Makino Hut, by-passing Ballard Hut down to Middle Hill Hut, October 18-19 2008. Map U20
Trampers: Ted Angove, Sue Marshall (reporter), John Gray and Paul Exeter
The day party was away promptly and over the first rise before we weekenders headed off at 8:15am. Steadily we climbed, enjoying those flatter sections between each ascent, arriving at Makino Bivouac for a breather, foot repairs and photographs.
Still heading up through bush, now and again popping out onto clay pans and great views – it was a pretty good day out there. Ted disappeared for a while and then turned up in front of us. Having found ‘the short cut’, he was smugly waiting at the junction with that “what took you so long?” look on his face. We met up with Murray Goss and Nicole Brown at Makino Hut, a warm sunny spot for morning tea.
The walk from the hut to Mangaturutu turn-off went well, although a few large trees are yet to be cleared from the track. Kakariki flew overhead – in fact, we heard two groups. Longtailed cuckoo were also heard and, not far away, the distinctive raspy call of whiteheads.
The weather started to change, getting decidedly cooler, but our uphill pace kept us warm until we stopped for lunch. Extra layers were needed then. From there, it was another hour or so until we broke out of the bush to follow the poled route, sidling round Whetu. We timed that to perfection, just as the southerly squall hit! It was a race to get into our parkas, battling against the wind to zip up… Mumblings were heard about Middle Hill sounding like a good option for the night.
At one point, Ballard Hut could be seen off to our right tucked into the bush edge… so near, yet so far! To get there, we would have to battle a full-on headwind and we were only just managing to keep upright. Huddled together for a quick conference, a retreat to Middle Hill was agreed… and it was a couple of hours away. Off the tops, off with our extra gear, and it was down into the shelter of the bush and an easy descent to the hut.
We arrived at 4pm, after 7 ¾ hours. Three trampers who were spread about the hut gathered their gear together and made us welcome. They’d met our day party, so were up with the club’s comings and goings. Paul cooked pancakes topped with squishy cream and maple syrup, combined eats were shared and we sat on the porch, chatting until the sun dropped behind the hut and we started to chill down.
Sally had cut neat piles of wood with her new saw and had the fire set and ready to light…not that it was too cold, but she insisted that we needed the ambience of a fire. Our hut-mates all cooked evening meals. We’d had enough snacks, so we sat and watched, taking turns to read out our pile of jokes.
Ted and Paul chose to sleep on the porch. Paul bore the brunt of a few heavy showers overnight and awoke in a rather damp sleeping bag. Another indignity for Paul was watching him struggle to eat his cardboard noodles as Ted tucked into sumptuous bacon and eggs.
We farewelled our hut-mates and, who knows, our paths may cross again sometime. As we departed around 8.30am, looking back up to the cloud-shrouded tops with an overnight dusting of snow down past the bush line only confirmed that we’d made the right decision to wimp out and head down to Middle Hill Hut. We arrived at the car at 10am and got home early.
Makino Ridge to Middle Hill Hut, Saturday October 18. Map U20
Trampers: Colin McNatty, Daniel Fraser, Murray Goss, Nicole Brown, Carol Finch, Alex Thomason, Garry Whincop, Denise Payne, Ali Hollington, Matt Green, Alison Greer (reporter) and John Russell
The day trip was very well camouflaged on the trip list as Makino to Middle Hill; but on further investigation, it soon became apparent this was the infamous “Three Gorge trip”. Twelve started out at the car park for Makino Hut, leaving the weekend party to get themselves ready.
It’s a gut-buster, upwards for the first 20 minutes’ hard work, especially having just got out of the vehicles. The track soon flattened out and it was time to take stock of the day and conditions. It was sunny and warm with a strong breeze from the north-west, which led to discussions over whether the weekenders would make Ballards Hut.
The turn-off was reached in just over an hour and two members of the party decided to continue on to Makino hut to spend the day. The rest plunged down our first gorge, taking care on the slippery roots and loose dirt. It’s a long way down but seeing we had started from the Makino side, the first gorge is the biggest. Crossing the stream at the bottom, it’s up a couple of false climbs before starting the big one, which takes you up to the next ridge. Yes, it is a long way up, but we all managed it in our own time and a well-deserved rest was taken looking out towards Whetu and back to Makino ridge.
Moving on over what could be termed as “the flatter section” of the track, the walking was easier – although this plateau of lovely beech forest is still littered with wind-fall making you wind your way up, around and over branches still left lying about. The second and third main gorges do not appear to be as big as the first, but it was with sighs of relief that we all made it passed the sign to Middle Hill and on to the hut to regroup.
As we sat lazing in the sun, a party of three wandered in, having come over from the Makahu car park; they were staying the night. One in the group was known to us, so it was some time later before we finally got up and started on the long trek down Middle Hill ridge to the car park.
We met Murray and Nicole at the bridge over the Mangatutunui stream and after a group photo stop on the bridge, it was on to the last section and out to the cars. Everyone was very pleased with their efforts for the day. One or two hadn’t been on this tramp before, but still that remark of “never again” was heard.