Tamaki River – ‘A-Frame’ Shelter – Stanfield Hut, Ruahine FP, Wednesday 22 May 2019
The usual 7.15 meet-up at Park Island for a mid-week tramp in the Ruahine Range was crisp, to say the very least, so having two full vanloads with a total of 24 trampers on board shows just how keen we really are.At this time of the year, climbing to a fairly high altitude (A-Frame Hut stands at 1000 metres above sea level), you need to be prepared for very changeable weather but MetService predicted sunny, calm conditions so we were keen to start our tramp and enjoy the fantastic views on offer out to the coast and hopefully out west.
Travelling along Highway 50, we could see light cloud hugging the Ruahines, which is nothing unusual, so we were fairly positive it would lift by the time we arrived to start our tramp.It didn’t take us long to reach the northern side of Dannevirke, then head west inland toward the ranges. Travelling along Tamaki West Road, we noticed the wind had started to pick up a little; by the time we reached the road end at 9.10am, it was almost a howling gale. On disembarking the vans, one of the doors was almost blown off and we were scrambling to don our winter gear, jackets, hats and gloves. It was freezing.
We quickly broke into two groups. Group A (14) were heading up to do the longer circuit to Stanfield Hut, via the A-Frame Hut. Group B (10) had chosen to do the direct route to Stanfield Hut via the Holmes Ridge Track, returning along the Tamaki River. We all set off at 9.20am.Group-A On leaving the car park, we needed to cross a small creek to a clearing where there are actually flush toilets. This is a treat. The walk starts off relatively flat, then the typical Ruahine Range climbing starts, and it is quite brutal. The track climbs steeply most of the way up to the A-Frame. Once we were in the protection of the ranges from the south-westerly blast, and because of the elevation involved, most of our protective gear started getting peeled off, piece by piece because there was a lot of sweating involved.
Cloud and light drizzle enveloped us so any hopes of clear views on the way up were few. We did manage to catch glimpses of Dannevirke through gaps in the clouds, and enjoy the lush native forest.
On finally reaching the top of the ridge, and rounding a corner only a short distance from the A-Frame Hut, we were almost blown off our feet. The ferocity of the wind made us back-track a little, just so we could re-dress. We didn’t want our rainwear becoming another ‘flying pack cover’ episode (aka Apiti Track).
Because A-Frame Hut has been constantly vandalised over the years, it has been completely stripped out and is used purely for shelter from the elements – which suited us, as that’s just what we needed. We stopped for morning tea at 11a.m and tried desperately to warm ourselves. At 11.30, we left the safety of A-Frame and headed out onto the very exposed Takapari Road for the next surge forward towards Stanfield Hut. The wind was still incredibly ferocious and bitterly cold. The leatherwood gave us some protection. This area of the Ruahine Range has the densest leatherwood forest I have ever seen.
Once off the road, the track itself was very muddy. We could finally see out east to the coast. The cloud had cleared enough for us to enjoy some of the breathtaking views, so the climb was worth it after all.Once we started our descent down to Stanfield Hut, we were protected from the blustery winds. We could catch glimpses of Stanfield Hut and the Tamaki River through breaks in the cloud. The descent to the hut is long, steep and slippery. There are many large rimu and beech trees along this track. We arrived at the hut at 1.45 for a half-hour lunch. It was a much-deserved break in a very cosy eight-bunker hut. Walking back along the Tamaki River, there was much criss-crossing involved, which became quite tiresome by late afternoon.
We arrived back at the road end at 5.15pm and again were met with the strong cold wind, so we hurriedly changed and piled into the van ready for our journey home.
Group B were patiently waiting for us. They also had an enjoyable day out tramping.
Much appreciation once again to our drivers, Kelvin and Alison.
Alison Greer, Marie Deroles, Cherie Le Lievre, Bruce Hodgson, John Bennett, Doug Matheson, Debra Lovie, Hilary Heath-Caldwell, John Burrell, Denise Bavidge, John Holschier, Juliet Gillick, Keith James and reporter Lynette Morgan
Murray White, Gordon Tapp, Ted Angove, Colin McNatty, Mary Campbell, Kelvin Shaw, Tony Pluymers, Rosemary Jeffery, Vic Bullock and Dorothy Sole