Blue Slip and onto Ōtaki Forks. We were counting our blessings when we hit the bushline still in shirtsleeves. The heavens opening only in the darkness, ten minutes from Field Hut.

Miraculously the sky had cleared by morning but an icy southerly remained as we crossed Table Top, climbed Bridge Peak and skipped across Hut Mound to Kime Hut. I put on a brew and we basked in the sun counting our blessings - is there no better place in all of tramping than the sheltered deck of Kime Hut? In some sort of time warp we chatted to two young hipsters decked out in flannel shirts, sporting mint condition Cerro and Torre packs with analogue cameras hung from their necks.

Once over Field Peak we had our first view of the Hector massif sprinkled in fresh snow. It truly was icing on the cake. Atop Hector we were rewarded with one of those tramping moments you treasure for a lifetime - good company, a sense of achievement and views to die for. No wonder the route was marketed as a tourist must-do over a century ago.

We were still soaking up the views as we trundled over the Beehives, Atkinson, Dress Circle and Aston. By the time we climbed Alpha, the southerly had largely abated and from there it was an easy descent to the bushline and the recently refurbished Alpha Hut. GWBN had done such a good job it felt like walking into a new hut.

Along with our pre-dinner nibbles, Sudoku and crosswords were soon being devoured. Sarah set to work creating a pasta dinner (with or without meat) that left any packet dehy for dead. Afterwards there was banana cake with custard made in ye ol’ club billy. I tell you, weekend tramping doesn’t get any better.

Waking up to a howling nor’westerly the next morning, we were almost pleased to have the Marchant Ridge ahead of us. You’ve heard the moans - it’s uphill in both directions, never ending, countless roots to stumble over … but again, thanks to a GWBN work party, it felt like a magic carpet ride (I even had dry socks!). Early on, Catherine revealed her super power - the ability to hear the high frequency twitter of the miniscule titiponaumu/rifleman. Sure enough, on three separate occasions we were able to witness the minute bird dancing about in the branches looking for insects. Meanwhile Hells Gate, Omega, Golden Stairs, Axe Hole and Marchant flew by effortlessly in a stream of unending conversation.

Eight hours later we descended into the corral masquerading as the Kaitoke car park and, just like magic, our daredevil shuttle driver appeared a few minutes later. Good planning or what?

Party members
Paul McCredie (Chief Guide and scribe), Catherine Close, Susanna Kent, Bharat Pancha, Sarah White

Page last modified on 2024 Jul 04 09:09

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