Kiwi Mouth Hut, Kaweka FP, Sat/Sun July 26/27. Map:BJ37
It promised to be a great winter weekend tramp, with lots of snow on the Kaweka Ranges. Alison and I decided that we needed to get outdoors. A day party of nine was heading up Kuripapango, and we joined them, and then left them to tramp the Smith-Russell track to Kiwi Mouth Hut. There are several alternative options to reach Kiwi Mouth, but this way has less climbing.The ground snow in the bush makes it look very pretty. During summer it is mossy and green, so the change makes the walk interesting. We reached the middle high point 1359, were Gossie decided that it was time for a brew and breakfast. Four others from the day party continued on and made it to Kiwi Saddle Hut.
Alison and I enjoyed the views from the Kiwi Saddle/Cameron Hut junction. The Kaweka main range looked to have deep snow. Tough tramping in the cold, but the snow was not too deep on the track. We enjoyed the views over to the Kaimanawa ranges and Mt Meany had a dusting of snow, as did the Manson tops.
We continued our way around the tops in light snow until reaching the drop down to the ridge track, which had deeper snow. There is a tricky part which I took very carefully. Soon in the bush, we made our way around to the Kiwi Mouth junction, and headed through more bush to the junction with the high-level Kiwi Mouth Hut track from Kiwi Saddle Hut. Twenty metres back along this track, you are able to get views of the track from Kiwi Saddle up to Kaiarahi.We did not stop for long, as the cold began to bite even in sunshine. The descent was relatively steep, on a wide track through regenerating kanuka. There was plenty of kanuka firewood, either cut down along the wide track or tree-fall. The sun was shining on the hut when we arrived at 2.20pm. We made our hot drinks and sat outside in the lee of the wind. Once the sun went behind the ridge, we retreated and started to collect some more firewood, even though the wood box had plenty. We collected dead wood from up the track, dragging the long branches down to the hut. Alison had carried her trusty saw and we soon had a lot more firewood for ourselves and others. Ali got the fire going with the macrocarpa kindling she had brought along, and soon we had a roaring blaze. Manuka is a very good firewood that lights every time. We settled down and had a pleasant evening in front of the flames.
The next morning, the sky was cloudy and any blue soon turned to white. We headed up the track, opting to use the high level track to Kiwi Saddle Hut. It is a bit of a grunt, but it only took us 1hr 10 mins to get to the top bushline (1238). The cairn markers across the clay pans were easy to spot after a good look around. All too soon, the track drops down to the tributary creek and then climbs gradually up to Kiwi Saddle Hut. This has had a recent renovation from Heretaunga Tramping Club. The paint job is well done. The hut sits in a small clearing of beech trees and does not get much sun, so it is a very cold hut. We snacked and then continued, wanting to get the last major 30-minute climb under our belts.
The track is exposed and we geared up against the cold wind. We used the footsteps of the day party who had made it to the hut on Saturday, and reached the junction where we had been the previous morning.
The weather looked ominous, with dark clouds out to the north-west. Several small flakes fluttered, but we made it across and down Kuripapango, not stopping.
On reaching the Lakes car park, and getting out of our sweaty clothes, we could start to relax and appreciate that we had had a great but physically tough weekend tramp. Winter tramping is a lot harder that you think, due to the snow and the cold conditions. Sweat makes you damp and this soon turns cold. But we had got out there and challenged ourselves and found that Kiwi Mouth Hut does get sunshine and is not the cold place that others thought it might be.
Trampers: Alison Greer and reporter Julia Mackie
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