Middle Hill Hut and Whetu, Wednesday Nov 19 2014
We set off from Church Road Winery at the earlier start time of 7.00 am to complete the tramp from Pinks car park to Middle Hill Hut in the Kaweka Range and – for the keen ones – a climb up to Whetu.
The forecast could not have been better, after a week of gale-force winds. Today was going to be mild, fine and possibly with rain later. There were 12 trampers for the day.
We were asked by the local DoC staff if we would transport a Kiwi up to Middle Hill Hut so that it could be released in that area. Of course, we agreed. So the 12-seater van now had 13 passengers.
Jimjam, a young male North Island Brown kiwi, was tracked and caught at the sanctuary at Cape Kidnappers on the previous Tuesday. He was handed over to us in a box at Church Road with instructions to radio to Deb Harrington (kiwi volunteer who was staying at Middle Hill Hut) when we arrived at the car park and again when we got to the hut.The party soon broke into three groups, five who intended to climb to the top of Whetu, five who were going to Middle Hill Hut with an open mind on what to do afterwards, dependent on the release of Jimjam, and two who were only planning to go to the hut. The middle group arrived at the hut at about 11.00 and Jimjam was safely stored in the meat locker.
The first group had already set off for Whetu, being concerned about available time as well as the effort of climbing. Deb advised she would be at the hut about 1.30 so we headed off towards Kaweka Flats Bivvy, walking for about an hour before finding a sunny spot for lunch. The plan was to return in time to link up with Deb and her two assistants.When we arrived back at Middle Hill Hut, Deb and Co were already there and Ken and Vic had set off back towards the car park, having had their lunch at the hut. Deb then proceeded to install Jimjam’s new transmitter and record some vital stats such as weight and length of beak. There was time for a photoshoot and then he was put on the ground and released. We expected him to race for cover like “Roadrunner” in the cartoons, but Jimjam just stood there; he poked around with his beak in the leaves. In the end, we left him. He will be monitored every two months for about two years and hopefully he will find a female companion.
Of the five going up Whetu, two returned early but they had got well above the bush line, a great effort as the track is very steep. Keith, Robyn and Steve made it all the way. Well done to all.
The return to the car park was uneventful, the last to arrive at about 4.30. An interesting and fulfilling day for everyone.
Photos courtesy of Kelvin Shaw
Trampers: Ken Ross, Steve Woulfe, Dave Hills, Keith Moretta, Vic Bullock, Keith James, Robyn Smith, Peter Slagter, Tony Pluymers, Wai Anderson, John Burrell and the scribe, Kelvin Shaw
From Middle Hill to Whetu… Keith Moretta reports:
Whetu from Pinks car park is a planned route of 24 km return with an altitude gain of 1100 metres.
Robyn Smith, Dave Hills, Steve Woulfe, Keith James and I were keen, and we met up with the first of the three kiwi release volunteers at the Camp Spur-Kaweka Flats junction.
The beech forest continued to cover the track until the remaining 250 metres of the ascent. Just before exiting the forest, we met the other two release volunteers who had been monitoring kiwi in the area.At this point, Dave turned back due to leg cramps and the remaining four ascended Camp Spur, buffeted by strong gusts. Keith James, also turned back, as he was getting hungry. Three of us reached Whetu after four hours and enjoyed stunning views of the Kawekas to the south – but the Kaimanawas and Ahimanawa ranges were obscured due to a front spreading east.
The views were brief; a strengthening cold wind forced the group to retreat to the forest for lunch. We descended Camp Spur to Middle Hill Hut to meet Dave H and the kiwi release volunteers. After a quick break, the entire group descended the kanuka/manuka ridgeline to the car park. Patches of clematis and various other flowers along the track made for a pleasant walk.