Kiwi Saddle Hut, Saturday January 30 2016
Map: BJ37 Kuripapango
This was meant to be a joint tramp with Heretaunga Tramping Club, but for two of us it morphed into a Napier Tramping Club fitness test tramp, doing a Kaweka Range circuit. We did plan to meet with Heretaunga Tramping Club at Kiwi Saddle Hut.
We had a guest from Auckland, but unfortunately she had food poisoning and wisely decided not to attempt the tramp.
The circuit started at the Lakes car park and headed up Rogue Ridge and along the tops to Kaiarahi, then on to Castle Camp and Kiwi Saddle Hut, before continuing out via Kuripapango. We knew we had a long day, but Ali and I were using the tramp as a training for our forthcoming South Island tramp, and were carrying our weekend packs loaded up to about 10 kgs. Not the full weekend tramp pack weight, but more than just our day packs. The others had their smaller/lighter day packs.
Starting at around 8.15, we headed up Rogue Ridge and were in for a surprise. DoC has been busy cutting down the pinus contorta which were beginning to overgrow the track. NTC had a crack at some light pruning a year or so ago.
The long-tailed cuckoo (koekoe) could be heard. High humidity meant that buckets of sweat soaked my clothing. On reaching the ridge-line, we made our way along it, past The Tits and on to Kaiarahi, reaching it at 11.25. We admired the Euphrasia (eyebrights) and Celmesia (mountain daisy) growing in this eroded environment.A gentle cooling wind was welcome and we had great views plus group selfie time, before heading to Castle Camp for lunch. We noticed that there has been spraying of the pinus contorta on the northern slopes. Many are dead, but it seems that some of the low scrubby plants may also have been affected. Hopefully they will revive.
Castle Camp has a plastic shelter and, more importantly, a water tank. We enjoyed our break sitting on the home-made tree trunk seats.Moving on after a 30-minute break, we headed for Kiwi Saddle Hut. A few small climbs, but the trend was downhill, much to everyone’s relief after the climb up The Rogue and Kaiarahi. Looking west, Mts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe – which initially had some cloud – became clearer and clearer. Walking the circuit in this direction (anticlockwise), you get the views of these mountains without needing to turn around. The track is through tussock grass and low, sub-alpine shrub with many flowering hebes. We sat and gazed at the distance we had walked, looking east, as The Tits and route were clearly visible. Looking south, the climb from Kiwi Saddle and the Smith Russell Track could also be seen.
We arrived at Kiwi Saddle Hut at 2.10 and met the HTC trampers who were going to spend the night there. It is a HTC hut, and they had tramped into it via the Smith Russell track.
We also met up with Juliet who had escorted Claire back to the Lakes car park. She had tramped up the Kuripapango track to the hut, passing HTC on the way. Juliet was lucky enough to get a hour’s rest in the sun at the hut before the HTC party arrived.
A discussion ensued about the Pureora Log, the trophy which is challenged between the clubs. We were beaten at 10-pin bowling in November 2015, so HTC now holds this trophy.
Time on our break was called and we headed up the tops (a 30-minute climb). With the home straight in our sights, we walked along the ridge line, with views down to the Ngaruroro river, which looked a lovely teal blue colour, and then Ngamatea Station farmland. In the beech sections of the track, the long-tailed cuckoo could again be heard. We stopped and tried to see it, but it is such a small bird that it is difficult to spot.On the track down from Kuripapango, the ground looked like it had been hailing, with lots of white. These were the fading petals of the kanuka trees that colonise the slopes.
The final walk back to the Lakes car park closed the loop. From start to finish (including all our breaks) it had taken us 8hrs 10 mins. The feet were happy to see the light of day, and the body certainly felt the strain of keeping up with the daypack trampers in the group. But it was a training tramp and still enjoyable.
Trampers: Rosemary Jeffery, Viv Bramley, John Dobbs, Alison Greer, Geoff Donkin and reporter Julia Mackie (circuit) and Juliet Gillick. Paul Exeter (The Lakes and environs). Also Claire (Guest).