Sparrowhawk Ridge, Ruahine FP, Saturday 20 May 2017 Map: BK36
Reporter and Photos: Paul Hendy. Banner: Paul astride the widow maker.
The Sparrowhawk Ridge is one of the great walks in the Ruahines. My daughter Lizzie (sister of Jessie ) and boyfriend Reuben were the only ones on this tramp, others being overseas or away. The forecast was for a very cold southerly blast coming from the deep south. Knowing the ridge was north-facing, I thought we would manage.
It was 5C when exiting the warmth of the car at the Hall’s farm on Glenny Road. A box of chocolates and a thankyou card was put into the letterbox in appreciation of allowing us to traverse their farm, saving at least 30 minutes. It had been stormy and blowing through the previous night and as a result there was considerable debris on the roads leading up to the farm and on the track.Once we were through the very muddy, overgrown swamp, tangles of bush lawyer and vines, we descended to the junction of Sparrowhawk Ridge and Gold Creek. Not much to see except mist and some hills up there somewhere. After negotiating the slightly swollen Gold Creek, it became quite treacherous ascending the very narrow ridge line where I recall Mark falling on my last trip. Coming to further erosion of a deep slip biting into the cliff face, we gingerly edged past the precipice. Not for the faint-hearted or children, this bit and probably not OSH-approved. Soon it will further erode and I suspect DoC may need to reroute this section.
The track right to the top was in great condition and quite wide. Long periods of fairly flat terrain gave us opportunity to look at plant life.The gale the night before had brought down a couple of large beech trees across the track and we were horrified and a bit surprised on the return trip to find an epiphite (widow maker) had fallen directly down on the path where we had walked, probably from weight of snow and hail.The final push to the bivvy had to be abandoned due to blizzard-like conditions. A hurried lunch and then we turned back. There were 15 individual hailstorms, with light snow, yet it was surprisingly warm in the bush canopy.
On the return trip, the area was covered in an intense white winter wonderland and was extremely spectacular. The soft snow made descent much easier. I was impressed by the flora and fauna. There are a lot of small wild mushrooms and deep green mosses on some of the lower trees, plus more birds and birdsong than I had heard before – tiny black mountain robins, grey warblers, fantails, tuis and quail near the river, with deer tracks on the soft sand. And sadly, a new memorial to a misidentified and now-deceased deerstalker, Danny Jordan.
It was a great day out in nature, despite the forecast!
Trampers: Lizzie Hendy, Reuben Moore and reporter Paul Hendy