Kiwi Saddle Hut, Saturday 4 May 2019
Banner Pix: Mts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe seen from the Smith Russell Track, heading to Kiwi Saddle Hut.
What a glorious, cloudless day for a hike into Kiwi Saddle Hut. We left Park Island in two vehicles. A van had eight on board – Juliet, John D, Shona, Gordon, Lynette, Bruce, John B and Di – who were going to do the full day and Sue Martin drove her car with four passengers, Marie Deroles, Sue Marshall, Denise Payne and Jonnette (visitor), aiming to have a shorter day.
We arrived at the Lakes car park a little after 8 am, with everyone setting off at 8.30.
The three keen ones, John D, Juliet and Di (or the ‘A team’ according to John D), broke away from the rest at a quick pace because they had planned on doing the full circuit or the longer way around to Kiwi Saddle Hut. From the junction of the Cameron Hut track, it is 3½ hours to the hut. They knew it was going to take at least eight hours from start to finish.
The remaining five, Bruce, Shona, Gordon, Lynette and John B, had decided to have a more leisurely tramp to the hut along the direct route.
The track started with a lot of up, up and up through low bush. The wilding pines have got a good hold and are growing well. John B removed many small ones along the way up and again coming down.
At 10.40, we stopped at the high point along Smith-Russell Ridge to have morning tea and enjoy the spectacular views of snow-covered Mts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. There was very little wind. The short day five caught us up at this point.We carried on, encountering yet again more wilding pines before meandering through beautiful beech forest with lots of different mosses underneath.
From the junction, at the top of an exposed ridge, we had to descend rocky scree before reaching Kiwi Saddle Hut at noon. The hut is a very cosy eight-bunker nestled in a beech forest. There were four hunters staying the night although we only met one; the others were in the bush. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch before heading back at 12.40.
On our way to the van, we heard a deer roar, saw some bird life and met the other three hunters heading back to Kiwi Saddle Hut. We reached the car park at 3.30 and John, Juliet and Di arrived about an hour later. They encountered nothing along the track other than a serenading tui and a lonesome little tomtit until reaching the hut and meeting the hunter.
After a quick change, we hit the road at 5 pm. Even though it was long day, we couldn’t have asked for better weather and views. Thanks to our driver, John D.
Short day trampers: Sue Martin, Marie Deroles, Sue Marshall, Denise Payne and Jonnette
Day trampers: Full circuit A team, John Dobbs, Juliet Gillick, Di Reid: The remaining five, Bruce Hodgson, Shona Tupe, Gordon Tapp and reporters John Bennett and Lynette Morgan