Kaweka J – Back Ridge Hut, December 3 2008. Map: U20
Trampers: Rosemary Jeffery, Alison Greer, Ken Ross, John Marshall, John Gray, Vic Bullock, Graham Bell, Manfred Hausler, Keith Moretta, Ron Morison, Barry and Rita Motley and Kelvin Shaw
On a day that started with a clear blue sky and only became cloudy by mid-afternoon, 13 trampers set off in very warm weather from Makahu Saddle to tackle Kaweka J and points beyond.
Barry and Rita parted from the main group at the Domini Bivouac level, as they needed to return earlier than the rest.
The climb to the top via the Makahu Spur was uneventful. The fight against contorta seems to be succeeding, with little evidence of new young growth.
Eight of the main group reached the top and visited the memorial cairn. Ruapehu could be seen in the distance to the West but was unfortunately surrounded by cloud patches. The views towards Hawke’s Bay and South were very clear.
Ken decided to separate, and was promptly charged with finding a spring water supply claimed to be just west of the peak. At this stage, we weren’t sure if Ken had been sent looking for the source of the Nile, or the fountain of eternal youth, but he did find the source of the stream, which flows past Back Ridge Hut.
Soon after starting along Back Ridge and with Studholme Saddle Hut as a yardstick, questions from me to others in the group – such as “Is Back Ridge further, lower in altitude, more difficult to reach than Studholme?” etc – seemed to fall on deaf ears. After two gulps of water and a spasm of hypertension, I realised that this was going to be much more than one of Alison’s “undulations”. Oh well, if they can do it, so can I, and off we went. It was tough, but the scenery was fantastic, the track was well marked, and once the hut came into view it still seemed that we had a long way to go. But it only took 15 minutes from this point to reach the hut in time for lunch. The hut is a four-berth and in good condition. The stream runs past within five metres. The break for lunch was very welcome, but overshadowed by thoughts of climbing about 500 metres back to Kaweka J.
The return was via North Ridge, which starts as a very steep climb that thankfully gets better as you progress. From the face of North Ridge, there was a clear and dramatic view of Back Ridge and our earlier outward route. With several signs of wild life tracks throughout the day, we were rewarded with a sighting of a hind crossing a scree slope on the face of Back Ridge.
The return to the car park was via Makahu Spur and once again Vic had placed indicators along the track to show the less informed about various rare flora. We reached the car park just before 4 pm, very tired and with sore feet, after an exceptional day in the great outdoors of God’s Own.