Sunrise, Armstrong Saddle, Te Atuaoparapara (66) Waipawa Saddle, Waipawa River, Saturday May 8. Map: BK36
Trampers: Colin McNatty, Ted Angove, Paul Exeter, Shaun (visitor), Geoff Donkin, Jude Paton, Julia Mackie, Alison Greer, Murray White, Phil (visitor), Denise Payne, Colleen Pereau, Matt Green, Ray Slavin, Murray Goss, Sue Martin
It was a perfect day to tackle this favourite climb. A large number of trampers set off up to Sunrise Hut – some at record pace, others in their own time. An hour up the track, I could feel blisters developing at the back of my heels. B*****!
Everyone enjoyed a cuppa on the hut verandah in the warm sun and I did a little repair job on those annoying and painful blisters. A small group chose to only go to Sunrise Hut, back around the swamp track and then down the river.
Before the big group headed up Armstrong Saddle, they sensibly placed more layers on to battle the cold winds that can blow across. However, it wasn’t as cold as predicted. When we reached the ‘Top Maropea Hut’ sign and headed west, it was a long slog up to the trig. But the views along these tussocky tops were stunning and the higher we climbed, the better they were – especially with snow-capped Mt Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe in full view. With almost 360-degree views across the ranges, there were so many great ‘Kodak’ moments and hut spotting opportunities. The climb was well worth the effort.
It was too fresh to have lunch at the top of 66 at 1687m (the highest point of the tramp) so we continued climbing our way around the craggy rock face, overlooking massive slips. Then it was a slide/slip/bum-slide/run down the scree to the designated lunch spot by the small tarns.
It was a great sight, looking back up the cliffs, knowing that we had just done it. The hard work was over. Only one more climb from here to reach the Waipawa Saddle, then downhill tramping on rocky slopes and through large patches of leatherwood.
It wasn’t long before the saddle joined the Waipawa River. Initially, we had to manoeuvre around large boulders. Then we made dozens of river crossings and often had to enter small bush tracks when the river was not navigable. Boy, my blisters were screaming with pain whenever the feet got wet.
There was lots of regrouping, which is always appreciated. A few walked up the 10-minute track to Waipawa Forks Hut for a first-time look. Less than an hour later, we came to the farmland and road entrance to Triplex Hut. There were the cars that had been kindly driven down to avoid a long slog back to the car park.
It had been an enjoyable tramp of less than eight hours. It had everything: tracks, hard climbs, scree, rocks, river crossings, saddles, huts, and spectacular views. Then it was home to treat the huge blisters, hoping they’d be gone before the next tramp.