Kiwi Saddle via Kuripapango, January 31-February 1 2009, Map U20
Trampers: Ray Slavin, Ted Angove, Murray Goss, Sue Marshall and Julia Mackie
It’s many years since I undertook the hardships of a weekend tramp into the hinterland of the Kaweka Range – namely, Kiwi Saddle Hut. I was eagerly looking forward to this arduous journey, carried out at the height of the summer when conditions can be very varied. I decided to carry no excess baggage, just the essentials plus extra equipment in the car so that at the start point, extra protection could be added if required. For sustenance, I decided that my basic ration would be bacon and egg pie. Luxurious, I grant, but nothing’s too good for a veteran bushbasher like me.
I was to convey the others – Sue Marshall (“Mrs H”), Murray Goss, Julia Mackie and Ted Angove – in my luxurious bush motor to the start point at Lakes Road car park.
There, we found an undisciplined mob of fellow members milling around a common-or-garden Toyota van. They were heading for the day tramp. Because of the uncertainty of the weather (black clouds and high winds), they decided to do a walk around the lower paths of the Kawekas, but we hardy souls prepared for our tougher trip. Packs were shouldered and we ascended into the dark clouds. As if by magic, the gloom vanished and when we arrived at the summit of Kuripapango, the sky was clear and bright, although a strong wind was gusting.
After a short break for water and snacks, we carried on northwards along to Smith-Russell track. The contorta had grown higher since I was there last, but tunnels had been cut through the weed, with a wide path through on the climb to the last ridge and the junction that takes the traveller down to Cameron. Plenty of breaks were taken.
We met a hunter at one stop, and he gave us vital information about the journey ahead. He’d suffered a cold night in the bush and had used Kiwi Saddle hut to warm up that very morning.
We arrived at the high point overlooking the hut. The weather was brilliantly fine, with views across to Ruapehu and the ocean at Napier. The last drop down to the hut seemed to take forever. Then it was good to take off the boots and packs. Several small expeditions were carried out during the afternoon, to ensure there was no approaching enemy, and we chose our resting places for the night very carefully, to avoid the lingering heat and the night noises that emanate from some members of the party.
I said we could not be sure of having the hut to ourselves until the last of the Sun’s rays had disappeared and, sure enough, around 8pm two figures appeared and descended towards us. They brought startling news of tramping parties not turning up on time, and fears of missing people. Our hearts sank to our socks, as we realised they could be referring to our brave but possibly misguided companions on the day trip…
Such was the concern that some of us had a sleepless night. Fortunately, I was not one of them.
We arose to another superb day, and even Mrs H did not rise until 6.30 – a very late hour for her and her cleaning equipment. Soon, however, natural instincts took over; she got all fired up and began sweeping the hut while some of us were still scoffing a luxury breakfast of fresh venison steaks and roast guinea fowl prepared by the hunters.
By 8 am, we were ready to leave. The Sun was blazing down and a hot north-westerly was starting up. We climbed the first (and hardest) hill and could feel the energy sapping away. Any shade on the track was welcome, and we made the rest of it with numerous stops for fruit and water.
It got even hotter and the wind did not abate. We began to struggle. Soon the small party became strung out; I was the last and, rounding a corner, came upon Goss collapsed on the track, eyes wide open but staring blankly into space. His deep panting, and the fact that he was not nattering away as usual, showed that all was not well. “What’s to do, old chap?” I asked.
He tried to say something, but only a croaking sound came from deep inside his throat. I bent down and told him: “Come on, old chum – it’s not far now”. I hauled him to his feet and let him fall over my shoulder. I stood up straight and stumbled to the edge of the track, heaving Goss over the cliff and onto the rocks far below. We cannot have Napier Tramping Club members making the place look untidy.
As we reached the car around 11.30, the heat was intense and by the time we reached Taradale it was touching 37 deg C. Four hours in and three-and-a-half back – it seemed quite a sensible weekend outing for me…
Editor’s note: Other members of Ray’s party have asked me to point out that his account of this trip does not match their recollections in many important respects.
Meanwhile, other trippers were experiencing something like The Longest Day…
The Lakes car park to Mackintosh Hut, Saturday, January 31, Map U20
Trampers: Murray White, Colin McNatty, Andrew Bryant, Les O’Shea, Suzanne Collins, John Russell, John Dobbs, Denise Payne, Rosemary Jeffery, Jude Paton, Paul Exeter, Geoff Donkin, Colleen Pereau, Alex Thomason, Arthur and Penny Mead and Gordon Tapp (reporter)
This trip was to be from the lakes to Kuripapango, Kiwi Saddle Hut, Castle Camp, Kaiarahi, down Rogue Ridge and back to the Lakes car park, but as we exited the van, our leadership in the car arrived, and had decided on the way that as strong winds appeared to be blowing up top, we should take the protected low level track to Mackintosh Hut.
For many, this deviation from our planned route was a disappointment, with the wind moderating and changing direction and bringing clear skies and wide views as the day wore on. To get out the protective gear and be a little challenged provides valuable experience and increases confidence in our abilities. We must, of course, always be willing to backtrack when judgement dictates.
Walking along the Mackintosh track was delightful, with the bright sun highlighting the beautiful silver beech forest in places. Bird life was abundant, with grey warbler and shining cuckoo singing their merry tunes. The warm sunshine had brought very many cicadas to life in the trees above.
One member who was suffering from a recurrence of a knee pain slowed our progress, and many of the party raced ahead to arrive at the Mackintosh Hut around three quarters of an hour ahead. The three trampers who provided support and company for the injured member used the extra time available to pull young pinus contorta trees growing up on the track.
Our steepest climb on this leg, before the hut, was up out of the Kaiarahi Creek.
On reaching Mackintosh Hut, we joined the main party for lunch on the verandah to the newly extended hut. It now appears it will sleep six to eight inside, with much extra room for sleeping now on the extended verandahs.
Also at the hut was Murray White. He had driven to, and come in from, the other end of the track after searching for a slower member who had lost contact soon after we left the Lakes car park. Shortly after the rear group arrived at the hut around 1 pm, the main group packed up and moved off on the track towards the new steel joist bridge and Castle Rock car park.
After completing their lunch, the rear group left Mackintosh Hut and continued with contorta pulling along the Mackintosh Spur track. Temperatures rose in the afternoon to around 36 degrees, making walking out in the sun tiring. Areas where shade could be gained were much appreciated, even for a short period.
Not seeing many footprints along this track alerted us to check our position and discover that we had started on a parallel track leading to the Lawrence shelter. We backtracked to the hut and then slowly travelled towards Castle Rock Road car park, giving support and encouragement to our injured member all the way.
A short time after leaving the hut, we agreed that John would leave the other three and make for the car park to alert the main party that we were proceeding slowly to the destination. He took Colleen’s pack with him.
We finally arrived at the Castle Rock car park and our van transport around 6 pm.
The trip was enjoyable through pleasant bush of various types, with much bird song. We used the slower pace to carry out some useful work pulling out young contorta on the tracks. However, the point should be made that if all would stay in contact with the slowest member in a party, it will assist progress and make for safer travel of the entire group.